Dare to be happy, to be you. I dare you (because your life depends on it).
‘I want to be happy‘ said by a toddler sounds innocently profound and all the little human happens to be talking about in that moment is that she’s taking a nap in the sun or getting an extra slice of watermelon. A dare used to be a call to adventure. Be yourself sounded like bogus advice: kante what have I been doing? The simplest terms have become the most complicated.
Remember when we could run for hours and ride our bikes up many hills and not notice that it was exercise because being tired wasn’t on the agenda; perfecting that trick was with scraped knees and all was. Then things got a little bit weird and that awful word crept into our lives: complicated.
I know adulthood has been hard, that we long for the uncomplicated time when you liked a person and they became your friend and you can’t remember exactly how it happened because you just started playing before responsibilities were a thing. I know that the world is unkind and we can’t afford to be that open and unsuspicious and innocent anymore. That the responsibility for a human life in a world that no longer even pretends to value it, is heavy, especially if you’ve created a whole other other human life too. This world where the renaissance men have disappeared because there’s no time to pursue passions, let alone the mastery of multiple passions when there are pressing economic demands to be attended to (my life has been forever changed by whoever suggested that I substitute “the economy” with “rich people’s yacht money” whenever it comes up. Gamechanger). No one can afford to pay the bills doing the sweet jobs of yesteryear: librarian, teacher, bookkeeper because benefits, human dignity and security have been stripped from jobs to get the most out of workers for the absolute least in the service of capitalist gains (erm, exploitation). Its not just in sweat shops and fast fashion, or your iPhone production line, it’s you Lerato: your corporate job that you’ve pursued to pay the bills your parent(s) paid with less. The one you do instead of the thing that makes you feel alive until one day you wake up and you’re fourty-two and you realise you have spent and will continue to spend, the bulk of your time alive working for money you rarely get a moment to enjoy and this is your life. You’re too tired to be the girl who also loved to paint, who could once juggle 8 subjects and 3 extracurricular activities with relative ease and could inhale 2 books a week. She’s gone and you can’t find the time or the energy to bring her back.
See: You’re in the production line too and it’s not even your fault, the trap had ensnared you before you knew what was happening: you had the illusion of choice. They caught us with things like “financial security” (which again, unless we’re talking about your family’s money, doesn’t actually exist because most of us are 1-3 missed paychecks away from financial ruin). The answer to: why the hell is that system built like that is “money”. Healthcare? Money. Business? Money. Charity? Money. “But can we tear it down and rebuild it so it serves its purpose, the people, a little bit better?” No, because money. It’s Why there any people alive that are fundamentallly opposed to the, frankly fabulous, idea of a universal basic income (its been proven in multiple ongoing studies and it makes perfect sense that if people aren’t using every inch of their energy to survive, and if survival is ensured, that humanity will then have the collective energy to thrive). You guessed the answer: Money. The American Dream has sold poverty as a moral failing. This allows poor people who know themselves to be hardworking to defend the very system that exploits them daily because they believe that future wealth is inevitable, because they are not moral failures. So they counterintuitively oppose “handouts” and ideas that would literally save their, and other poor people’s lives because they cannot reconcile their identities as both poor and morally sound/handworking. They’re not poor, they’re almost rich. The logic is air tight. Its a literal noose and they will literally die on that hill. (Because money). Ugh, Capitalism.
The modern poet Avril Lavigne’s most scathing insult, to this day, was accusing a young man of making “things so complicated”. You like him, he likes you, she likes her, they like them. Simple. All “seductive” makeup tricks and techniques simply mimic what your body does naturally when you’re aroused: dilated pupils, flushed cheeks, fuller blood-filled lips, perky nipples. That’s why you like it, it sends the same signals to your primitive brain that regular old attraction does: She likes likes you. Every seduction technique I’ve ever read is what my body wants to do around a body that I want to do. I want to laugh around you, touch your arm, move my whole being a little close, look into your eyes, at your lips, be on your lips. I’m going to touch my my neck because I’m vulnerable, my jugular is exposed. Your eyes are going to want to follow my every move anyway. Simple. I think the mistake people make with “foreplay” (because let’s be honest, at least for large percentage of the cishet women that do not regularly orgasm from penetration, FOREPLAY IS SEX), is not to do what they’ve always wanted to:
Boys (and many girls), since you were young you fantasised about having a warm willing naked woman in your midst. What you would do to her, how she would smell and look, how she would feel. Now you have one in front of you and you’re at a loss? You’re going to go through the obligatory motions so you can “get to the good part”? Lol, this is the good part: she’s here, she’s willing and naked and your teenage brain should be exploding. Savour her, the look and feel of her skin, the tastes and sounds that you no longer have to imagine what her collarbone would feel like on your lips. You’re hardwired to follow cues. This isn’t hard (though you are), it’s quite simple and it’s my favourite part of intimacy. Before you try your fancy tricks, try your natural inclination towards adoration (the forehead kisses and unexpected adoring kiss on the hand go just as far, psychologically, as your stroke game does physically. At least for some of us) just some food for thought. My point is that most pleasures are simple. “Why’d the hell we had to make things so complicated? “. I shamelessly brought in sex because it’s been framed as indecent for far too long. It’s one of the most natural and pleasurable things we do as a species and it’s all tied up in knots (also an intriguing idea) because we’ve tied it up in the psychology of morality and decency and all the other systems under the sun and we wonder why we struggle to engage in and enjoy something that should be the simplest of pleasures.
As a personal rule, I don’t judge pleasures. I don’t call mine Guilty pleasures anymore. I break my pleasures down to the simplest terms: the sun on my face, casually talking to God while surrounded by trees or mountains or bodies of water (some call it hiking), thanking him for my strong ankles and the fresh air in my lungs. The smell of a fire that always reminds me of my grandmother. The magic of an engrossing book: getting so attached to a fictional group of characters and being so invested in their fate that you find yourself crying out loud when one of them leaves you or becomes a war criminal (I’m looking at YOU Tomi Adeyemi). A warm chest to lie on, a safe space for my whispered dreams, my growing little corner of the internet, my way of finding magic in my thoughts and sharing them with words. The colour yellow. The gift and vibe of live music (I never feel more human than when I’m collectively swaying to music with a crowd of people that each has a specific memory attached to the songs that touch them so viscerally as we collectively make a new one). I enjoy supporting someone else’s talent and dreams at home, in the theatre at galleries and in the cinema. Fresh flowers. The unbridled joy of turning a hunch into a diagnosis using clinical skills that were once a dream less than 10 years ago. Singing in my car. The warm swish of fancy bubble baths under candlelight. They call it Gratitude now, I call it: paying attention to the simple pleasures. Uncomplicated. Guilt free.
So I dare you to enjoy your life. At 8 you couldn’t turn down a dare, the thrill of terror wasn’t enough to stop you because the stakes were high: your entire reputation was at stake. But I’m an adult now Ntoetse, I’m not 8 anymore: With what time? What if I don’t get in, what if I do, I try and I fail? Who will pay for it? I’d argue that the stakes have never been higher: your entire life is at stake. I dare you to be happy. To enjoy your life in simple units of pleasure, in the brave pursuit of being true to yourself. Don’t make it complicated. I dare you to be extraordinary because you’re you and there’s never been another. And there’ll never be one again.