“I’m lovely and lonely and belong deeply to myself”. All hail Queen Warsan Shire. Let’s break this down really quickly. Lovely: is one of my favourite words, it’s pure and unambiguous. Lonely: some people think that alone means lonely. I am not some people.
My name is Ntoetse Lerotholi and I believe in community, I Belong.
I’m also one of the most social “loners” you’ll ever meet and that’s only because we’ve collectively pathologised alone-ness. I’m lovely, not lonely and I belong deeply to myself and those I pledge myself to. In that order. I’m the girl who used to joke about still feeling single while in a relationship. There’s a lot going on.
I am many things. I am told that I could be accurately described as an extrovert, a Scorpio, an ENFP and An Enneagram type Four. These are all true things but there is still room for complexity and further specificity. I always say that human being beings are complex creations capable of holding multiple conflicting truths simultaneously. We can be several things at once and then some. If you asked me, I’d tell you that I recharge in solitude and feel depleted after large gatherings. I’d say I enjoy my own company as much, if not more than, anybody else’s. It’s taken a lot to get here. I didn’t always choose to be alone and when I was I didn’t always enjoy it. I do now.
I’ll tell you 3 stories from the perspective of 3 of some of my favourite humans. Take notes, these help show why they’re so high up on the list.
Until someone commented on it, I had no idea people didn’t go the cinema alone. It was literally one of my favourite things to do (still is tbh). I’ll only bring a boy whose sole interest is to make out with me in the dark to a movie I’ve already seen before. I can’t have you kissing my neck when I’m trying to focus. I’ll let go of your hand to reach for the popcorn. I learned my lesson in high school when I naively thought boys took girls to the cinema to actually watch movies (lol). I was an exhausting, precocious and energetic only child for a very long time (my baby sister is 10 years my junior). The only exceptions were when I had my nose in a book or my eyes on a gigantic screen. My mother knew I was happiest when left alone to my one imagination and devices (in hindsight I’m so glad she got breathing space and me-time out of this mutually beneficial deal, as a single mother I’m sure these moments of respite were invaluable). All she had to do was, in the beginning buy the ticket and be there waiting when the movie let out but eventually it became a drop off, lunch money, pick up arrangement; a monthly treat for both of us at a time when our only shared interests were our shared love for the other and gene pool (I also like her face, her quick wit and humour, and thoroughly enjoy watching Soapies with her and listening to her chew). So Ster Kenikor is an old friend. As is the Exclusive a books at Nelson a Mandela Square (which is now some kind of toy shop and I’m still mad about it). Normal is relative and you don’t don’t know you’re “weird” until people tell you. I thought everybody only had a mom/one parent until I was told/saw otherwise, I was perfectly content not having a lot of money until you visit your friend Paige’s mansion and learn that Barbies dream house is real and available for purchase, not just a prop for the ads (and sold separately because it costs as much as your rent). Discontent is learned behaviour and I have spent a lot of time returning to my self.
My Zininzi and I went to Rome in university (#StellaAndAurora) in 2014, after saving for 4 years. There are two parts to this one. The first is how we got there and the second is what I did once we arrived. We planned the trip in the infancy of our friendship that blossomed on our walks to church in matric. Zee wanted to see Roman cathedrals and make a pilgrimage out of it. I wanted to taste see and smell Italy with my whole heart having just recently inhaled Eat Pray Love. We never spoke of it again until the end of 2011. I called her and said “have you started saving for our trip? Because we’re going. Soon.” I think even then she knew that I was telling her: “I’m going. And I want you to come with me, so please please start saving so I don’t have to go without you.” fast-forward, we’re in Venice on the last leg of the trip. My friend started to feel unwell. It took a while for the viral infection to show itself for what it was so it’s earliest manifestation was crankiness and an gradual decline in her desire to participate . As she tells it, I wanted to see the inside of a cathedral and she decided she didn’t want to go inside. I said OK, went inside collected her after and that was the end of that. She tells this story with admiration not bitterness. That’s because Zininzi knows me well. I would never abandon her. I’m not callous or cold. But if she wasn’t going to come with me: I was still going.
