A million years ago while in primary school, a classmate called me mpandlana on account of my receding hairline. For many years I was traumatized, fearing that I would have a bald head. I feebly called him Holsum on account he was on the fat side.
Holsum has been trusted by generations of mothers as a key ingredient to making tasty nutritional meals. With the price of edible cooking oil shooting through the roof due to the Ukraine and Russia war, I expect Holsum to make a return to our kitchens.
But I digress. When I started wearing prescription spectacles two decades ago, schoolmates did not hesitate to call me names. Back then, many short-sighted children shunned wearing specs precisely because they would be called names. One classmate, Tempest, risked not seeing the notes on the chalkboard because wearing specs was a no-no.
When schools reopened, my grandmother ritually shaved my head with a razor, opening me up to further ridicule. Though her motives were innocent, my chiskop exposed me to bullies who would lick their fingers and slap my shiny dome just for the hell of it.
But I am still standing.
After my car accident in 2017, I lost a percentage of the mobility in my right leg. As a result, I walk with a limp, which can be pronounced when it is cold.
You would think my disability would draw sympathy from close friends. However, I have been called names like stick-nyawo or even sqhwala (the disabled one). I have learned to take it on the chin and turn the other cheek.
I know from experience that being offended only emboldens the offender. It’s worse when someone else gets offended on your behalf, like the millions who watched in horror when actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock two Sundays ago after the comedian joked about his wife, Jada Pinkett’s bald head, caused by an auto-immune condition called alopecia.
Smith was praised for standing up for his wife’s honour but has subsequently apologized and resigned from the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences – the Oscars’ awarding body. Worse, his pending projects, Bad Boys 4 and Fast and Loose, were put on the back burner because of his misguided chisa mpama.
Meanwhile, Rock’s Ego Death show is sold out all over the US. Pinkett, herself a celebrity actress, threw her husband under the bus this week when she disclosed she “wishes he didn’t” get physical with the comedian.
Pinkett is a strong and opinionated woman who can fight her own battles.
“She’s not a wallflower,” says a source. Oh, I still don’t have a mpandlana, thanks for asking.
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