“You and your children look like an affluent family,” says an older fellow male traveller. And my response? I take a deep breath, smile slightly, and wait for Part Two.
He doesn’t disappoint, it comes like bullet.
“So what work do you do?”
Suddenly those who were conversing around me now seem to have nothing more to say to one another. Without looking at my direction, I know they are all ears, eagerly waiting for my response.
“I am a housewife,” I say at the same time frantically starting to search for something in my bag – Lip stick? Purse? Keys? Pen? I don’t know myself, all I know is that I become this flustered when I realise a conversation is fast approaching that crucial point – to either end or follow the script.
Then comes Part Three.
“So what work does your husband do?”
That prompts another deep breath but despite my dander getting up, I put on a poker face and then pull out my all-time-winner especially reserved for my fellow South Africans when we find ourselves together somewhere far away from home, exploring the far-flung corners of the world.
“He’s a spy.”
The fellow-traveller-turned-interrogator receives that as a joke and starts to sweet-talk me. I take that as the cue to go for the jugular. I tear a strip off him, “Continue with this interrogation and by the time you go through that door (I say pointing at the hotel’s main entrance), you will already be under surveillance.”
I don’t remember what happened next.
It is day nine of the trip and I have been repeatedly answering the same two questions: what I do for a living, but especially what my husband does.
By this time of the trip I have already been the ‘Ag shame’ rural areas’ primary school teacher who has been saving for this tour for years.
“I married rich,” was my response to the fellow lady traveller I actually liked and did not want that civil status to change.
“I rob banks” was a rebuff to the mother who pretended to be asking on behalf of her little daughter.
And to those I said I was a tenderpreneur, that was my nice way of telling them to bugger off, that I was seeing through them – because truth be told, their real question is actually about how come I could afford, offspring in tow, during work week days, to be gallivanting the world. I can also tell the difference between normal small talk and an amateurish investigation.
I do lots of diverse tours but the questions I get asked remain predictable. Me too would like to talk about global warming or rhino poaching or other stuff like that.
Really if this is the cost of being in the minority, minority sucks big time.
But it is so-so when questions are about me, I am just most shocked when fellow travellers inquire about my husband’s work.
For starters, I never carry a husband when touring.
Lastly, I am not bejewelled in any wifey suggestive manner.
So what is it that makes people conclude that I must be somebody’s wife? Really? Out of all careers?
Finally the tour ends, as they always do, but even then as I stand by the carousel at OR Tambo Airport, some Sherlock Holmes wannabe is still keen to confirm what my husband exactly does! With a smile and a wink I decide to come clean and tell the gospel truth once and for all: “I have had five, and the one waiting for me at the ‘Arrivals’ is not mine”.
As published here.