THE RECIPE TO TRUE LOVE
Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, Nontuthuzelo Ncasa tells us about the danger of yearning to be loved, and her journey to discover the recipe to true love.
Nontuthuzelo, 16, was born in the Eastern Cape, “my mom had a child before me, a girl that passed away at birth, so when I was born she gave me a name meaning comfort.”
Nontuthuzelo’s mom was a teacher and an independent woman in traditional Xhosa standards.
“My mom would tell me how she met my dad. She said she was working and earned a good living, which allowed her to have her own house and be completely independent. She was getting older and considered adopting. As a devoted Christian she went to church often and one day the pastor gave a sermon about how people must be fruitful and expand. My mom felt like he was talking directly to her, so she prayed to find a husband.”
After some time, Nontuthuzelo’s mom met an older businessman that would become her husband.
“My parents married but they decided to live in separate houses in the village, they were grown ups and felt that they did not need to comply with stereotypes. I remember him visiting, he was cold and very traditional. When I was three my mom had my sister. It was not too long after the birth that my mom decided to divorce him. She found out that he had been lying since the beginning of their relationship.”
“My dad was traditionally married to six women before my mom. Even though my mom was the only one that had a white wedding, my mother could not overlook the fact that he had hidden his real life.”
After the divorce, Nontuthuzelo’s mom decided to move out of the village into town, this made Nontuthuzelo relationship with her father even more distant.
“I hardly saw my dad, he never paid maintenance because he was self-employed and he would state that he was unemployed, so he couldn’t afford to. Every few years, he would tell my mom he wanted to see us and we would visit for a few days.”
“Whenever I saw him, I never felt any connection. The last time I saw him was at his 70th birthday party, before that I had not seen him for two years. By that time, he had married nine times and had relationships with other women who he had children with. I am aware of at least 38 children.”
Growing up Nontuthuzelo says that she hardly noticed his absence; her mom took charge of everything.
“Our lives continued as normal, the only thing that changed was that my baby sister moved to live with my mom’s friend when I started school. My mom was working and I was at school during the day, so she asked her friend to take care of my sister during the week. She would visit us during weekends.”
Nontuthuzelo says that staying with her mom alone made them close, yet she started developing two different personalities.
“My mom was very strict, she had repented for all her sins and was an extremist in her faith. At home I became the super obedient child that does everything right. I did not have the space to be myself because I did not want to disappoint her.”
“My mom would punish me if I did something wrong. If I cried or got sad after the punishment, she would always say, “you know what you did was wrong, so you do not have the right to be sad. I started to associate showing emotions with something bad and she did not approve it. So I became very quiet and emotionless.”
To compensate the strictness of her mom, Nontuthuzelo became naughty and vocal in the other compartments of her life.
“I have a creative mind, full of imagination. I remember that when I was small I would spend hours playing outside the house with an imaginary family. They were orange creatures, a mother, a father and two kids. I used to talk and laugh with them, my family members would comment that I was being visited by Tokoloshe (bad spirits).”
“When I was 7 and 8, I would arrive home from school two hours before my mom. I would often take the best tablecloth, cups … and would invite a few friends to join me for an afternoon tea. Before my mom arrived I would have cleaned and tidied the place in a such away that she would never suspect what was going on.”
Nontuthuzelo was a good student at school and joined different extra-curriculum activities that fed her creativity, “I joined the public speaking club and I was an arts performer. It is incredible looking back, how different I was at home from what I was outside.”
Nontuthuzelo’s mom despised young people that dated. It was one of the taboo subjects at home. “My mom would give me long lectures about bad things in relationships and how any young person dating was a sinner. It almost felt as if she wanted me to carry her wounded weight of past relationships and beliefs.”
In Grade 5 Nontuthuzelo, for the first time, felt attracted to a boy in school, “he was a super bad boy and I was a super good girl. We started meeting sometimes during breaks, I would go to church and feel so guilty that I would break-up with him almost each week. He would always write love notes to me, so I would go back to meet him break times.”
Nontuthuzelo remembers a spring day in Grade 7, when everything changed.
“On this day, eight girls were called to the teachers room. We were interrogated about having boyfriends at school and meeting them in the dark room. I hate being in trouble so I was scared. In the beginning we all denied it but after one girl admitted we all confessed. The four teachers that interrogated us, all gave us two lashes each on our hands with red pipes and told us that they were going to inform our parents.”
Thinking that her mom was going to kill her, Nontuthuzelo went home and told her best friend how she was going to die, said her goodbyes and told her they would meet again in heaven.
“I waited for my mom, I had cleaned the house and prepared her tea. I could see she had not been informed, so I asked my cousin to tell my mom.”
“My cousin told my mom that they are calling her at school because they found out I was dating … I kept thinking I am not going to cry because I knew I deserve whatever she wanted to do to me. I had shamed her.”
“My mom asked my cousin to collect a stick from outside. My cousin cared for me so she brought a small stick. That infuriated my mom even more, she got a big stick and hit me for a long time. I got scars all over my back.”
“She told me to sit straight and tell her what I had done, I kept repeating that I only kissed him sometimes. She screamed that I should get out of her room. She told me I was an evil child and that I should get out of her sight.”
The next day, her mom went to school and she was told by teachers that Nontuthuzelo soon would be pregnant or get HIV.
“She believed I was a whore and not a virgin any longer. She thought I was like any other child. It really hurt me but I kept thinking she never treated me as her child in the past; I was more like an adult living with her. I knew it was impossible for my mom to treat me now as the exploring young person I was, and forgive me. She stopped talking to me for the next month.”
When her mom was forced to finally talk to her, to do the day-to-day activities, Nontuthuzelo hoped things would return to normal.
“Unfortunately we never became close again. On a few occasions my mom told me ‘you know, I don’t love you as much as I did before.’ Her words were like knives stabbing me in my heart.”
“But deep inside I wanted to believe she was lying. I talked to her about moving to study in Cape Town, I wanted to test her. I was shocked when she just said yes, this just proved my suspicion that she really did not love me the same way anymore.”
Nontuthuzelo moved to stay with her aunty in Khayelitsha in Grade 9.
“Everything changed in my life, I was lucky that my aunt’s family was kind to me. My aunt is a social worker and the wife of a pastor. Cape Town felt alien, I stayed indoors often until I finally adapted. I am committed to my studies and to prove my family that they are wrong about me. Even though the cycle is repeating itself again, I have become the quiet girl at home and the extrovert in school.”
“I visit the Eastern Cape every December and observe how my mom and sister have become closer, I almost feel like an outsider. My mom is no longer strict with me, she has given up. I love her and I am thankful but I wish she could be stricter, so our relationship could be as it was before. I know this is a fantasy and not what real love is about, but from time to time I still like to have these silly thoughts.”
“I have come to terms that life will not go back to what it was. I also have realized that my life journey is to find out which of both girls I am, accept her and love her unconditionally. For too long, I have disguised myself just to please and be loved. The way I have chosen to live my life has made me lose everything, including my identity. I am glad I have realized this before it is too late.”
Nontuthuzelo concludes by saying, “one lesson I have learnt is that no matter what you do, you will never be able to buy love. I know my mom loves me in her own way but I also know that it must be difficult to love someone you do not really know. I think we all go through life wearing too many masks. My lesson, find who you really are, love yourself and be authentic … this is how you will find true love.”
Nontuthuzelo is a Leaders’ Quest participant
*Tokoloshe is a dwarf-like water spirit. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by drinking water.