A while after moving to South Africa, I started going to the gym regularly. So now you think you know me? Vain and a fitness freak? Guess again: cheap membership and the most plausible and constructive reason I could think for being out of the company of my children for an hour or so a day. I could just as happily go and sit outside my gate and just drool blankly for an hour, but I think the gym is more acceptable and less likely to have me sectioned.
So this is how it goes when I get to gym; firstly, I spend excessive time adjusting the fancy equipment to my size. For some reason, every time I go, the person who used the equipment before must have been a person of unusual proportions judging by the settings. Yet somehow I have never seen a dwarf with remarkably long reach or a giant with T-Rex arms sauntering around the workout floor. Generally, I'm working up a sweat doing simply this while the beautiful people of Cape Town glide effortlessly against the backdrop of Table Mountain.
Equipment set and I am ready for Phase 2: switch brain off entirely (not hard) and hope to burn as many calories as possible whilst staring aimlessly at one of the giant TV screens. Actually, I absorb an alarming amount by mere osmosis. I now have a head full of facts about golf, that I have no need or desire of. I have found myself contributing stats and figures to previously alien conversations about golf in a manner befitting Rain Man.
So what does this have to do with Victor Matfeld? Whilst gazing blankly at the TV with no obvious brain activity, I suddenly became aware of his VERY MALE face on the screen. VERY MALE were the first words that sprung to mind. Judging by his outfit, I assume he works for the Springboks.
I remember once, years ago, I read somewhere that the more testosterone a male has the more craggy his looks (think Sylvester Stallone), the more pronounced the brow- you get the picture. But this was different- and please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say he's "hot". He just looks so male.
I went to the dictionary to seek a definition of male (can't shake that legal training all these years on). To cut a long story short, it's not very helpful, it goes around in circles (suggesting male characteristic, masculine etc) but I did find one site that ventured to say that male characteristics are "strength and boldness". Is that what defines a male?
If so, does Victor Matfield look "bold and strong? Well, yes, I rather think he does, towering over mere mortals with a Herculean head of hair, a beard to match and hands the size of garden spades and a voice that would probably boom across the heavens.
It's almost as if when "maleness" was being handed out, the adminstrators were too busy discussing their evening plans to note that they had given Victor Matfield the entire days's quota. The men who missed out on their dose? They're easy to spot: their wife is fixing the puncture roadside while he strains under the weight of the warning triangle.
And perhaps Victor feels a little hard-done-by too. I am sure people ask him to fell trees and move inconveniently parked vehicles with his bare hands all the time. Can't be easy to fit in around working for them Springboks.
I must say though that I have found South African males (not all, mind) to be very male. For a start, there is their size, especially Afrikaaners. In the right company in Cape Town, it is possible to feel Liliputian, and I'm not small.
The city folk are male not necessarily in a bold and strong way, but more in a making shelves and building fences kind of way. Whilst braai-ing and having a beer, kind of way.
And the rural folk, well, they're whole book unto themselves. Over Sir Lowry's pass and into Elgin, they start to show. Rhino thick skin that has neither seen nor needed sunscreen. Frayed safari shirt and frayed safari shorts. There is no style of dress, except maybe a hint of the eighties. This is not to indicate a love of the decade, just it's the last time they bought clothes, seeing it as frivolous to buy new clothes when at least a few threads of a pair of shorts are left to be meshed together. The manner is brusque and men who do not hunt AND fish are dismissed as sissies. Animals are braai'd whole.
A couple of the latter specimens can be found behind the Boerewors Curtain, in the Somerset West area where they dismiss the effete city men with suspicion and disdain.
Which one-city or rural- defines "male" more? I can't speak for anyone else, but if an alien ever asks me "what is a man?", I shall find a picture of Victor and point them in the direction of the office of the Springboks.