Aerobics is a sport, okay?

Am experiencing a bit of housewife panic on this fine Wednesday morning. I have just returned from my very strenuous tennis lesson and now I have to figure out how I’m going to feed a dinner party full of cyclists tonight. Fiftten people, to be precise – including a few cycling side-kicks like myself, thank God. Because when I say “cyclists” I don’t mean people who like to hop on their bikes for a spin along the Braamfontein Spruit or who sometimes head to Northern Farms for a family outing. No, I mean psychotic people who do things like the Cape Epic (8 days) and the Panorama Tour (4 days) and other crazy events where you're on your little two-wheeler for over 100km per day – i.e. the real butt-numbing stuff. Which is fine if that’s what makes them happy – just don’t torture me.

Which brings me to the reason for my panic. The Husband has this thing that he does when we’re in the company of uber-sporty people. He knows full well that he’s married to the girl who did aerobics as her compulsory school sport. (Seriously, I’m not even kidding about this. York High in George was surprisingly progressive back in the ’90’s). Anyway, I think that The Husband really is okay with the fact that he married Aerobics Girl and not Iron Woman.


Except when we're in the company of uber-sporty people. Often, "this thing that he does" happens when we're with The Husband’s super sporty clients. The conversation will be flowing between The Husband and these uber athletes – it’ll be about the Comrades, Iron Man, the Argus, the Two Oceans – any, or all, of those good things. Then the one client will describe their best ever Iron Man time and The Husband will talk about his latest cycle race and another client will bemoan his Comrades injury. And then – even though I’ll be doing a great job of pretending to be fascinated by the topic – The Husband will do something to to try and prove that (contrary to all indications) his wife is not a total couch potato. "The thing" goes like this:

"Natalie's run a half marathon".

There is dead silence and I can see the bankers trying not to spit out their drinks in disbelief. By now everyone is staring at me and I'm wanting to crawl under the table, but I have to be polite so instead I splutter:

"Er, yes. Once. Once upon a time, really. Never again, though! Hahahahahaha."

And then I down my glass of wine in an act of defiance. But at this point, The Husband has only just got going and invariably he starts banging on about my one and only sporting achievement. Which wouldn't be so bad, except that he's telling some of the most hardcore sporting psychos out there – people for whom a half marathon is a weekend training run. What's worse is that he's been dining out on this story for two years now and I get the distinct impression he'll be doing so for the next few decades. That's practically a given, because I doubt I'll ever subject myself to another half marathon (I really feel like I've ticked that box).

I can just picture one of The Husband's client functions in 2025. "Natalie's run a half-marathon!" he'll announce proudly during a sporty discussion. "Really? When was that?" one of the polite clients will ask and I'll have to mumble into my wine glass, "Er, I think it was 2008". And then the client will do the Maths and there'll be an awkward silence amongst everyone except for The Husband who'll be trying to remember my time for this historic event.

I fully expect tonight to be one of these nights. Although The Husband's plan is to plough these Sporty Spices with his signature drink: The Great South African Suitcase. Over the years, The Husband has successfully exported the GSAS to at least 6 countries – from Scandinavia to Singapore. Granted, passion fruit has often had to be replaced with OJ, but the effect is the same – he gets the party started.

I wonder what you get when you cross 10 super fit, uber athletes with 40 suitcases? I guess I'll soon find out…

Size Matters. Duh.

I have a theory about us Joburgers, our states of minds and what makes us the moodiest of all. I’d like to suggest that it’s not Ju Ju, it’s not load shedding and it’s not even the traffic. Sure, the traffic gets our blood boiling but how else would we break the ice in meetings? In my (past) experience, the subject of traffic instantly bonds business people like nothing on earth:


Meeting Participant 1:     Sorry I’m late. The traffic was horrendous…

Meeting Participant 2:     Where do you stay?

Meeting Participant 1:     Pretoria East

Meeting Participant 2:     (Nodding sympathetically) Ja, I live in Centurion. I left home 

                                     at 4 this morning and I only just made my 8 o'clock.

Meeting Participant 3:     It must have been that broken down truck at Allendale?

Meeting Participant 2:     Ja! Right next to Allendale.

It’s a beautiful scene: a roomful of total strangers, bonding like old friends over their shared experience of “the traffic”.

But back to my theory: which is NOT that “the traffic” makes us moody. No. I believe that nothing makes a born-and-bred Joburger quite as grumpy as bad weather. It’s as though we subconsciously know that despite all our issues: the smog, the smash 'n grabs, the roadworks, the lack of beaches, the dry air …we’ll be okay, because at least we have the weather. And when the weather is shite, then Joburgers are cold, wet and above all, grumpy.


