The Need for Reinvention

Apart from the missionaries in their socks, sandals and tie-dye dresses and the volunteers, who wear earnest expressions, combats and Tivas, there are few women in the Outpost. Both those spreading the word and good works are very nice, but we share little in common – other than our geography.

Which means that my tiny social life is distilled further – to one shared, mostly, with the men husband works with. To begin with they regarded me nervously. The men. Perhaps they felt obliged to behave differently when a woman was unceremoniously dumped in their midst. But with time they have grown used to me. And I to them, and we have settled into a comfortable sort of friendship where nobody has to make much effort. They clearly no longer make special concession to the female amongst them, thankfully, for that would put everybody on edge. Now they carry right on and do the blokey stuff they did before I got here: they talk tobacco, they swear (and then look mildly apologetic – most of these boys are sweetly old fashioned), sometimes, when the evening has become especially long and beer sodden, they really relax and might fart. They regale one another with funny stories which make me laugh.  

Occasionally though, just occasionally (this being an outpost and all that jazz) one of them might bring a woman into the equation: invite her up from the capital or, even, more exotically, in from abroad. Such visitors always cause tremendous excitement and the bachelors are generous enough, because they understand the desperate need for new faces, to share their womenfolk briefly – over dinner or drinks or an afternoon barbeque.  

I, in particular, am especially greedy for female company: I miss that of my own gender acutely (I’m not a blokey girl by choice). Hat takes keen interest too but when I tell her that Mike has two ladies in for the weekend, she asks in horror, ‘TWO?!’.  

Yes I say impatiently: Two.  

But don’t they mind?  

Who? Doesn’t who mind?  

The ladies? Having to share Mike? 

Sometimes I think Hat’s regular – and often singular – exposure to adults might be confusing. 

They’re not his girlfriends, I reassure her. (Then, under my breath, ‘’though he is working on at least one’’: spend enough time in the company of just men and you will begin to think like them). 

So. In a state of agitation we ready ourselves for an evening out with The Girls. Hat and I both take care over our appearance. Ordinarily, for the lads, I’d bung on yesterday’s jeans and might drag a comb through my hair. If I can find one. Tonight I select an outfit carefully, pile washed hair on top of my head and dig out my lippy.  Any man who thinks his woman is dressing up for him is delusional. 

And off we go. To the one watering hole in town. To meet our illustrious weekend visitors. Introductions are made and we women carefully size one another up. 

Me because I need to ascertain how serious a relationship with Tom/Dick/Harry might become: this woman could become a neighbour which may, depending on what she’s like, be a very good, or a really bad, thing. 

And she because she can’t quite believe another woman would choose to live here. 

I ask most of the questions. Not because I sometimes call myself a journalist, but because the dearth of company over the past 2, 3, 4, weeks means a lot of conversation has accumulated and I need to offload at the first opportunity. 

She, when she has finished telling me about her glossy career, her fabulous social life (amazing and eclectic circle of really interesting people in Dar, you know?) and herself, might ask me whether I live here. 

No, I just find it so appealing I hang out here every weekend. Of course I live here you daft Bat. You think I’d bar-fly in this joint if I could be anywhere else? 

’Yes’’, demurely, ‘’I live here’’. 

And what I do. 

And this is where it could get interesting. Because it is at this point that I, feeling a bit pissed off (and possibly even a little pissed ) am overcome by the most horrifying compulsion to lie. 

She presumes that I must be dull or stupid or lazy because I have not carved out a life for myself somewhere racier. (I cannot be bothered to deliver my Standing By My Man speech). And so the impulse to reinvent myself just to grab her attention, to remind her that you mustn’t ever, ever judge books by covers (no matter how dusty or old or faded) is overwhelming. 

Shall I, I ponder, tell her that I am here to save Africa on behalf of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (to whose daughter I am Godmother btw)? Or should I regale her with a tale about being in a witness protection program (“I am here for my own safety” I’d say, in a conspiratorial whisper). Could I kid her into believing I’m employed to scout for a Tanzanian baby for Mia Farrow or Madonna’s growing and cosmopolitan brood?  Shall I pretend I’m an ex Page 3 girl (whose bust has undergone significant reduction, clearly) who has made her millions and is now perfectly content to lead a life of quiet domesticity? Could I persuade her that a late Great Uncle bequeathed me squillions providing I experienced a degree of hardship first (‘and once I’ve proved myself’, I’d elaborate, ‘I’m going to take up residence at my other home: in Beverely Hills/Chelsea/Monaco”).  Or could I delude her into believing my own late father was the love child of the Queen Mother (from an illicit relationship with a Scottish stable hand) and in order to keep the story out of the Pap’s hands (and camera lenses) I am obliged to live in splendid isolation? With a handsome allowance, naturally. 

Doubtless I could dupe her into believing anything. It’s already unbelievable enough that – on the face of it at least – a sane person would actually choose to live here.  And here is where I am. Talking to a woman I’d really looked forward to meeting but who isn’t remotely interested because she dismissed me the moment she clapped eyes on me as No Life Nobby No Mates. 

I write, I say. And I teach Hat. 

Oh. She says. 

Precisely.  

Wish I’d lied.  

Next time …  

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20 Responses to “The Need for Reinvention”

  1. Irene Says:

    Can’t you just say that you help your husband run a farm, or don’t you actually do that?

    Well, what a silly woman anyway, who needs her? She would not be good company for you if she is going to judge you by what you do and not by who you are. As if you need to justify your existence by giving a job description.

    I once answered that question by saying, “I am a human being and spend my days as one.” This was met with some raised eyebrows and some amusement, but I got away with it.

