Bae-ism: The Culture of “Love” among the Rich Kids of Northern Johannesburg
There is something about partying on a Sunday night….
There is something thoughtlessly appealing about partying on a Sunday night that subtly evokes a spirit of rebellion in an individual. A carpe diem spirit. A “Y.O.L.O” (You Only Live Once) kind of attitude.
There is something about partying on a Sunday night that gives the rich black kids of the North another reason to feel deceivably invincible and to display dangerously indulgent and conspicuous behaviour.
It is 05:15- Sway Sandton Nightclub is about to shut down the party which celebrated the first anniversary of its weekly Sunday clubbing sessions. The ‘All Lovely Sundays’- colloquially known as ALS- has grown to be one of the most popular parties in Northern Johannesburg, by virtue of the fact that it affords one the ability to twerk and spend flatulently on a Sunday night as though it were a Friday. In fact, the magnitude of lewdness during these Sunday parties rivals that of an ordinary party hosted in the same club on a Friday night.
Of course, clubbing on a Sunday night is different. Alcohol embodies a holy beverage, while ALS partygoers dance with barbaric sanctimony. Sunday’s debauchery is, indeed, simulated spirituality.
Aluta- wearing a tight-fitting black Dior cocktail dress; seven-inch nude-coloured Louboutin pumps; with her box braid tied into a fashionably messy bun- staggers across the packed dance floor of the nightclub, in search of her boyfriend, Dominique. Aluta hates going to the club. She would have preferred and appreciated going back to Dominique’s place after the romantic dinner Dominique had organised as an apology to her, for his romantic inconsistencies.
Aluta is an extravagantly tall and pecan-yellow-toned lady of 20 years-old, who is currently in the second year of her biomedical engineering degree. She is also the editor of the main campus newspaper, as well as a part-time fashion contributor the South African branch of an international woman’s lifestyle magazine. Campus societies want her brains, while, her fashion editor wants a promise of her commitment in exchange for a promotion. Her parents want that invitation to her graduation, while her siblings want her to finally leave the house. Girls want her perfectly threaded eyebrows, designer clothes and her quality selection of Peruvian weaves. Boys want her to uncover her divinely tailored voluptuous breasts, hips and gold between her thighs. A metropolitan goddess who is aware and flattered by the envy, yet, is ambivalent the things she wants for herself.
“Chomies, I’m going to look for my man. I want to leave this club and go home now” Aluta strained to get her voice heard over the chest-shattering bass of Kendrick Lamar. Her four friends glanced at each other- perhaps under the impression that the general darkness of the nightclub would disguise their facial expressions of concerned defeat- before nodding unanimously, giving Aluta permission to look for Dominique.
“You guys, know how excited Dominique gets when he’s in the club. It’s really cute. He’s like a child in a candy shop when he is in here. It’s a pity all of this will have to stop when he puts a ring on my finger!” Aluta screamed to her friends before she quickly turned around, intentionally avoiding another awkward reaction from her friend. It was no secret that she loved Dominique. Her girl-friends knew this. His boys knew this. Both their parents knew this and so did the rest of the North.
Hey Boo-thang, I’m looking for you. We came to the club. We did what you wanted to do. I want to leave now. Reply to this ASAP, boo! I love you. Aluta texted as she waited by the open entrance of the nightclub to catch some fresh air. Aluta was leaning against a pillar by the entrance, inhaling the outside air which had almost lost its familiarity to Aluta, when one of her friends shyly approached her from behind and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Are you okay, Aluta” she asked, concealing her concern.
“I’m just fine, dear. What’s up?”
“Oh… Uhm, I know where Dominique is… He’s in the bathroom… One of Dominique’s homeboys said he was in there.” Aluta’s friend, Simone, responded. Although Dominique had been found, Khanyi lied to Aluta about how he had been found. When Khanyi noticed Aluta heading towards the entrance, she went on her own pursuit to find Dominique, in the name of mitigating repeated damage and familiar heartache. She climbed the staircase and headed directly for the female bathrooms, knocking furiously on the door of the only occupied stall. Khanyi’s knocks were not loud enough to disturb the conscience of Dominique as he bent a young girl- whom he was well-acquainted with- over the toilet bowl and had his way with her. Khanyi knocked in amplifying anguish until her knuckles began to leave blood stains on the door. Khanyi then took off her high-heel and banged viciously on the door.
