On the Beach

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The unseen depths of South African men

South African men generally do not get great press. Even in South Africa. The prevailing view is that of macho men, once virile and running after a rugby ball, now gone to seed eating and drinking too much of the good South African stuff at their infamous braais and yet still favouring a game of "touch" on the beach, just to show they still got it. These men will, legend has it, weep copiously (in private) if they do not spawn a son at whom they can yell: "C'mon, m'boy" as they hurl a rugby boy at a toddler that can barely stand. I must say that I personally do not count any such specimens as my friends (nor, indeed, can I honestly say that I have encountered many), but it may be that they don't consider an opinionated female expat to be their ideal choice of braai mate. My point is that these gentlemen are not credited with being the brightest.
But I have discovered that they are actually very clever- bordering on sly, even.

I have before bemoaned the parents of the school across the road from me, with their scent of hairspray lingering as the monster truck dashes off.

Anyway, I have been led to believe that part of the revolting parking practises are to be attributed to the ongoing erection (and I use that word deliberately) of a Pavilion in their grounds. The building of this thing has been going for so long that I feel it's been going on my whole life and apparently it has messed with their car park.  I deliberately use  a capital "P" because the promotional material surrounding it, suggests to me that they would want the reverence that a proper noun gives.  This thing is huge and, according to my husband, along with the Great Wall of China, is the only thing that can be seen on earth from outer space.

I must say that I have been slightly mystified by why they needed to build this thing. I looked pavilion up in the dictionary and got the following: "a light, usually open building used for shelter, concerts, exhibits, etc.". That still didn't really help me because the school already has great facilities. It's not my concern how they spend their money, you understand, I am just being a nosey neighbour.

So they had the "grand opening of the Pavilion" the other night which looked and sounded like it might be a very genteel affair- a string quartet played and you could scarcely catch the gentle burbling of conversation and laughter. How terribly civilised. But I still didn't  understand why they need it.

And then, last night, it became obvious. It was a warm evening so we ate outside and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see TV screens flicker to life in the Pavilion. A few of them. All showing sport. And then the raucous, exclusively male laughter.

It is now clear: the fathers at this school have conned the school and their wives into building them a members only sports bar. In the name of educating and improving their sons. They must have endured the opening terribly, their hands twitching to use those TV remotes. But they kept their cool knowing that their turn would come. Their moment to shine.

I think, for the first time, my husband wished he had a son and, boy, you can be sure if we did- he'd be going to the school across the road.. Hell, we'd give our driveway as additional parking if required. It's amazing, secret man-to-man marketing: fathers will now want to send their sons to this school not for educational benefits, but for access to this Pavilion. It is my prediction that this school will now be even more over subscribed as husbands imagine: "Hey, Babe- I'm just off to the school for a couple of hours, OK?". And Babe will feel so proud  that daddy is so involved. But she won't know. Only their neighbours and the men will know.

It is my personal theory that one of the former Springboks (for the rugby illiterate- this is someone who used to play for the national rugby team, not someone who used to be a deer), paid for the Pavilion in order to screen recordings of his days of glory to other reverential fathers. My theory is grounded in nothing but solid evidence: through squinted eyes I could make out they were watching rugby and I know there was no live rugby on last night. Cast-iron case or what?

It seems that we  underestimate the depths of the stereotypical South African male at our peril....

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