No thanks, I would rather settle for a famous death

The writer says when she was young fame was something she sought, but now the idea of fame is not so desirable.
The writer says when she was young fame was something she sought, but now the idea of fame is not so desirable.
Image: 123RF/ Fabio Formaggio

I did my matric exactly 20 years ago at the age of 16. Anyone would agree that I was still a baby then and really should never have been trusted with making life decision at that age.

To prove just how young and naïve I was, the next year at 17, the first of my long tertiary-going years, we were put through a bridging course at university as it was understood that students from a certain background lacked skills needed to pursue a degree programme.

Of these skills we were to learn, basic communications was one, and we were all enrolled into a training programme that would help with public speaking.

I often look back in amusement on the last evening of that programme, which was the night we all made our big public speech in front of an audience to prove our readiness.

"If I do not become famous, I will die a famous death."

This is the speech a 17-year-old me made, clad in new clothes from the Topics outlet on Jorissen Street in Braamfontein.

How could I have ever wanted fame that badly, planned for it so explicitly? Oh, the folly of youth.

And that is a factor, the silliness that comes with youth, but over and above that, fame is sold to us as glorious.

I first started to question fame, and the perception of its existence early on in my career. Before I would hold an interview with a journalist or appear on television, someone famous mentioned my name in an interview.

I woke up to a flooding timeline on Facebook, "Thabiso o famous, Thabiso o celebrity".

At that point perhaps I still harboured the fame dream, but that incident made me pause, asking myself what fame might mean?

Was fame not the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially for notable achievements?

I would grow to learn that it was but not always. Sometimes fame means proximity to fame, and in the days of social media, fame can also be a joke made at just the right time on a platform.

I have watched people perform to become famous, and then not know how to behave when they had fame, even if they only ever manage the 15-minute kind. I have watched all the things it comes with, the good and the bad.

So if you were to ask me now, do you want fame, Thabiso? I would tell you, I'll settle for a famous death. And there really isn't any profound reason behind it. I just like to be practical.

I remembered this last week with yet another public break-up of a rapper and a DJ that of all the things I could endure in the world, a public dissertation of my feelings isn't one of them.

I would hate my very existence if my choice to walk away from a man were to overshadow everything else I have done with my life.

I would hate to have the one time I made a mistake be used as a character trait, and everything else become insignificant.

Fame strips from a person the very important freedom to choose what of themselves they wish to share with the world. I am all for people airing their dirty laundry, but only if they get to benefit from it. Imagine someone violating your privacy and profiting from it.

Without fame, we get to choose whose bed we land in, and deal with our hurt and shame in private.

Fame allows even those who have suffered worse humiliation and clownery to turn you into a clown. Thanks but no thanks.

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