“Dominique, you better f_cking get out of there! Aluta wants to leave. Stop this sh_t and get out!” She screamed coarsely. The young girl’s screeches were suddenly reduced to silence, while Dominique’s groans settled down into pulses of heavy breathing. Simone heard the sounds of heels being put on and trousers being zipped and buckled into place. The door opened hesitantly, yet, two confident characters walked out from the stall. Terry- Dominique’s side-chick- paced her eyes up and down Simone, giving Simone the kind of look that indicated that she was too late in trying to preserve Aluta’s dignity and relationship with Dominique. Dominique followed, dazed and nonchalant. Simone noticed Dominique’s credit card lying on the toilet’s tank cover. She walked into the stall to examine the scene. A cocaine-covered platinum card in a toilet stall with drops of Dominique’s manhood on the floor, yet, no sign of a used condom. Feeling an overcoming rush of nausea, Simone backed away from the stall and faced Dominique.
“Coke, huh” she asked accusingly.
“Whatever dude…” Dominique dismissed her.
“And what about a condom? What about a f_cking condom?! Dude, where is the f_cking condom!?” Simone ranged.
Dominique pushed Simone against the wall as she tried to run out of the bathroom, perhaps, to finally inform Aluta that this night was the final straw and that she had to leave Dominique once and for all.
“You’re not my god-damn mother! This is my business! This has nothing to do with you or even Aluta. And, the last time I checked, you befriended Aluta to get to me. You Jo’burg girls love the hype too much, and I can have you whenever I want to for that reason. So get off my dick!” Dominique retaliated. His breath was cold and reeked of expensive whiskey and sexual entitlement.
A familiar sense of confusion imbues Aluta as Dominique pushes Simone out of the way, grabs Aluta’s arm like a hesitant puppy and jostles her all the way to his parked vehicle. Dominique drives with guilty aggression and haste. Aluta curls up in the passenger seat next to him, as his Golf 7 GTI bullets down Rivonia Road at 135km/h. An argument ensues.
“You’re going to kill us!” Aluta’s shaky voice slices through the tension in the car.
“Just, shut the hell up” Dominique replies, nonchalantly.
They are pulled over by JMPD traffic officers. Aluta gives a mild sigh of gratitude. They threaten to arrest him, however, Dominique explains to them that they have no proof of him speeding because they were no speed-cameras on sight. This scenario is not a new experience for Dominique. The calmness in his voice indicates that this is a rebuttal he has rehearsed too many times for anyone’s good. The officers demand a R1500 bribe. Dominique drives away with heart-stopping acceleration, leaving the officers in shameful dust, with nothing to chase.
Aluta and Dominique arrive at his Melrose apartment. Glasses are broken. Dominique’s flat screen is smashed- it lay on the on the floor with a protruding golf club. Aluta lay hurdled in the corner of his bedroom she has locked herself in, in the name of safety. The left side of her tender face is pulsating to the deafening crescendos of Dominique’s rage outside. He backhanded her so hard that she refused to believe he would ever do something like that again- although time has happened time after time before. Aluta pats her faces gently, as Dominique continues the destruction of his apartment, while bellowing violently about how “his discretion to use his money, his car and penis had nothing to do with Aluta, Khanyi or even Terry” and how he was “tired of all these b_tches!” and how it was Aluta’s fault for falling in love with a proclaimed “casanova”.
Aluta and Dominique made love the next afternoon, though. He had passed out on the couch when Aluta finally let herself free from his room to assess the scene of Dominique’s destruction and his whereabouts. She found him curled up on the couch, shivering. She went back into his room and returned with a blanket. Dominique held Aluta’s hand as she covered his shaking self. He apologised to her and said he did know why he was the way he was. Aluta’s temporary hatred for him disappeared as she collapsed in romantic pity into his arms. They made love, among the broken pieces of glass strewn extravagantly across the floor. They made love among the broken pieces of a world Aluta tries so hard to hold on to.
The state and spectrum of ‘love’ among the rich black kids of Northern Jo’burg is dynamically thrilling and tumultuous. Although the reality of Aluta and Dominique’s relationship is not directly indicative to that of every young couple in the North, their story serves as an unusually common supposition of what one is most likely to find when pursuing “love” in the North. There are three anchors which comfortably link this particular relationship to most romantic interactions that occur in and among the rich kids of the Northern Johannesburg.