My grandmother (and love of my life) attained my favour by leaving me be. My mom was frustrated by my tomboy tendencies, lack of enthusiasm in waking up early just because, in doing chores (I’d do exactly what I was asked to do and not a smidge more) and I lacked a tendency towards busyness. I didn’t see the point in performing Busy. The dishes are done, my body is clean, the floor is swept. Come noon, everybody knew they’d find me in a corner somewhere with my nose in a book. I had a few besties in Lesotho who would visit me if I wasn’t out and about with the other kids. I’d play mantloane, liketo, khati, cards whatever. We’d crack jokes get up to mischief, giggle and gossip. And then, quite suddenly (per my gran) all giggling would cease. I’d get up, head to the bedroom and return with not one but two books and hand one to my (apparently unimpressed) friend. And that would be the end of all fun and games because I was reading now I’d been a good host (and my friend would always leave because wtf?!). She reminds me of this story often, and to her credit, with great fondness.
Thats all you need to know about me. I am lovely not lonely and I belong very deeply to myself. I believe human beings were created for community and that there is room for great specificity in how that community looks and feels for you. I am firmly planted in my community and am deeply loved. I am content and I make myself happy. My loved ones also make me happy and I will make room for more love but understand this: love already lives here. I am also open and willing to share. But, unless you ask me to, I won’t wait for you. And if you ask, I will wait for you but not indefinitely.
I like boys, I like being cuddled and loved. I don’t like a new lover demanding emotional real estate. It’s something I’ve struggled with in my romantic partnerships: they didn’t get the enormous compliment that was being with someone who didn’t need them but chose them. Some imagined me cold, callous or indifferent because I was unwilling to make them the centre of my universe and I made this distinction clear (dear reader if you’ve ever met me I know you know this not true, I have warm d energy). I’m not hyper-independant (OK, maybe I am, a little, but I’m working on it). I will make room but I am full. When I tell you I’m full you shouldn’t be afraid, there’s still room for you. If you are interested in being my centre that is not a love I’m interested in, why would you want to leave me incapacitated should you choose to leave because you’ve taken the centre of me? I need someone who wants to pull up a chair and join the feast. Please don’t bother me if you want to be my everything. I’m not a moon, I will not be tied to your gravitational pull, I will not willingly participate in an eclipse. I am a whole entire planet and if you are too, we can light up the skies in a celestial dance that is a joy to behold. “I’m doing x, join me.”
ATT PRESENT AND FUTURE LOVERS (SPECIFICALLY):
My house is full of flowers (this is not a metaphor) because, spoiler alert, I like flowers. I once jokingly asked an ex why he rarely bought me flowers and he answered that I already had some, no actually, his exact words were that I always had some. Let’s pause for the violins. Imagine. Now I must wait for another human being to think of me before I can enjoy something I love because Hallmark or someone said they should be given to me by a man. The only thing better than one vase full of flowers is two man. Cmon. You’re not in competition with me for my affections. You shouldn’t want to be (you might lose). Love is not a competition to me, it’s a party, a bring and braai, a garden of flowers, it overflows. I’m full isn’t a rebuff, it means my heart can expand to include you because it will never reach capacity and that’s beautiful to me. My [full] fillment shouldn’t scare you and if it does, be very afraid then because wow.
I love travelling. I love travelling with people. My first solo trip was a failed group trip and I’ve never looked back (because now I love that too). You can’t postpone and pause your plans and bucket list because of other people’s schedules. None of my friends could get leave at the same time and I said f*ck it, this is the cinema all over again. Who said I can’t travel alone (the answer is pedophiles, human trafficking syndicates and rapists but if we plan around them none of us who none of us would leave the house)? So I travelled alone and was never the same. It was one more thing I gave myself permission to do alone. It’s a running joke with my friends that if they ask me if I’m free I’ll probably say something alone the lines of: “I’m doing x, join me”. I invite my loved ones places all the time but your ‘no’ is not and cannot be the end of my plans (there are exceptions of course) and this is also why I cannot stand being stood up. It’s the meanest thing you can do to me. Do you not understand that if I had known you weren’t coming/didn’t want to come, that I would’ve happily made plans with someone else? mysef very much included. Ugh. If I’m available, that’s enough. I’m. Going.
I like flowers and watermelon.
I like company and solitude.
I like roadtrips and travel.
I like it when boys are nice to me and do things for me.
I don’t believe in false dichotomies.
I belong to myself and my community.
When I’m alone, I’m not lonely.
Come join me.
Either way, I’m going.
“I’m lovely and lonely and belong deeply to myself”
“My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude”
“But sometimes your light attracts moths, and your warmth attracts parasites. Protect your space and energy”