I’ve stopped making resolutions, but I do have a little ritual with which I tease myself from January 1 onwards. Instead of spring-cleaning the lounge and bedroom, I become terribly esoteric for at least the first few weeks of the year, opening my heart to interesting bits and bobs that the universe may care to throw at me.
I name it my "radical radar” – a way for me to sniff out the good and snuff out the bad while I’m still feeling festive and haven’t been sucked in by the dreaded details of real life, like going back to work, paying school fees, fixing car brakes and devolving into a puddle of panic over extramural schedules, impossible deadlines and the absolute fact that I never, ever have enough time to do it all.
Last year, it was a friend’s birthday bash that got me realising the importance of friendship and so that’s what I focused on last year. It’s like planting seeds. By the end of November, I had a garden full of girls whom I love to distraction.
You never know when the radar is going to kick in, or what the message is going to be. It’ll happen in the funniest of places. Even on the loo.
Mine was in a clothing shop last week. I was queuing to pay at Bruce’s and noticed a customer plonking down a gorgeous electricblue toaster. Loved it, wanted it.
I didn’t know her from a bar of soap, but we gabbled on about the thrill of new appliances and then I told her – as one does – that here I was, buying shirts, tops and shoes for the hub and the kids but nothing for myself. Perhaps, I said, I should buy myself that toaster.
"Never, no!’’ said Bernice, style guru and head honcho of Bruce’s and one of my favourite favourites, Toffee.
"A toaster isn’t for YOU – it’s for the house. It’s for the family. For everyone. It’s not a personal gift to yourself.”
"Damn straight,” said the anonymous blonde toaster owner. You can’t compare an appliance to a pair of Jimmy Choos. If you’re going to be selfish – which is good – then you might as well spend your last bucks on an outrageous skirt, or heels, or a hot stone massage.
I never did find out her name. I walked out of the store not knowing where she was from or what type of movies she watches. And chances are, I’ll never see her again.
But that’s the beauty of it, as Bernice says. Every week, year in and year out, she watches women connecting with each other, held together by a silent sympathy – some emotional thread – that tells you, "sister, I’ve got your back”.
Like the shop assistants and customers who cheer you on when you’re morbidly trying one bikini top after another and feeling despondent; or the old biddy who tells you that your toddler’s tantrum is just how her eight children behaved back in the day, so’s you don’t feel bad about giving them sweets to shut them up; or the friendly diner at the restaurant buffet who chugs back a super-sized portion of Malva tart and tells you that seconds are always okay.
Sisters, I salute you all. Chances are we’ll never sit down for a coffee or connect on Facebook, but no matter. There’s one of us around every corner, waiting to remind each of us that really, we never have to do this alone.