Why I’m Making the Choice to Be Celibate

Celebrities make everything look cool.

Torn denim is ratchet until Beyonce shows up outside wearing cut-off shorts. Short hair is boyish until Lupita rocks it. Celibacy was an unrealistic expectation to place on adults until Meagan Good, Devon Franklin, Russell Wilson and Ciara chose it. Now it’s cool!

It feels good to be celibate today because popular culture says its good. You look less like a sex-deprived religious fundamentalist and more like a self-assured woman who’s making powerful choices in her sex life. What makes celibacy extra-cool is that it’s not just the self-professed Christian celebrities who are doing it. The non-religious ones are into too.

So I’m making the choice to be celibate. But it’s actually a decision that I have been making since I was twelve after my boyfriend broke up with me by getting his boys to sing 112’s It’s Over Now. I probably deserved it. I was diabolical. I manipulated and controlled him because it was kind of nice to have that kind of power over a male.

After that horrible break up experience I made a vow not get a boyfriend until I was sixteen. Four years later I discovered that I liked not having a boyfriend. The constant hook-up and break-up cycle was wrecking my friends’ lives. I discovered that it was actually possible to have a healthy guy friendship without it having to turn romantic. I understood that a sexual relationship with a man is not part and parcel of what it means to be a woman. I felt free to discover who I was as a person.

It’s thirteen years after I first made that decision in a very different context. I want a boyfriend soon and I want to get married one day. I’m not a pubescent teen, I’m a sexually mature woman. Sex isn’t a thing my sister shields my eyes from when a scene comes on the TV screen; it’s an act people around me are doing every single day. And they aren’t shy about sharing the details either! So why, oh why, would I choose celibacy?

1. Because I can’t just walk away.

When I love someone I love them hard. I don’t do half measures. And for me opening myself up sexually to a man that I love would be the ultimate level of vulnerability. I know I couldn’t just move on from a man that I’ve slept with because I’ve shown him a part of myself that no other person has had the privilege to see. I want to entrust that sacred part of myself to a man who is entrusting that sacred part of himself to me – permanently. I want to feel safe to be fully vulnerable and free in a context where we’re both committed to never walking away.

2. Because sex is good motivation for a man.

Sex is the primary motivation for why men pursue relationships with women. My choice to be celibate puts me a in a position where I can encourage him to shift his priorities from sexual to establishing a real emotional and spiritual connection with me. Secondly, I understand that a man who tries to pressure me into sex doesn’t respect me or my values. Thirdly, I know that a man who is willing to sacrifice his sexual needs to win my heart sees my value beyond my physical attributes.

3. Because sex isn’t a test drive.

‘Before we get married, we need to have sex. What if he’s horrible in bed? What if we’re incompatible??’

I’ve heard my share of sad honeymoon fails from couples who got married as virgins. But I think most of their problems could have been solved by pre-marital counselling. The fear of marrying someone you’re incompatible with is illogical at best and selfish at worst. At the very least, if you plan on marrying a man you should at least establish that he has a penis. That doesn’t require sex. The ‘test drive’ mindset stems from a cultural view of sex that defines it like a commercial transaction. Sex is the good and we are the consumers. Like a lipstick in the beauty shelf at Clicks I want to try it before I buy it.

4. Because sex is fantastic motivation for a woman.

I’ve prayed that Jesus doesn’t return before I find the one more times than I care to admit. Because like a kid who gets to eat Choice Assorted Biscuits but once a year, the wait hasn’t quenched my desire, but intensified it. Celibacy isn’t a decision that I made because the priest told me so. It was a choice that I made because I truly believe that sex was created by God to be the fun, exciting, orgasmic experience that joins two individuals together for life.

I’m making the choice to be celibate before marriage. Even if Ciara decides to give up her Goodies. Even if Drake breaks up with Serena and shows up in a slim-fit suit and that beard. Even when it stops looking cool.

Zola writes to encourage women to be powerful people. Get her writing for free when you subscribe here.

How Exercise is Making Me a Happier Person

happy

I run four times a week early in the morning. I love being on the road as the sun rises, before the morning rush and school runs begin. It’s the best way for me to start my day – feeling wide awake and energised, rather than sleepy and grumpy which was my default setting before I started running.

Running was a dream I had for years but I could never seem to turn it into an achievable goal. Occasionally I would wake up early to jog around the block, but I was not becoming a runner which is what I wanted to be.

I am running today because friends came alongside me with the encouragement and practical advice to get my butt out of bed and on to the road. I no longer stare admiringly at the joggers going past my window, I am out there doing it.

There are visible changes to my body, I have dropped several kilos and I feel good. When you exercise your body releases two chemicals: BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and endorphins. BDNF produces antidepressant effects and endorphins are natural painkillers. They make you feel good.

