My father never beats me, no matters what crimes I commit. My father says, “Violence creates only more violence. If a tree is growing crooked, you do not beat it straight. No.”
My friends Thabo and Tshepiso now, their fathers beat them: when they are late home, when neighbours complain of their bad manners. Sometimes I wish that my father would beat me rather. At least it would be over quickly.
But no. Instead my father talks. He takes me into the shack where he stores his wood. He closes the door. Inside in the half-darkness, we stand too close and face-to-face. He fixes his eyes on a hole in the metal wall where light shines through. He talks slowly on and on. I stare down at the sawdust on the ground, longing with all my heart for the door to open again.
But this time in the wood-shack was the worst time ever. Such embarrassment! I felt my cheeks burning and my eyes water.
“Soon you will be a man, Itseng,” my father said. “So you must know how a man must behave. A man controls the needs of his body. Do you understand?”
“Ee, Rra,” I said. But I knew there was more to come. I tried to count wood shavings on the floor while my father continued.
“Women are put on this earth to tempt us and to lead us astray. The way they smile, the way they flash their eyes. The way they allow the wind to lift up the hem of their skirts.”
My father’s voice was strained, as if he also wished he was far from this shack and this subject. But my father is not a man who gives up when things are difficult.
I thought then: “This is my brother’s fault! Larona is to blame! He behaves without decency and now I am humiliated!” In that moment I almost hated my elder brother. Almost.
Still my father wasn’t done. “Yes, my son. It is a man’s duty to withstand temptation. Women are born weak and easily swayed by their emotions. It is the man who must stay strong and refuse to do wrong. He must fight the urges of women and the urges of his own body. There are certain things which may only happen after marriage. Do you understand?”
“Ee, Rra,” I said again. I nodded my head up and down, up and down. But I thought of Refilwe. She was not weak. Not easily swayed. She stood tall and proud and strong. Even the roughest truckers did not dare to yell rude comments her way.
At last my father allowed me out. And there was my mother, hanging washing over the fence. She smiled an anxious smile at me. She said, “It will be wonderful! Our first grandchild! A child is always a blessing. We will watch him grow and soon the village will forget and all will be well.”
I nodded, wanting to be gone from our yard. I wanted to rush down the hill to Thabo’s home and Tshepiso’s home beside it. I needed to be with my friends, laughing and planning fresh adventures.
But my mother held my arm. “And think, Itseng! You will be an uncle! Yes, an uncle with a niece or a nephew to play with and teach things to.”
“Ee, Mma,” I said respectfully. At last she let me go.
I raced down the hill, never realising that a second, greater storm would soon crash over our home.
Tell us what you think: Do you agree with the father that women are born weak and swayed by their emotions?