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Smoke and Mirrors: Part five

Never under estimate the power of a good attitude. That is one quote that used to drive me insane! A good attitude can’t fix your problems, if anything, it can only make your problems a little more bearable. Imagine telling a starving man “have a good attitude and things will get sorted out”! Unless there is a type of food called Attitude he is going to swear at you! I always believed that the hogwash of positivity as the remedy of all ills only worked on people who had money. It is much easier to be positive and have a good attitude when you don’t have to hustle for dinner every night. But interestingly, I find myself moving away from that view recently. Since I started my blog my daily struggles have become a little easier to bare and it has nothing to do with my financial situation. If anything, my financial situation is worse off than before. I am saving much less than I had in the first two years of working and I am often left with zero at the end of the month. But somehow, because I have been so focused on making a success of MeanMaria, life has become a lot more bearable. Because my mind is so preoccupied planning content and strategising future steps, the little things that used to peev me off before just go above my head. In the past, I would agonise over the fact that I had to wake up early to catch a taxi to work, now it has become a small sacrifice to my bigger goals. It is just an arb observation I made of my life while wiping down jewellery cabinets at edge. I constantly have this feeling like doors would soon be opened for me and for now I must be patient with my lot.

Today at lunch time, I decide to message Nabeela to tell her it was great meeting her and we should meet up soon. Making friends is not an easy thing for me to do so I am naturally nervous after I reach out to her. I am a very friendly person but I back off so quickly once people become too friendly. I think a lot of it has to do with my confidence and even when people will compliment me I would much rather curl up in a small dark hole. When I got married, Imran’s cousins used to think I was a snob because my interaction with them wouldn’t go further than a smile. They didn’t know that I didn’t talk to them because I actually had nothing to say. Most people think pretty girls can’t be unconfident or self-conscious. Uhm honey we can be- while you may think we are gorgeous model material we can’t stop obsessing about the indentation in our teeth or pigmentation. If I walk away from blogging with one thing, that would be a new sense of self love. Maybe that’s pushing it too far. I have become a lot more self-accepting of my physical appearance.

“Hey hun! It is so good to hear from you. Our meeting was so great, Candy could not stop talking about you to the folks in the office. You are going to hear from us soon about the Cape Town trip and some other projects we want to collaborate with you on. Yes, for sure we must meet up soon. I love your energy gal! Actually, some friends of mine are meeting at Timmy’s Sandton tonight if you keen! Xxx”

I read the message over and over to be certain that she actually just invited me out on the spot. When I said we must meet up I meant in the near future, not right away! I could message her and cancel but I really, really live her vibe and I desperately need friends. The girls at work have suddenly become edgy towards me and I have to constantly deal with their complaining. I know life does not deal everyone a fair set of cards- me being a case in point- but when has complaining changed anything?! Sally spends hours moaning about every little thing and is less willing to do my hair for shoots. She suspects that I am making a ton of money from blogging and that’s why I am so enthusiastic about it. Moreen is still great but she is so much older than I so it is a bit weird if we hang out socially. The other retail girls really have no time for me and often speak above me in vernacular. It used to bother me before but now Edge has become a temporary arrangement for me. I throw all my energy into generating new content ideas and then plan to execute it with Dylan and sometimes Ron. I also spend a lot of time drafting emails to PR companies introducing myself and researching ways to make my blog and social media bigger and better.

“Yes, sure! Tasha’s sounds good. Although I have plans for dinner so I will meet you guys afterward for a quick coffee”.

It’s a date! I knew if I agreed to dinner I would come back bankrupt! So to be clever about it, I decide to join Nabeela and her friends at 7.00 instead of 6.30 so I can have a simple coffee with them and my contribution to the bill wouldn’t be more than R30. The other dilemma I face is the transport one. I hate taking taxis after 7PM and taking the train is out of the question. I heard about so many cases of people being mugged around the Alex township while they were walking at night. My third option is to ask Dylan to request an Uber for me and I would reimburse him for the trip at the end of the month. He often offers but I never take him up on the offer because I already feel bad for all the help he gives me with my shoots. Although, he insists that the money he has made from people who reached out to him for shoots through my social media makes up for the time he spends helping me. His rates are quite competitive so he has been getting a stream of bookings over the weekends. Apparently, last month alone, he made more in one weekend doing photography than he makes from the Photo Store. His father would kill him if he ever decided to leave the family business and venture into photography full time.

“Dylan, hi! Listen man, I need a favour,” I tell him on the phone.

“What’s up girl?”

“A PR girl has invited me for after dinner coffee and I would love to go but I won’t make my taxi. Would you be able to help me out with an Uber and I will sort you out at the end of the month?”

“Why are you even asking? Of course love! What are you going to wear though? I walked pass Edge earlier and honey, you don’t look fresh.”

You can trust Dylan to tell you exactly how it is. I look terrible today. I didn’t bother asking Moreen to do my make up nor did I bother to fix up my face myself. I was just not in the mood. Now that I agreed to meet Nabeela, I have to sort myself out. I wish I had an oversupply of clothes so going out didn’t have to be such a struggle. While I help my last few clients for the day, I remember that Edge gave me a voucher last month as part of my incentive package for reaching well beyond my targets. I have an unexplained talent of being able to easily sell high end jewellery and bags. There are different targets set out for different departments of Edge. If I make R50 000 in sales alone, I am eligible to R1500 in addition to my salary which I meet on most months but opt to have my incentives accumulate and be paid out at the end of the month. Last month I made R100 000 in sales so my incentive was R2000 and a R1000 Edge voucher. The money was automatically deferred to December but I received the voucher. For a while I mulled over what to buy with it but thought I could give it as a gift for my mother. Today I am a little desperate and decide to use that voucher on something to wear this evening. I could not risk buying something and wearing it out with the tags tonight and I think I deserve something half decent. There isn’t much you can get from Edge with R1000 as most of our goods are high end. I ask one of the fashion assistants Belinda to help me find something in my price range. As employees, we are entitled to a 20% discount whenever we buy from Edge, which is almost never. I think I may just find something within my budget if I use the staff discount code.

“Maria, I think your best bet is to go for the lux sport look. There are a few things marked down there. I think lets go look there first”.

I agree. Sometimes it is better to go big or go home. Tonight, I prefer to go home and wear a casual outfit. Somehow, sporty casual wear gives off a vibe that says ‘I know I am cool, I don’t have to prove it’’.

The first piece Belinda finds for me is an oversized black male hoody jacket.

“Before you say anything, just hear me out. This is going for R110, nobody wants this oversized thing. What if you wear it with these purple leggings that are about R60 and then you just have to worry about shoes and accessories”.

“B, I actually think that would work. I love that look. Let me go try it on quickly while there aren’t any customers”.

The hoody is so huge it almost reaches my knees. When the sleeves are down I look like I am drowning in it but Belinda advises to pull it up to form some ruffles. It actually doesn’t look half bad. The leggings fit well but look a little boring so Moreen suggest I should rip it with a scissors.

“Are you mad? What if it goes wrong and I walk around with holes in my leggings?”

“I agree with Moreen actually. Look at this picture… this is the look you should be going for”.

Belinda shows me a picture from Instagram where some American celebrity is wearing leggings that are distressed but I am sure she bought them like that.

My worry is that I don’t want to look like a took a scissors and ripped my leggings. I want it to look like high end fashion.

At the end I agree to Moreen ripping the purple leggings.

“You are so right! This looks very trendy,” I offer.

“I think you can kill this look. Just find you some shoes, a nice choker and some stackable statement rings. I think I saw a pack somewhere”.

So far, my outfit only cost me R170 without my 20% discount, so I am able to splurge on sneakers and have a little left over for accessories.

I trawl the shoe section for a trendy sneaker and find nothing under a thousand bucks. I absolutely hate the feeling of wanting things I can’t afford. That’s why I hardly go shopping, even when I am under budget for the month. There is no feeling like really wanting something I don’t have the money for. Thankfully, I find a black velvet choker which Moreen describes as “basic but necessary” for R80 and a pack of gold stackable rings on sale in the teenage section for R30. With the discount, I have about R750 to R800 to find a shoe. After we spend time searching again, Belinda suggest I look in the male section. She insists that sometimes, you can get gender neutral clothes in the male section for half the price than the females and she is right.

I immediately find the funkiest pair of bright red sneakers in my size that’s actually on sale. It probably was the best idea to ask Belinda for help because she has the coolest street style and apparently, never spends a fortune on her clothes. For R500 I got a complete outfit that actually looks pretty dope. Moreen suggests that I should do my makeup and hair subtle but feminine to compensate for the very boyish hoodie and sneakers. With a few minutes to closing time, Moreen quickly helps me with a light layer of makeup while I tie my hair in a high ponytail. Just before closing, I happen to glance in the mirror and I actually love my hobo-chic look.

With an hour to spare, before I have to meet Nabelah at Timmy’s, I decide to head to the grocery store to get something to eat. There is a garlic and cheese focaccia that they sell at the grocery store for R15 and a diet coke is R10. My dinner costs me R25 and I take it to one of alleyways where we usually go to sit and eat our lunch if we don’t want to sit in the Edge kitchen. It is annoying that I have to keep counting costs but I don’t really have a choice. I want to replenish my savings as soon as possible so I can be on track to saving towards a car. For now that still seems like a far dream. Unless… unless it doesn’t have to be a dream. I could reach out to a car dealership and ask whether they would be interested in collaborating with me. It may or may not work out but I have nothing to lose. I have to start pursuing opportunities because the blog is nowhere near being self-sustainable. I am still buying clothes for shoots and wearing them with the tag on and returning it straight afterwards.

Finally, it is 7PM and I make my way from my secret eating spot I share with a few car guards who find it strange that I am sitting there so dressed up, and go to the restaurant. As soon as I enter Timmy’s I see Nabeela sitting with two girls and a guy. She smiles when she sees me and makes place for me to sit.