  2. Roberta Says:

    Kick her to the curb, Mem. I think you are most facinating and my opinion is the only one that matters!

  3. R. Sherman Says:

    My guess is, she’s unfamiliar with this web journal. In fact, she probably doesn’t read much at all, sounds like.

    Cheers.

  4. daisyfae Says:

    it is perfectly ok to taunt a bubble head. in fact, i believe there should be a professional society dedicated to the task. at the next opportunity, give yourself permission to go with your instincts and have a little fun!

    and for this particular variety of bubble head, the ‘celebrity international baby scout’ line would be best – as that’s probably all she knows. i’d have taken it a step further, saying you run an ultra-secret adoption agency, and that you’re sworn to secrecy regarding your clients… that would drive her batty!

  5. Mom de Plume Says:

    The irony is that actually her racy world is so tiny in comparison to your life less ordinary, as she obviously goes through life with her eyes shut to the reality of people and the potential in any situation!

    I think it would be awesome to pop into your watering hole for a drink and be regaled by tales of you and Hat and the rest of your brood… that’s certainly why I pop in here every other day!

  6. tash Says:

    The good thing about a woman like that is that she won’t be back, and Mike – much to Hat’s inevitable disgust – will have to find another one to lure out to the OutPost. And while she, and all the subsequent substitutes, may not be your type of girl, at least you’ll be kept entertained, which in turn entertains us…

  7. foxhollowjewelry Says:

    Even though we only meet virtually, I think your life sounds fascinating, and I, for one, am always anxiously awaiting what your next adventure is going to be….
    So, I am raising my glass of wine to you and Hat and your family….
    Bravo!
    And I am now spilling it down the front of the idiot woman’s most likely expensive shirt…
    Red wine, I might add.

  8. ann Says:

    You are a shining example of how to live life to the full no matter what the circumstance. You just didn’t let her in to your furtile head so she will never know. Pity. Her loss.

  9. TR Says:

    Fantastic blog!

  10. Expatmum Says:

    She obviously has no idea just WHO you are. You must gain a certain satisfaction from that. Shame she wasn’t potential girlfriend material though.

  11. nuttycow Says:

    Anyone who talks about herself and her “amazing and eclectic circle of really interesting people in Dar” so much obviously is making up for inadequacies (much like the purported man in big car).

    I am with you on one thing though – sometimes, when you meet new people, it’s nice to make up things and just see how far you can push it. “What do I do? Well, by day I’m an accountant but every Friday night I’m a burlesque dancer” or similar).

  12. Kathleen Says:

    Ha! I like “nuttycow’s” suggestion on being a burlesque dancer! From my point of view you live a very exotic life.

  13. Tom Says:

    I don’t know why we care about what some doofus or jagoff thinks about us or our life. It may be the most fleeting of feelings, but it does happen to us all.

  14. Iota Says:

    It’s so tempting, that ‘oooh, shall I make it all up?’ feeling, isn’t it? But very few of us really do so (at least I’m assuming…) My uncle is a shameless and very good fibber, and when doing National Service, gave a lecture on medieval French music (about which he knew nothing), and pretended in a job interview that his hobby was mountaineering in the more challenging Himalayan peaks. I wish I’d inherited that gene, but I didn’t.

    I’m with everyone else. You don’t need to invent a fictional persona – look how interesting we all find your real one.

    Couldn’t you set up a matchmaking service? You could vet potential women for their suitability for Outpost life, and save the men all that wasted time.

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks all.

    Irene: I like the human being thing. It’d probably confirm Outpost had driven me nuts but who cares.

    Roberta: you’re too kind. I’m really very ordinary. Just a sometimes rather extraordinary life. Not that everybody would agree, though.

    Mr Sherman: I expect so – unfamiliar with this blog – if not she will at least learn more about what I do. And think!

    daisyfae: good point, re the celeb thing and you’re right, it would drive her nuts

    Mom: wish you could, pop into watering hole, you’d make for infinitely more interesting female company than that I’ve just endured!

    foxhollow: God. Sorry about the vino. I’m a bit like that. Actually I’m very like that.

    Tash: alas I fear this one might be back …

    Ann: thank you. Don’t always live life to full. But perhaps pretending I do when I write counts a little? As good intentions at least?

    Thank you TR.

    Expatmum: think she might be potential for a bit …

    nutty: absolutely love burlesque dancer, love it. how did you guess?

    Kathleen: ordinary life in tropic exotic. my geography make me much more interesting than I really am.

    Tom: you’re right: silly, but we do.

    Iota: I loved the story about your uncle. I agree: wish I had the same talent for porkie pies. Matchmaking service idea simply brilliant. Would be entertaining whilst in the making and matches might suit more than just the men: I might benefit from some decent female company in outpost.

  16. lulu campbell Says:

    Hi, Just thought I’d pop in – where abouts in Africa are you? I used to live there a million years ago. I’ve been hearing about you from a few other bloggers – there are always going to be people in life who make you feel inferior – I feel sorry for them because they will never know how lovely it is to connect with lots of different people in life.

  17. nuttycow Says:

    Re: burlesque… good guess I suppose 😉 it’s always the quiet ones!

  18. lulu campbell Says:

    Ps bloody hell you have the longest http address in the world!

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    hello lulu c; tanzania. in the deepest darkest part of. really is: livingstone’s old hangout, far far away from capuccinos and pedicures and shops and … well most things really. thanks for dropping by. off to read you now …

    nutty: yup. always the quiet ones …!

  20. Iota Says:

    Re your comment to Lulu: How did Livingstone manage without a pedicure? His feet must have been pretty sore by the time he’d got to Outpost.

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