A tale of two parties

DID you really think I was going to write about political parties a few days before Christmas? No way, Jose!

By Thembe Khumalo

This piece is about real live parties. The kind where you dress up, so you can get down. The kind where you are supposed to have conversations about designated drivers days before, and where you tell the people you live with not to wait up for you.

This festive season the parties in Zimbabwe are expected to be on another level following the dramatic changes that recently took place in our political space. We have a new President working with a not-so-new Cabinet and implementing some nearly new ideas. Hayibo!

Surely this calls for some kind of party – even if it’s going to be a rather odd one!

The very serious problem which will hamper our festivities is the lack of cash in our economy.

Everybody knows how hard it is to party without cash. You really want to have a good time… “apa hauna cash”!

Nevertheless we are well-known for being the people that make a plan. And a plan will be made, and the parties will be held.

Thinking of parties reminds me of a couple of interesting parties that I attended this year.

One of them was a segregated party. True story. It was not segregated on racial lines, but segregated on gender lines.

Before you dismiss me, just unroll your eyes and let me explain.

In fact, let me start with the night before that.

On the Thursday night I attended a dinner party. Well it was supposed to be a meeting, but our hostess presented us with the most delicious curry, some delightful drinks and we brought the scintillating company so, although as much was achieved as has been achieved in any meeting, the atmosphere certainly suggested that this could just as easily have been a dinner party.

There were men, women and children, there was an abundance of tasty food, wine, soft drinks and water flowed freely, and the ideas…the conversation…! Well, it was really very, very satisfying.

Fast-forward to two nights later – the Saturday night. Now this was a party – designed and described purely for pleasure.

When I arrived, the women and children (just typing the phrase women and children gives me goosebumps) were in the garden under the trees.

Water slides and jumping castles and other such suitable delights were in sight and food and music availed to all.

I noticed that the men (or rather “dads” as it turned out) were set up some distance away around the braai area.

I assumed that once the meats they were braaing were ready, everyone would get together and have some level of combined fellowship around food and drink.

This was not to be. When the sun set and the weather grew chilly, the women and children were gently ushered into the house.
The men remained fixed at their braai stand location.

As the evening wore on and it became clear that there was no plan for men and women to mix (and the phrase “never the twain shall meet” came to mind) I started to wonder….was this an indication of our unreadiness as women to mix and converse with men?

Was it a “protective” mechanism designed to protect husbands and dads from so-called women predators (presumably any woman without a man to call her own)?

Was it a signal that the lives of women and men in modern-day Harare are so very different that they cannot and need not be allowed to cross paths?

I don’t mean to act naïve. I have been to the odd braai or house party where people have naturally drifted into genderised groups – where men have tended to congregate around conversations concerning business opportunities and politics.

And women have tended to group together to discuss maids and mothers-in-law.

What was different about this particular event was that the separation seemed pre-ordained, it didn’t happen organically.

For a woman like me who didn’t want to talk about children and mothers-in-law (I love my children, but I really want to find out what’s happening in the business space) there was no opportunity to have social interaction with the CEO of X or the MD of Y – and yes sadly, those people do still tend to be male. It simply wasn’t going to happen.

Make no mistake, it was a great party, there was no sign of cash problems, the hostess was lovely, and I had a good time.

But when the food had been eaten and the drinks had been drunk, when the DJ had played all the best and most popular songs, and the dancers had danced till they dropped, I went home wondering if perhaps I am in the wrong life.

If the idea of women and men sitting together at the same table as equals, dancing on the same dance floor as equals, exchanging views in the same conversation as equals is really so revolutionary?

Luckily, for me I had the memory of that Thursday night to remind that actually, it’s OK.

I may not be like most people, but there are enough people like me to make up our own party – maybe even a political one!
So if you’re planning a party this season, whether it be a pool party, a dance party or a political party, please spare a thought for folks who want to talk to everyone and remember to check your cash levels!

Happy partying and merry Christmas.

Thembe khumalo is a brand builder, storyteller and certified life coach.

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