As a Jozi immigrant who spent years dragging myself through rain- and wind-storms on UCT’s campus, Joburg weather doesn't often get me down. But I confess that last month was so bad, I found myself catching the meteorological malaise. I was in this mildly depressed state when I happened to wander into a shop called Helen Melon at the BluBird centre. A couple of warm, fluffy winter gowns had caught my eye, so I went to investigate. I was approached by Helon/Helen herself. Because it was 11am on a Tuesday morning she correctly assumed I hadn’t had to brave any traffic to get to her store and so she went with a more universal ice-breaker: the weather. She couldn’t believe how cold Joburg was and she was from Cape Town and it was actually warm there and she'd never been this cold in her life, etc… etc…etc…


I admit I tend to get irrationally competitive on the whole Cape Town/ Joburg thing: if I’m voicing my own opinion, then Cape Town may sometimes be better than Joburg. However, since I live in Jozi, if someone else ventures the opinion that CT is better than Joburg – so help them God. And so it was that I found myself standing in front of Helon Melon and recounting tales of being practically blown off Eastern Boulevard by the Cape Town South Easter. Jozi would be re-instated as “Weather Capital of SA” if it was the last thing I did.

Fortunately, Mrs Melon decided to change the subject. I told her I was interested in her winter gowns

and would like to try one on. And then she committed Sandton retail suicide. Here’s what she said: "Would you like to try an extra-large? I think the medium might fit you but I wear an extra-large because they are so much longer than the smaller sizes, so they keep you so warm around the legs.

I was speechless. Did she just say "extra large" out loud? I admit that I was somewhat comforted by the fact that Helen herself is absolutely tiny and here she was telling me that she wore this gown in a size extra-large by choice. Only somewhat comforted, though. I was still mostly mortified at the thought of owning an extra-large garment. I think it must have been a mixture of shock and horror that caused me to temporarily lose my mind and stammer, “Er, okay, I’ll try it.”


She looked relieved because she thought I had seen her point of view about the long, warm, extra-large gown.

Her relief gave her renewed confidence in our retail interaction and she went on to say: “It’s just that most of the women who come in here won’t buy anything that’s a size bigger than their normal size. Just because of what the tag says – can you believe that?”


What I was thinking was: “Lady, you should see the size of my aspirational wardrobe. It takes up the entire spare room and has been gathering moth balls since 2005.”


But what I said out loud was: “Gosh! Really?”

I guess I sounded convincing because Mrs Melon was like, “I know! Isn’t it mad? Hahahahaha."

And so it was that, in an attempt to come across as an equally psychologically stable woman with a healthy body image, unperturbed by frivolous things such as size tags (just like Helon Melon), I found myself purchasing an extra-large dressing gown.

I was totally going to take it back and swap it for a smaller size on a day that Helen was safely back in Cape Town. Totally. But the next day I remembered that I’d violently ripped out the size tag somewhere between the shop and the parking lot, leaving the gown with a giant hole where the tag used to be.

And if you’re wondering whether the extra leg warmth has made up for the psychological trauma of owning a Donna Claire-type garment, the answer is a resounding “no”. I think the gown’s about to get booted to the spare room – I’m just not mentally strong enough for this sh**

The Post-modern Personalised Plate

Nothing says "I am a deeply superficial person"* quite like this personalised plate:

I spotted this puppy in the parking lot of Bella's the other day. At first the number plate made sense. On second thoughts, though, is it possible for someone who drives a canary-yellow Porsche to be truly superficial? Somehow, I don't think so. I reckon they'd have to love their jaundiced yellow baby for its inner beauty. As if the "shallow" Boxster wasn't Brett Easton Ellis enough, Bella's was heaving with well-preened housewives. I counted no fewer than 8 Weapons of Massclusivity. I am, of course, referring to the Louis Vuitton monogrammed handbag – you can't be caught dead without your Weapon, Dol! After all, this is Joburg…

* Andy Warhol

Cars and Girls…

Cars & Girls* is this great song by Prefab Sprout which goes, “some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls…” Apparently the band was actually singing about Bruce Springsteen’s songs and their very limited subject matter – i.e. it’s not always about a car or a girl, Brucie.

Whatever. All I know is that, besides boys, not much hurts girls more than badly behaved cars. My little black beauty started playing up last month. She stopped dead in the middle of the William Nicol. (Okay, after I’d stalled, but still – she just wouldn’t move after that). So I did the responsible thing: I took her in for repairs, only to come back to Jozi a week later and be told, “there are nuffing wrong, Ma’am”. Of course I didn’t take their lame response lying down. I argued and questioned and raised my eyebrows etc, etc, but they stuck to their story. And so I drove off into the sunset for a blissful two weeks, only to have her conk out on me AGAIN.

