An untidy affair


Love is not a pie. I read a story carrying that title once and it made a lot of sense.

Essentially, the writer’s point was that you can’t divide love up into neat slices, give everyone their share (some slices larger than others) and hope to wash the pie dish, put it away and go and take a nap.

It simply doesn’t work that way. Love is a complex and much more fluid undertaking, which doesn’t often allow for peaceful napping, even if you intend to dream of the object of your affection.

It struck me as I engaged in several conversations over the past few weeks that similar to love, life itself is not a neat or tidy affair.

It’s fraught with broken fragments, loose ends and overlapping edges.

Soon after the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, women’s magazines were awash with articles on how Clinton managed to retain such a powerful political image while pursuing such mischievous out of work interests.

The answer, they said, was in his ability to compartmentalise.

Apparently the great man had a special skill, not common among mere mortals, for keeping the various sections and segments of his life separate and, in fact, making them completely unrelated.

“Compartmentalising” became the new buzz word, describing how he could be legitimately schizophrenic and no one would be any the wiser.

Not of course, how the spin doctors would have put it, but you get my drift.

Somehow, Clinton managed to make his life tidy – until he slipped up, and then look what a seriously untidy mess that made.

The crazy thing is, we still think he’s great! Even as we think Tiger Woods is great, and quite possibly even South African President Jacob Zuma.

This week Zuma defended the ANC’s proposed Media Appeals Tribunal, saying: “The Constitution talks about the privacy of people. At times things that are private are not made private in the manner in which the reportings are done.”

(Mail&Guardian online). I guess if life were tidy, it wouldn’t matter too much.

In New African magazine, Buraffour Ankomah quotes a scientific study which concludes that a man with a higher IQ is more likely to be faithful to his wife than his counterpart with a lower IQ.

The study says that smarter men tend to place greater value on monogamy and sexual exclusivity than their less intelligent peers.

I’ll wait for the backlash before I share anymore of that research study with you! My question is, what does that say about Clinton, and Woods?

Or more importantly, what does it say about us for admiring them?

In Zimbabwe we are no strangers to the clutter of life.

Even our government is untidy. How else would you describe the incoherent jumble of misplaced loyalties, misdirected ambitions and misrepresented realities?

What about the on-again-off-again nature of our negotiations?

Tidy it isn’t! Dare I say we may in some tenuous way have more in common with the Americans than we would want to admit?

You see the problem with humanity is that we keep trying to control life.

And every time we invent some new way to take charge over the natural processes of life, we end up with a whole host of new out-of-control issues.

Think about it: we introduced birth control to manage our natural tendencies to reproduce.

The result was a drop in population but a rise in a multitude of social ills.

We introduced farming to exert more control over our agricultural output and look at what that did to the environment.

The more I think about it the more I wonder whether we shouldn’t just live and let live.

A conversation I had with a friend this week almost persuaded me that one should just give up on the control aspect, and simply go with the flow.

My friend is the quintessential good girl.

A pretty girl who works hard, got good grades, has a decent job, is involved in her church and only drinks on Fridays!

She’s done everything right in her life, but somehow the perfect romance has eluded her.

Instead she is now emotionally entangled with an impossibly unsuitable man of a nebulous marital status and doesn’t know where to go from here.

Should she break it off with the bad boy to pave the way for a more likely and appropriate possibility, or should she take what she can get and deal with possibilities if and when they arise?

Did I mention that my friend is at that age where having children is a critical issue?

“I believe in mistakes and accidents. That the nature of life is chaos and confusion. Man’s rules of law and order may not stand…”

So ring the opening lines of Tracy Chapman’s song Be and be not afraid.

In the everyday dilemmas facing everyday people in this untidy process called life, the questions revolve around making responsible choices that make life more manageable; or simply letting life happen, and hoping for the best.

As for me, I’m a control freak, so there’s no real choice there, but to each of us, the options remain open and new every day: to tidy or not to tidy?

•Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Reader’s comments can be sent to

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading