Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

There were four of us, three men and one woman. We were in a Melville restaurant minding our own business.

However, as is often the case with cafe society, or the chattering classes of Johannesburg, we ended up discussing relationships and the perils to be found there.

Some of the ideas put on the table were peculiar, crazy and unbelievable. One of the panelists, to the shock of those at the table, claimed that he did not date white women but just slept with them.

Yet another claimed that when a black man marries a white woman, it's the man who loses his culture, because he and his children adopt a white culture. For the same reason when a black woman marries a white man, they also adopt Western ideas.

Yet another claimed that when a Venda woman, for example, marries a Sotho, there is no cultural conflict because she becomes one with that man's culture.

However, what was shocking, one of them said, was when his cousin told him that he was going back to his African culture. He was going to take a second wife, a teacher by profession.

It was surprising because the man, who works at OR Tambo, Airport, is young, educated and quite modern. Everybody at the table was baffled, including those who strongly believe in the correctness of African culture as compared with Western culture.

Sensing mixed signals and that some explanation was needed, the guy who spilled the beans about his cousin volunteered this explanation.

"This man is marrying a second wife because he found out that the teacher was cheating [with a domestic helper]."

"They have four children and he does not want to tell her to go away because she has wronged him. That would be painful for their children, so he has chosen to take her as a second wife," he said.

The discussion went on and on until one member of the group, the female, regarded as a feminist, chipped in. She felt the whole discussion was somehow racist generalisations as well as chauvinistic. She believes people should be treated as individuals.

She was supported by one of the men, who reasoned that whenever people fall in love it has nothing to do with race because it is based on something much deeper than being black or white. People, therefore, have no right to judge a relationship based on their own issues with race.

This was clearly bar talk but in a way the discussion reflected issues that afflict us as we fall in love and try to build relationships as human beings. At what point can one call it quits in a relationship?

Is it only after feeling a sense of betrayal, such as when one finds out that your loved one has been cheating on you? Or is it enough to abandon a relationship because of persistent mistakes, such as coming home late, excessive drinking, lying or leaving dirty socks lying all over the place - or even snoring?

From holding a few discussions with people, it appears that the biggest two things that drive a potentially solid relationship apart are cheating and lying, because this leads to a breakdown of trust.

The other issues are simply irritating, and would be regarded as just silly excuses for one to opt out of a relationship. At least this is the male perspective on the issue. Women might hold a different view altogether.

This is a crazy world.