Exercise can make you a happier person.

Maybe you have been struggling to motivate yourself to go to the gym every week. Maybe you have never been sporty and dread the thought of daily exercise. Or maybe you think you are too busy to fit exercise into your schedule. I want to share the practical and powerful advice my friends gave me. These are simple steps that you can take today to turn your exercise dream into a lifelong habit:

1. Find an exercise buddy.
Your exercise buddy should be at least a step ahead of you – enough to challenge you to push yourself beyond what you think you can do. If your gym offers it and you can afford it then hire a personal trainer. You are more likely to be committed to someone you are paying to show up. A virtual alternative is the Nike+ Running App which keeps track of your runs and allows you to share your progress with your friends.

2. Use the ‘just 10 minutes’ trick.
When it is freezing outside and your bed is like a cocoon, it is nearly impossible to convince yourself to go out and run 3km. So set yourself a minimum goal of ten minutes. Anyone can do ten minutes! Once you are out there and the endorphins start flowing you will not want to come back.

3. Think. Pray.
Before I started running I never made time to pray in the morning, but my mornings have become the perfect time to connect with God. My running buddy and I never talk while we run so that gives me 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence – no Whatsapp chats coming in and no urgent matters bombarding me. I can clear my mind and focus on God. I also use it as time to focus my thoughts and plan my day.

Now that winter is over, October feels like a good month to get your body in shape and start a new exercise habit.

My name is Zola and I want you to escape the overwhelm and find your purpose. Subscribe  if you want to connect and get free access to more of my writing.

How To Overcome the Fear of Vulnerability in Relationships

Lately I’ve been thinking about the way our upbringing affects our relationships as adults. I am the youngest in a family of three girls and for the most part, I exhibit typical last-born/baby of the family tendencies. I love being the centre of attention, I’m a little bit self-centered (only a little!) and I can talk/write my way out of anything.

I was like that as a child and I’m the same as an adult. Along with my last-born tendencies, I have one first-born/only child tendency: I am a fixer. Think Olivia Pope. She finds people in a bad situation and handles it. When someone is in a mess too deep for them to cope with, she swoops in and rescues them. It makes sense, she’s an only child.

Fixing is pretty cool when you’re a pretend-character in the White House, not when you’re a real person in a relationship. I made it a point to find people I thought needed fixing and make friends with them. I called the ‘friends’ but they were really projects. I would identify the problem, draw up a solution and apply the fix.

The problem with people is that they’re not computers. They have opinions and dissenting thoughts. They have feelings. They don’t like being fixed and will eventually rebel against The All-Wise and Infinitely Knowledgeable Fixer’s advice. Every fixer knows this. So like a good fixer I always had a plan in place to make them do what I thought they should do using my powers of persuasion.

I was happy if you were doing what I wanted you to do; if you were who I wanted you to be. And if you disagreed I would first try and reason with you and then pressure you and then withdraw until you did what I wanted. Because as long as you were disagreeing with me, you weren’t allowing me to fix you and if you weren’t allowing me to fix you I couldn’t get you to be the person that I wanted you to be.

The term people use for people like me is ‘strong personality’, but there was nothing powerful about the way I behaved. The correct words to use are: manipulative control freak. I manipulated because I felt weak. My thinking was that as long as I was in the director’s seat I could control the course of the relationship and the person and their ability to hurt me.

Sounds crazy, right?

The underlying cause of manipulation and control isn’t strength – it is fear. So maybe you’re not as crazy as me, but if you look closely at your relationships you’ll see that you’re motivated by the same thing – fear.

You see vulnerability as a weakness that opens you up to rejection by people.
You never share the deep parts of yourself with anyone.
You have multiple personalities that you alter to fit the audience.
You withdraw when you don’t have your way.
You hide your fear of a failed relationship in spiritual excuses for why you don’t date.

You never disagree because you don’t want to offend.

Fear prevents intimacy. It creates a situation where you’re always trying to find ways to protect yourself from what the other person might do. It fosters an environment where it’s impossible for people to know you and to love you. I thought I was strong, but I was really a weak and afraid woman.

Here’s the thing I had to realise: Being powerful is not about controlling people’s love towards you or their ability to hurt you; being powerful is about managing your love towards other people, regardless of their ability to hurt you. That one truth is what began this journey I’m on of finding freedom from fear in relationships.

In what ways has the fear of vulnerability hindered growth in your relationships? Can you trace it back to how you grew up? Leave a comment!
In what ways do you see fear being the motivation in your relationships? Leave a comment!

One More Thing White People Have That Black People Don’t

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In case you missed it, you have to check out Verashni Pillay’s list of six things white people have that black people don’t.

She sums up white privilege and hits the nail on the head. She found the words we’ve all been looking for to explain why one can’t just ‘move on’ from apartheid. She says it like it is, pulls no punches and exposes the danger of denialism.