The first anchor is the perceived power of association, which seems to be the basis of the North’s social dynamic. Aluta- as previously described- is a metropolitan goddess. She is the quintessential Jo’burg girl of the North. She is wanted, desired and envied by people across races, gender and class. It is girls like her who provide reason to why it is cool for people to be seen partying at Homecoming Picnics and for fashion-photographers to take pictures of people like her at Neighbourgoods. Her face is flaunted across Tumblr and Instagram pages of Pintrest and SouthAfricanGirlsKillingIt. It is therefore, difficult for girls like Aluta to live life, ignorant of their influence and appeal. It is because of this influence and appeal that coercively obligates girls like Aluta to maintain such a status quo, even in their intimate relationships. Dominique represents the male equivalent of Aluta’s quintessence as a custodian of the North’s youth. The typical male of the North- a Dominique- is a male who is usually well-off and has a reputation for behaving badly. In the North, there is faux novelty in females like Aluta engaging in romanticised relationships with males like Dominique. It would be difficult for girls like Aluta to have romantic interactions outside of their Northern male equivalents, if not, someone who is synonymous to that image. The power of class-association is underestimated in scenarios such as this one, particularly when engaging the links between social status and romantic discourse.
The second anchor is the lob-sided epitomisation of an individual in a relationship. Females- regardless of whether they are from the North or not- have a strong tendency of prioritising their male partners- especially if their male partners are of the North. Regardless of whether the male and female both come from dysfunctional relationships with money, family or greater society, which could fundamentally distort their idea of love- there is a dangerous determination by the young ladies like Aluta to prioritise the males they may be in relationships with. Many girls like Aluta make the mistake of involving themselves in relationships with the dangerously ambitious intention to find a person they could potentially marry, or, treating their current male partners as husbands- regardless of the abusively ostentatious behaviour their male partners may display. Many of these girls also engage in having relationships with such males, because, they equate their own idea of an ideal love to the crass social standards of the North. It is not the only reason, but, it is one of the main reasons why young ladies like Aluta engage and stay in physically; emotionally; and spiritually obtuse and abusive relationships for long periods of time. Such relationships of supposed social prestige and epitomisation are- paradoxically- unhealthy for girls like Aluta. These relationships are romanticised further, by the fact that public knowledge of tumultuous relationships are lauded among the North’s young elite. There is false sense of prestige that comes with being in a dysfunctional relationship and having everyone who is socially associated with the North knowing about it. There is celebrity that comes with the story of the gorgeous girl who tries desperately to turn the bad boy into a saint. Such relationships reduce the dignity and self-worth of young ladies like Aluta. Such relationships diminish their identity as young women.
This is why Aluta’s form of subsequent activism is defined as: returning incessantly to an abusive partner, while quoting melancholic Drake lyrics and Warsan Shire poems in her tweets.
The third and equally important anchor, is that there is a dangerous misconception that throwing money and unfacilitated freedom at your children will provide them with a sense of responsible autonomy. Many rich black parents of the North make the mistake of associating their hard-earned economic freedom, with their children’s supposedly unquestioned entitlement to it. This misconception becomes dangerous when these elite black individuals raise their children- particularly their male children- with traditional ideas of manhood coupled with the constant spoon-feeding of money. This is why rich black male adolescents of the North- such as Dominique- carry the emotional entitlement of “true manhood”, yet, are not able to conduct themselves as “true men” because the consistent and easy availability of their parent’s wealth diminishes that ethic. What is even more tragic about this kind of relationship the elite black middle-class have with their children is that it is going to paralyse their children- particularly their male children- from establishing their own strong sense of self-ethic; work-ethic; and healthy financial & sentimental legacies. Just like many young rich black adolescents, Dominique exerts his supposed power through abusing his parent’s wealth, abusing the women in his life, and most tragically, abusing himself. Many young black elite male adolescents of the North are gradually being paralysed by the burden of privilege.
Look, dating in the North is easy.
It is being in healthy unions- devoid of morbid status quos; harmful epitomisation and destructive heteronormative exertions- which is unfortunately, yet, excruciatingly difficult.
So, tell me: what does it mean to be have a Bae in the North?