(this is an updated version of a story I first wrote about ten years ago)
It was a grand night we were having at the McGinty’s Irish pub in the Holiday Inn, Sandton City, Johannesburg (don’t go looking for it, it’s not there anymore, sadly). Over the years I had gathered quite a few South African friends, and every time I was in that city of gold we would get together for a drink. Those South African friends also had Ugandan friends so it would usually be quite a gathering.
Holiday Inn, Sandton City
It was one of those nights when Bren, who had spent time in Uganda as part of the ANC contingent, thought it was time for a quiz. Of course we were all for it. The question, as she asked, was ‘what are the ten things men know about women’? Knowing Bren, I knew there was a catch, but we all tried our best and gave different answers, even the women around the table.
When we finally ran out of answers, Bren gave hers: “the answer is… nothing!” uh? “That’s right,” she said, “nothing.” But you asked for ten things… “Yeah, one, nothing, two, nothing, three, nothing. Four nothing. Five, nothing. Six, nothing. Seven, nothing. Eight, nothing. Nine, nothing. Ten, nothing.”
After a few moments stunned silence, when we all looked at Bren with something like shock, we all burst out laughing. It was really funny, and we all patted Bren’s back and told her it was a brilliant quiz.
But at the back of my mind, I knew Bren was trying to say something. The more I thought about it, the more I realised how little we really know about women; especially when they say “nothing”.
There are times when women go very quiet on us. There is no preamble or warning, it just happens. You might have been chatting about something for a while, when all of a sudden it is all quiet on the female front. So you turn around ask her, what is wrong my dear? Her answer? “Nothing”.
Then there are those times they kind of mumble something, and you don’t quite get what she said, so, of course, you ask: what did you say? “Nothing.”
Or you might find a group of them talking and laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. If you don’t know better, you might get curious, and ask what the joke was. Answer? “Nothing.” But you were laughing at something, what was it? “Nothing”. You were laughing at nothing? “Yeah”, and that will bring even more laughter.
We all have at one time or another found a damsel in distress, so to speak. She obviously looks right at the end of her tether. You are not sure what exactly is she is trying to do, but she looks like she can use some help, so the gallant you steps forward and asks if there is anything you can do to help. Answer? “Nothing.” Really? You are sure you don’t need any help? “Yes”.
She can even be crying, and throwing things around; but when you ask her what is wrong? “Nothing.”
Back to that Irish pub in Johannesburg, where another South African friend, Nopsi, tried to make things clear. She explained that women mean different things when they say ‘nothing’. And it will depend on the time and the place, or the circumstances prevailing. And at times it might not even about you, the man.
She went on that at times the nothing might actually mean everything; at times it might mean something of the things, or even none of those things. It is up to the man to try and figure out which one it is. And whether you do or not shall decide how long you are for this earth.
We all looked at Nopsi with total confusion, and thought of at least Bren made a bit of sense, and was funny.
When the South African women finally left, a Ugandan guy who shall remain nameless said he had an American joke about women. He told us about a man who had done some very good things, and pleased the Lord no end. So God told him to ask for whatever he wanted.
The man told God how he had always wanted to visit Hawaii, but was afraid of flying, so could God build an expressway so he could drive there? God was scandalised at the man’s selfishness, told him so, and asked him to ask for something else.
The man thought, and thought, and finally said, “Ok, I want to understand women.”
There was silence, then God finally answered: “how many lanes do you want on that expressway?”
We laughed very loudly at that, and rejoiced how we had the last word.
I do miss Johannesburg, and my South African friends.