This is not a lifelong privilege

For the first 12 years of my life I was a highly protected and fawned-upon species.

For the first 12 years of my life I was a highly protected and fawned-upon species.

I happened to be the only son in a family of four girls. For all those years, although I did not realise it, I was the legendary apple of my mother's eye, so much so that when she was really doting, she'd fondly call me Mfanayedwa.

I didn't realise, let alone savour, the love and attention, until that "fateful" day when I was 12 and my kid brother was born. I vaguely remember bursting into my parents' bedroom to see the new arrival, almost expecting it to be a girl, as usual. I thought it was the most beautiful baby in the world, until I was told it was a boy. Then what was a tiny, lovable angel instantly turned into a blobby pink worm I wanted to strangle.

Damn it, he was taking my space!

It took quite a while - in fact years - for my "loss" to sink in and for me to accept my fate. By then I could no longer be referred to as Mfanayedwa. It hurt.

Obviously one outgrows that crap, and I did. When one night in the 1990s, my kid brother was shot dead at our home in Mabopane, a big chunk of me died with him. He had become the closest friend I had ever had.

While I outgrew my petty, childish jealousy, a colleague I have worked with for years seems intent on taking his mfanayedwa syndrome to the grave.

He is now a grown man on the wrong side of 60, but he never lets go of a chance to moan about his load of problems caused by his being an only son - "en 'n lastbornnogal".

He moans for the tiniest reasons. Once when, in my presence, his aged mother asked him to buy a live chicken for the family, he looked at me as if he deserved my pity.

"What can I do Charlie, my bro? I am the only boy [sic]. I am one-one-one-one. Plus I am the last born - eish."

One day his nephew stole from the neighbours and my friend was asked by the family to lead a delegation to apologise.

"I am very young, but what can I do? Plus I am the only boy."

That day he got the raw side of me. His "last born" crap was becoming extremely irritating - a man in his early 50s (then) feeling the world expected too much of him because he was a "last born".

So I gave it to him: "You're talking sh**. Mike Tyson was young enough to be your grandson when he won the world title. Just stop this sh**!"

He stopped for a few days, and we went our separate ways until we met a few months back. While we were exchanging how-are-yous, his phone rang and he spoke like the caller was asking him for something (money)?

"Ek het niks, eish..." He did not do the "last born" thing, but that look was there in his eyes.

Last born, mfanayedwa, my foot!