“Guys, this is Mariah. Mariah, this is everyone”.

“Bela, you didn’t tell us you knew MeanMaria. Girl, we are such fans!”

I giggle slightly and ask everyone their names. The one girl is Nabeela’s sister, Nazia who came with her boyfriend Ahmed and the other girl is Nabeela’s friend Simmi.

They are such a cool group of friends who are all so arty and eclectic. Nabeela’s is a PR girl, Nazia works in an art gallery, Ahmed is a coder and Simmi is a political journalist for The Times.

Honestly, I am a little intimidated by how cool and intelligent the conversation is. At first I hold back from adding to the conversation but I force myself to step out of my comfort zone and join in. The conversation drifts from politics, to pop culture, to religion and then somehow to me.

“So where do you stay?”

“In the burbs here in Sandton,”I offer which is not completely a lie. Marlboro may not be as glamorous as Morningside or Rivonia but it is still a suburb in Sandton.

“The three of us share a house in Rosebank and Ahmed lives in Bryanston…”

“We used to be four of us living in the house but let’s not get started about our lovely ex roommate,” Nazia says sarcastically.

I am actually surprised at the deal they got for a house in one of the country’s upmarket suburbs. They collectively pay R11 500 for a three bedroom house where they converted the study into a fourth bedroom. Apparently they pay rent according to the size of each room. Nabeela pays the most and their former flatmate paid R2200 for the study- an absolute steal when you think of the suburb.

I lose track of time as Simmi tells us the funniest stories of their former roommate who would steal their food and pretend like she never ate it. While they all live together, they all separately purchase groceries and eat mostly separate. I suppose it makes sense given the busy nature of their jobs, they not all at home at one time.

“Once she used my toiletries from my cupboard and then blamed it on the helper. That was the day I said no, girl do you think I am stupid?! Suddenly, she had a splitting headache and had to go sleep! Headache my foot! How can you use my toiletries and think I wouldn’t notice!”

My jaws are actually sore from all the laughing!

“So Mariah, are you seeing anyone?”

“No… I am very very single”.

“You are preaching to the converted honey! My single is single,” Nabeela adds.

“But Nabs, we can understand why you are single. But Mariah, you are gorgeous! Why are you still single?!”

Nazia is so funny!

“It is long story…”

“We have time honey!”

“Yeah, we can sit here until they throw us out!”

“Well, where do I start? Okay so I am actually divorced. I got married straight out of school and he cheated on me so I have been divorced for almost three years now. The end”.

“Bela, she can stay. We love her already. You have the right amount of messed-up-ness for us to be friends,”Simmi says before detailing her last relationship which was unbelievably abusive.

“Uhm Nazia, how did the two of you meet?” I ask of her relationship with Ahmed.

“Through his father!”

I snort with laughter! Did they really meet through his father?

“You think we are joking? I am serious. He actually pimped out his son!”

I could never take her seriously. She had to be kidding.

Actually, it turns out Nazia was telling the truth about how she met her boyfriend Ahmed. So apparently, Ahmed’s father is a well-known IT mogul who hosted an event for clients at the art gallery Nazia works at. The entire evening he hit on Nazia, flirting with her shamelessly and when he realised she would never go for him, he went to the back of the room and called his son, Ahmed, and introduced him to her.

“I was shooketh man. Imagine a grimy old man trying to hit on you all night and then when he doesn’t get his way, goes to fetch his nerdy son to try his luck”.

“She was so speechless, I think she stood dead quiet for five minutes. Do you know that wasn’t the first time my father did that to me? He has no shame. Once, when my parents were still married he apparently took my mother out for a date and then asked for the waiters number. He is a savage!”

“I really wasn’t surprised when he married a 22 year old last year. Imagine babe,  that could have been me. I could have been your step mother,” Nazia teases.

Ahmed smacks her in jest and mimics an attempt to rub that vision out of his mind.

“So how did you guys start dating?” I ask.

“I don’t even know how we started dating. We just hung out every other day for three years until one day he told me he loves me,” she says so casually.

“The only reason I said I loved her was because I was worried she would ditch me for other cooler friends and she was the only friend I had,” Ahmed teased.

“I am still the only friend you have,” Nazia joked back.

We wrapped up the outing, by leaving Timmy’s together and making promises to meet up soon when Simmi made a peculiar offer.

“Nabs, we need Mariah to come stay with us! We really can’t go through the trauma of finding another flatmate”.

“What if she doesn’t like us?”

“Think about it Maria! I know it seems like we are a bunch of creeps where we offer you to be our housemate on the first meeting but we really can’t have another person who eats our food or stinks up the toilet.”

“I am actually keen!” I say in the spur of the moment without applying my mind to the logistics.

Maybe this is the door that was meant to be opened for me, who knows?

13 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors: Part five

  1. slms loving the blog and patiently awaiting a new post. please update us on when u will post next. maaf for naggin. jzk

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