Rochelle Barrish: Granny, I wish I could tell you how I finally met the light of my life

After all that confessing to Father Regan, on behalf of her wayward children, the grand old matriarch would have been pleased to know about this bright and shining match made in heaven.

By Rochelle Barrish

I was born in the 70s, when women started liberating themselves from the shackles of the patriarchy. Not that I knew anything about this. All I knew was that life was great, and in my family the women ran the show.

The uncles and dads were full of bravado on the streets, but when granny said jump, the only thing left for them to say was how high ma’m. Anything else would get you in trouble for insubordination and for causing her to be in state of sin. I reckon the priests in our hood had a jol with granny’s confessions.

She would rip into her kids and their spouses when they displeased her, wondering loudly how she was supposed to show her face at mass after having to confess to Father Reagan that she had no control over her children and the people they married were no better.

What sort of mother and Christian would that make her? Wasn’t it bad enough that the Lord took her husband when the kids were young? And now it seems He’s given her children who can’t even be bothered to honour the fifth commandment!

This is the environment I grew up in, so imagine my shock when in junior school, I confided in my bestie that I had a crush on a boy. After the initial excitement of me revealing my crush was processed, she had some pretty sobering advice for me.

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You have to do bad at your next few tests and not answer all the questions in class correctly. Guys don’t like girls who are brighter than them. Let him be clever and shine in class and you will have him for the rest of your life. My mom says this is the way to keep a guy.

I remember walking home that day with a head full of questions. I was always first in class. This guy was so far down the list of achievers, that if we were royalty, at least 17 people would need to meet a catastrophic end in order for him to ascend to the throne. Is this what love is?

I didn’t want to be the only single girl in my group, so I dumbed all the way down for the love of this boy. He had the most beautiful black mop of hair and the biggest, smiliest eyes I ever did see.

Luckily, this liaison lasted about two  months, as my teachers asked granny if she knew why my marks were suddenly dropping. She got the truth out of me and once again had to face Father Reagan because her anger toward my bestie’s mom had put her in a state of sin, but forgive me father, this woman was giving my granddaughter wicked advice.

I kept on making choices like this right through my teens and 20s. And every time I did this, I felt more diminished and disempowered. I was most likely putting granny in another embarrassing situation with Father Reagan, wherever they found themselves in the afterlife.

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Years later, I’m at work and I’m assigned an IT guy to show me how the systems work. I’m a work-in-progress. I know that I’ve been dimming my light for too long and feeling the weight of not being authentic.

I’m almost instantly attracted to him and he has the black mop of hair and the smiley eyes. I go home that day and I find myself sitting at my kitchen table having to decide what I’m prepared to “give up” for this new guy I make a list.

As we start to get to know each other at work, I realise this guy is not like any guy I’ve met before. He’s no genius, but he can hold his own. His success does not depend on me dimming my spark. He is in awe of my achievements and my brain. He loves that I have strong opinions and that I will fight for what I believe in. He tells me he likes that I refuse to settle for anything less than what I deserve.

I tell him about my long and sad history of dimming my light. He asks me please to not dim any part of me and I realise I don’t have to dumb down for this one or dim anything. I can be the best version of me and still have the guy. This realisation is huge and I want to call granny and tell her she can face Father Reagan proudly at confession this time, but she’s no longer around.

I can shine at work and at home. I get to be the best version of me, with no societal restrictions on my idea of what a man likes. For the first time in decades I feel free. I get to turn my magic all the way up and there’s no need for me to pull back for anyone. Ever again.

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