I was so disgusted that I left her overnight at the Grayston Centre where she’d decided to die on me. The next day, I got hold of the Balla Boss at the garage and LET HIM HAVE IT. I threatened him with lawyers and advocates and omudsmen and whatever scary sounding things I could think of. In response, he told me he’d send, Theo, his top mechanic. Theo came to the phone so I could explain the problem to him. Unfortunately, I could not make out a single word he said but I figured it would be better in person.

No such luck. It was almost worse in person. The guy mumbled so badly, I doubt his own mother would have understood him. I said, “pardon?” so many times it became offensive. The man sure could talk to cars, though. Within minutes, he’d figured out what was wrong with my temperamental little princess. At least that was what I assumed from his body language. When I arrived at the garage the Balla Boss wanted to know how it had gone with Theo.
“Great, I think. I just had trouble communicating with him.”
“Oh, ja,” said Boss Man. “I can’t understand him either. I make him write everything down.”

On the bright side of this whole car debacle, The Husband is insisting on getting rid of my little black beauty. So I’ve started car shopping. Since I don’t know the difference between a 7-series and 747, I decided to seek advice from Stylish Friend who owns and has owned, many a style-mobile.

Me to Stylish Friend:
Do you have any advice re BMW's? All I know is that the funny looking one is a 1 series. They rest of the 'series' things are all Greek to me. Any pointers would be welcome as I’m clueless.
PS: I love my boot space and am very keen on cappuccino holders 🙂

Stylish Friend to me:
Well, the 3-series is a nice girly car. But before you decide on the BMW,
perhaps go and have a look at the Lexus. It has all the girly gadgets you can think
of. It even has the cappuccino holders for your passengers at the back. The
GPS is absolutely stunning… you can even get one that has a full colour
video. When you reverse, you will see Johannes, the parking attendant, in all
his splendour… the green luminous vest, his wonderful orange cap, etc. You
will even see all the poles in FULL colour!
And wait for this… It's the closest thing to telling your car to go…
start button with no key. Open the doors without a key in your hand – as
long as the key is within a certain radius of the car, then you're OK to go.

If you really like the beemer, then the 3-series is the one. The
3 series is really cool. I like it. Also, do make sure you get an automatic. It's not
cool to have to remember your gears… not anymore!
In fact, on looks, I think it may even look nicer than the Lexus. But on
functionality and lovely gadgets, the Lexus wins hands down! It also feels
very soft and easy to drive. The steering wheel is much softer and gentle
and was absolutely made for girls.

Can Stylish Friend articulate what women want, or what?

*For the Cars & Girls lyrics and background, go to:

Starstruck & Dumbstruck in Sandton City

After my adventures in the countryside, I decided it was high time for a trip to Sandton City. I was coming down the escalators, when I spotted SA celeb, Marc Lottering. Mr Lottering was in classic celebrity disguise: dark glasses. Only snag is: sunglasses are less effective when your trademark is an Afro the size of Lion’s Head. A bizarre thing happened once I’d spotted him – it was like a celebrity spell had been cast over me. I started rushing towards him. All I could think was that I just HAD TO get a picture of us for Heat magazine! Normally, I can think of nothing more lame than:

Dear Heat,
This is me and Amor Vittone in the Centurion Mall!!!!

Dear Sandra,
Great pic! Thanks for sharing!!! If you look closely, you can see Amor’s cellulite on her left thigh, which proves the point we made in our Feb. edition. How awesome is that??!!!??


Normally, I’d be like “who gives a cr*p if you saw Amor in Centurion?” But here I was, trying to pluck up the courage to ask Marc Lottering to pose while I grinned beside him. Fortunately, he saved me from myself because he practically ran away as soon as he spotted that demented, starstruck glint in my eye…

Eventually, I got a grip and continued my shopping. It was at my next stop – the Clicks till points – that I had a disturbing realisation. My young, vibey cashier wanted to know if I was keen on hearing a Zuma joke. I nodded and he proceeded to ask me what the President’s surname was, when spelled backwards. I’m going to blame my response not on Lady-of-Leisure-mush-brain, but on the hideous realisation that J-Z may well be our very own Berlusconi. My response was: “Um, what is Zuma’s surname, again?” Can you friggin’ believe it? The cashier looked at me strangely. He was probably thinking he’d rather have AMUZing old J-Z in the house, than this ditsy housewife. I couldn’t really blame him. Nonetheless, I still thought I could leave the till point with both my mouthwash AND my pride. So I did what any ditsy housewife would do in that situation. I started babbling about polygamy. But instead of telling the cashier I thought it was an archaic practice designed to subjugate women, I started spewing some neo-liberal B.S. about preserving African customs. WTF? I am pleased to report that my cashier promptly set me straight and told me he thought polygamy was “an excuse for infidelity” before telling me I should sign-up as a spin doctor for J-Z.

Fair enough.

I decided to hide my humiliation amongst Woolworths’ shoe racks. And that was when I came across this advert.

I realise this sounds about as sexy as an ad for granny pants, but I confess that I got quite excited about it. After being told by various personal trainers that I “pronate” or “supinate” or “overpronate” or whatever, I finally went to see a professional to uncover the mystery of my disobedient feet. He put me on a treadmill and made little videos of me running and walking. His prognosis was as follows: I don’t pronate, I don’t supinate. I just have VERY broad feet. So I’m a perfect candidate for Woolworths’ “extra width”, “added cushioning” shoes – along with South Africa’s arthritic geriatric community. Super!

Sooo Sandton

The Husband and I finally made it back to Sandton on Saturday night to collect The Sister. We’d been up at 4:30am for three days in a row a couple of days earlier, so we were yawning our heads off by the time we got home. Nonetheless, we were determined to show my 26 year-old sister that old farts in their thirties can still shake their bedroom slippers on the dance floor.

Because Taboo only opens at some ridiculous hour like midnight or something, we decided to go to Koi for dinner first. That way, we figured, we’d be right next-door to the club and hence less likely to make a dash for our beds at 10:30pm.

I’d forgotten what good people-watching Koi offers on a Saturday night. Boy, it sure was good to be back in the big, bad city! There was a dolly in a stretchy lycra sequin skirt which ran from her hip-bones to her upper thighs. And when I say her upper thighs, I really mean her groin. Who knew that sequined spandex was back in style? Could its resurgence be connected to Whitney Houston’s recent comeback?


Anyhoo, back to the bitching. There was another dolly in her jogging suit. Honestly, it was a full-on tracksuit, except it was skin-tight and made of apple-green velour. All this with a pair of glitzy heels. Mooi. On the one hand, she looked hilarious, but on the other hand she had this look that screamed “I-know-what-you’re-thinking-and-you’re-thinking-I-look-stoopid-but-if-that-really-is-what-you’re-thinking-then-YOU’RE-stoopid-cos-you-don’t-know-that-this-look-is-HUGE-in-L.A-okay?”

The people-watching was so good, even The Husband was getting into it. Alas, several bitching sessions and cocktails later, it was time to hit Taboo. The Sister and I tottered over – The Husband in tow – to join the queue. We were greeted by two of the largest human beings I have ever encountered. They looked like larger, slicker, suaver, suited versions of BA Barracus. They were also much, much taller than BA. Not to mention SO much wider. And you could see they weren’t wide because of fat. Kind of like rugby props where they look chubs but if you were to poke their tummies they wouldn’t be mushy – you’d encounter a wall of bulk. After being sized up and sniffed at by the 6-foot,clipboard schmodels, we were deemed suitable for entry.

I hadn’t been to Taboo for years and I have to say that the music was as fabulous as I remember. What I didn’t remember was the cheesy, dress-up hen parties. Saturday night appeared to be the night of the cowgirls. Yeeha. I’m assuming these hen things are a regular feature these days as they’ve installed a pole – apparently for this purpose. Brides-to-be (and wannabe brides) were shaking their little tushies and practically shagging this poor pole while the entire dance floor looked on. For me, the addition of the pole was a real incentive to go easy on the shots, ‘cause after a few tequilas I would’ve been up there with the best of them. Or the worst of them, to be precise. White chicks who can’t dance (yours truly inclusive) should not be allowed near poles. Poles should be strictly for the professionals.

While The Sister, The Husband and I were discussing the cowgirl doing the Lambada with the pole, she was joined by someone who could only have been a pro. After much debate, we decided he/she must be a Lady Boy. He/she was not only working the pole, but working the club too. I have to hand it to her – she had the best legs I’ve ever seen. And I did see ALL of them since her dress/ top only just covered the essentials. But boy, could she pole dance! What did I say? Leave it to the professionals…

We eventually stumbled out of there at 2am. Both The Sister and I managed to avoid the pole, although we were less successful at avoiding The Husband’s suitcases. All signs of the mountain biking pro that has been inhabiting our home for the past few months disappeared as The Husband rediscovered his penchant for Jackie D and passion fruit cordial. Needless to say, Sunday was a dog show. I’m not sure which was the greater cause of my temple-splitting headache: the tequilas or The Husband’s non-stop, “Aargh, I can’t drink anymore. Someone must’ve spiked my drinks. AaaaaaaaRGH!”