Of course no one person can write an exhaustive list of the ways in which privilege manifests itself. Privilege is a complex and often hidden set of rules about who benefits and who gets left out. Even the most conscious of people can miss the little ways that privilege is able to creep in and favour a certain group of people over others.

One other thing that white people have that black people don’t is Whatsapp emoticons.

You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed?

When I’m chatting to my white friend and I ask, ‘Where are you?’, if she’s at her grandparents place, she doesn’t have to use words or break a sweat because lo and behold you have the elderly man and woman with grey hair emoticon. But guess what? They’re both white! When I’m at ugogolokhulu’s house I don’t have the privilege of being able to tap twice, once again, I’m black so I have to write a long and involved essay to explain myself.

Sometimes when you’re chatting to someone on Whatsapp you reach that point where you have nothing more to say to them. You know those people that you don’t want to talk to in the first place but you replied because you thought it would be mean not to. In that situation you want to be able to end the conversation with one final emoticon.

I envy my white friends who can do the white thumbs up sign because their hands actually look like that in real life. The conversation ends on a positive note, but doesn’t invite the other person to respond.

As a black person however, I’m limited to the use of ‘K.’

The thing with ‘k’, unlike the thumbs up sign, is that you can never be sure what it means.

Maybe it means ‘K, I’m mad now but I’m not going to tell you why unless you buy me flowers and beg me to.’

Or maybe it means, ‘K, I can’t really talk right now my boss just walked in and I’m about to get fired.’

Worse, it could mean ‘K, I didn’t bother to even type ‘OK’ because you’re not even worth that extra second.’

No one really knows! And there’s always that chance that if you say ‘K.’ that person could reply and say, ‘K, what?’ or ‘What does ‘K’ mean?’ And that’s a whole other can of Whatsapp worms that you don’t really want to open.

You’re at the salon getting your nails did and you want to let your Whatsapp group of girlfriends know that you’re running late for drinks. Have no fear, the Whatsapp developers thought of everything! On the eighth row to the extreme right are pretty pink fingernails getting done, on white hands.

If there was any justice in the world we know that that hand would be black because everyone knows that black women don’t just get a basic manicure and polish. We need to get those extensions did too.

By the time I get done trying to manoevre my acrylic extensions across my screen, I’ve smudged my nail polish beyond recognition.

White women have options – they can say they’re cutting their hair, getting a massage, waving their hand like they just don’t care and all other weird things that the woman in the pink shirt is doing.

It’s just not fair.

Black people can’t even be in relationships on Whatsapp. The smiling couple is white. The boy and girl holding hands are white. The kissing couple is white. The family IS WHITE!

Look a little lower, do you see a black bride in a white veil and dress?

Somewhere out there is a woman who wants to change her status so her contacts know that she’s getting married next weekend. Instead of posting one simple emoticon, she’ll have to resort to a combination of the diamond ring on the bottom row and go through the trouble of moving to a whole new section and choosing the church building with the heart above it.

There’s so much more that I could point out like the fact that the only brown person on whatsapp is wearing a turban. Apparently the only thing non-white people can be is ‘ethnic’. So the black woman emoticon would have to be wearing Ndebele beading and the black man would be dressed like a rapper.

Why confront every day white privilege?

It’s good not to take ourselves too seriously. But after we laugh we need to take a serious look at the ways in which white privilege manifests itself in everyday situations and conversations. The language we use speaks of white privilege. Even the food sold in supermarkets and the clothes in stores.

We could write a thousand posts about what white people have that black people don’t, but unless we’re reaching white people, this is an exercise in futility. White people will feel guilty and have no idea what to do with their guilt. White people will send you emails about how much of a racist you are because there are more important issues in the world like people dying in the Middle East.

K.

White privilege is an undeserved advantage that you have simply because of the colour of your skin and as a white person you probably won’t see it. You won’t realise that you were served first at the bakery even though there were many other people who got to the counter before you. They happen to be black. You won’t notice that the Elastoplast matches the colour of your skin but not that of your black friends.

Every day white privilege marginalises black people. You are constantly reminded that you live in a white world where you will never truly belong. You need to conform or die because being white is put to you as the only good, admirable and right way to live.

Every day white privilege is oppressive to black people. It dictates to us what it means to be somebody. We’re taught to speak a certain way, say your words just so. We’re grilled in etiquette, table manners, how to be respectful and polite – the white way. Because the only way to truly ‘be’ is to be white.

Every day white privilege marginalizes and oppresses white people too. Because white people are so sheltered from the reality of what life is really like for other people that they can’t connect with anyone who is not like them. Everyone else becomes an alien, a threat, an ‘ethnic’ and exotic object of fascination.

We need to confront every day white privilege and a good place to start that conversation is on Whatsapp.

