Why I'm keeping my new nyama-free lifestyle a secret
I'm not in any hurry to make loud declarations about the fact that I'm drastically cutting back on meat and booze
Few things capture the indomitable spirit and sheer irrationality of human beings more than the practice of drawing up New Year's resolutions. As anyone above the age of 13 is aware, these are nothing more than glorified wish lists, as noble as they are futile.
To prove just what a typical human being I am, I resolved on my 47th birthday, in early January, to drastically reduce my meat and alcohol intake. This decision was inspired, in no small measure, by the fact that I had landed back in SA after an almost two-week-long vacation in Nairobi and Mombasa.
During my vacation I had managed to consume mounds of nyama while guzzling enough gin on a daily basis to tranquilise a mid-sized African elephant. On the flight from Nairobi back to Joburg my body decided to perform its best Sadtu impersonation and embark on a protest action that manifested in a constant dizzy spell, profuse perspiration and swollen feet.
I knew something had to give.
I have been giving animal flesh and the booze a wide berth for almost six weeks. What is notable about this is that, up until I typed it here, I had not made any announcement or declaration to this effect to anyone except my wife and a few partners-in-crime. I have a theory about this: if you want to fail miserably at anything, make loud declarations about it at the beginning.
I do not know a bunch of people who loathe themselves as much as smokers do for failing to stop. I have heard about every trick in the world to quit cigarettes. One fellow declared that he would stop buying cigarettes by the pack. He would only purchase loose draws from street vendors so that he doesn't have any cigarettes on him at any given time. But there was always a colleague two cubicles away with a stash of Stuyvesants in his drawer. And there's nothing a smoker loves more than a smoking partner.
I have never had a total stranger walk up to me at a pub and ask me for an Amstel because that's just not how boozers roll. You want a beer? Get your own. But smokers share fags with total strangers all the time.
My theory is that by making an announcement about a life-changing decision, we all put ourselves under ridiculous pressure to not fall off the wagon.
At the age of 20 I decided to become a vegetarian. For the first six years or so it was all easy peasy, leafy squeezy. I simply stayed away from meat and that was that. And then I lost my damn mind and started dating a hectic vegan because … you know, it made sense, right? Right?
We both could see this bright, green, leafy and nutty future together. We were going to get married, live on an eco-friendly farm smallholding with our coloured children along the Midlands Meander. And then she started putting pressure on me to go "all the way" and make the leap to full-blown vegan.
Finally, I cracked under the pressure. While stopped at a filling station in Cato Ridge, I purchased a pack of biltong, which I devoured in a matter of seconds before collapsing into a deep well of shame. About six months later, while taking a stroll through the flea market at the Durban Exhibition Centre, I buckled under the intoxicating fumes and got myself a double cheese-and-bacon burger.
The first thing I did when I got to her flat on the Esplanade was to wash my hands and brush my teeth. Carnivorous Ndumiso was having an affair and cheating on Vegetarian Ndumiso. And I was cheating on my Vegan Mary.
While enjoying the view of Durban Harbour, she suddenly jumped up and yelled, "Have you been eating meat?!" I thought she had turned sangoma before I realised that I had absent-mindedly burped.
At a braai about a year later, I was surreptitiously munching on a piece of meat in the kitchen when a friend walked in, prompting me to drop the pork chop into the sink. This is when it dawned on me that, after eight years of being a loud vegetarian, the jig was up.
And this is why, this time around, I must categorically state that I'm not a vegetarian. I'm just a fellow who avoids meat as much as humanly possible. Maybe this is a lesson for Floyd Shivambu and his Red Beret mates. Maybe if they eased up on the Marxist-Leninist, "champion of the poor" rhetoric, Twitter activists would cut them some slack on their penchant for Salvatore Ferragamo loafers.
Frank Gallagher, the lead character in the TV series Shameless, has shown us the way. His mates from the pub accused him of being gay because he had engaged in sexual acts with other men which is, of course, an absurdity. Frank retorted with a quip from the top drawer of pragmatism: "I am whatever I need to be at the time I need to be it." Case closed.