Twitter works too. Follow me @ooeygooey

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The One Question That You Should Stop Asking Women

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You could be standing in a queue waiting to pay your bills and a curious someone will tap you on the shoulder…

Or you could be apprehending a dangerous criminal when an innocent bystander interrupts your karate chop…

You could even be sitting in a Metrorail train, having ‘forgotten’ to buy a ticket, when a ticket inspector with arms the size of a baobab trunk walks towards you, stops in front of you and just as you say your last prayers asks:

Eh, sorrysisi, can I just ask.
Do you prefer to have your hair like that or…?’

Invariably, ‘like that’ means not relaxed. ‘Like that’ means without Peruvian, Brazilian or whatever South American extension you prefer. ‘Like that’ means natural – no straightening, no braiding and no chemical processing.

If you’re a black woman, as sure as the sun rises every morning, you’ve had to field questions about your hair. In the right context and if done respectfully, I think it’s okay for people to be curious and to want to understand your hair better. I think it’s good to ask questions.

But after a recent encounter that my sister Shona had with a cashier at the supermarket, I’ve started to see this particular question differently.

The problem with ‘Do you prefer to have your hair like that or…?’

My friend Dudu is a tall woman. She is beautiful and statuesque. Her height gives her presence so when she walks into a room, people always notice her. Now imagine a curious stranger walking up to her and saying,

‘Ah, I’m just curious. Do you prefer to have long legs or…?’

In that moment Dudu has two choices. Option one is to remove her earrings, put on her sneakers and call a lawyer because she’s about to hurt somebody. Option two is the more civil (and less criminal) course of action where she calmly explains to the curious stranger that she doesn’t prefer to have long legs.

Dudu’s long legs are natural. Her legs aren’t something that she decides to put on in the morning or to leave at home. In fact, their length was written into her DNA. It is genetics.

Asking someone if they prefer to have natural hair is as bizarre as asking a tall person if they prefer to have long legs. It is their natural hair; that is how it grows out of their hair follicles. If a woman chooses to keep her hair as it grows out of her head, it should not be an event or a cause for concern.

People shouldn’t be ‘ooh-ing’, ‘ah-ing’ and staring when a black woman with an afro walks into a room and yet they often do. They ought not to be asking you if you’re sick or broke or depressed because your hair is unprocessed. They shouldn’t look perplexed and bewildered because you’ve had the ‘courage’ to show up at work with a natural hairdo.

Having said that, we shouldn’t be surprised that people are confused. You don’t often see tall people lengthening or fundamentally altering their legs. But we know that black women pay top dollar to make their hair look anything other than its naturally occurring state.

I’m not here to judge, I’m just came to clear up the confusion:

Weaves are a preference.
Box braids, twists and ‘carrot’ are a preference.
Chemical processing and straightening are a preference.

Natural hair is biological. You do not buy it in a box or take it out of a packet. It is given by God’s sovereignty, not human choice. It is NOT a preference.

Sisters, let’s stop this ridiculousness

The weird thing is that most of the people asking this question aren’t black brothers, or white people, or even alien invaders with voices like T-Pain and three fingers on each hand. This question is asked most often by black women. Women who should know better!

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They know what it’s like to sit under a hairdresser’s hand as she painstakingly gives you the details of her relationship with her husband, fights the liberation struggle against the oppression of your knots and commits the worst war crimes on your hairline.

They know what it’s like to twist their necks in all kinds of crazy positions for ten hours and to not be able to lay your head down on anything without feeling like someone’s cutting through it with a hundred machetes that have been sharpened on both sides.

They KNOW. And yet they see nothing strange about the question:

‘Do you prefer to have your hair like that or…?’

I have a dream…

That one day you won’t have to sprint from the taxi into the salon in record breaking time for fear that the world will lay eyes on your hair in its natural state. I have a dream that one day we can all sit together sipping rooibos tea as we discuss the permanent exile of our hairlines and how if we could turn back the hands of time, we would’ve insisted that Sis’ Bea not pinch those baby hairs so tightly.

I have a dream that my daughter will one day not need to explain to her four year old friends that her momma would rather not process her hair with poisonous chemicals and is happy to contend with it every morning or just trim it shorter. These things are self-evident.

I have a dream, today, that you will wake up and see that the way that you were created is good and pleasing and ‘normal’; that you wouldn’t be pressured to make the natural you a political statement or a form of artistic expression.

Today, my hope is that you will come to accept yourself for who you are and your hair for what it is without feeling the need to justify it or explain it.

And when you hear that question (inevitably, you will), may you be like my sister Shona and answer,

‘I don’t prefer to have my hair like this any more than a tall person prefers to have long legs. It is what it is.’

©Zola Ndlovu 2015. No reblogging and no republishing without permission of the author.

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