“Your boobs make you new friends,” my friend Martin said the other day. “You should pen the story you just told me.”
Martin is right. It’s a great story and where else would I pen it but right here.
I went to the music festival, Up The Creek, in Swellendam on the weekend of 29 January to 1 February 2015. Three days of frolicking in a river, watching rock bands, and sipping my drink of choice – whiskey & water. In my mad twenties I loved going to festivals, especially OppiKoppi in Northam. Dirt, drunk, booze and boys. But would I still love it in my mid-thirties? I had to find out.
When my low VW Polo Vivo hit the gravel road off the N2 freeway, I could feel the old familiar pull of freedom and letting go. No cell phone signal, no worries about carrying a handbag with all your girly necessities, and no cares about what people thought of you. I felt my cobwebbed 25-year old soul waking up slowly as we crawled at 40 km/h towards the creek. We smoked cigarettes and listened to Mr Scruff as we snaked through the mountains, anticipation building with every rock hitting my wheels.
My almost 35-year old self grasped for the one thing I knew would make the three days a little more comfortable: accommodation at the Heartbreak Hotel, which included pitched tents, beds, linen, towels, porters, clean toilets and bathrooms, and the grand finale: a breakfast buffet. Basically everything you needed bar yourself, your lilo, your bikini and your booze. I knew this would be my last weekend of letting go before I really tackled my thesis, but little did I know that my boobs already had plans for a shout-to-the-world Friday night.
The pre-free-the-tits idea must have started that morning when I had a shower in said clean bathrooms. The wind blew my curtain to expose my nakedness to a woman who was brushing her teeth at the basins. We saw each other, laughed and I said something about sorry for the view. She said if she had boobs like mine she would walk naked all day. I think my boobs blushed – or the one blushed and the other grew even bigger.
That night, warmed by whiskey and rock like I love it – hard and free – I gave my Creek Companion one look and said I wanted to throw my favourite pink bra on stage while the band Taxi Violence was playing. She wooped and pushed us to the front of the crowd, pronto. I wasn’t drunk, I was happy. I shook my hair to the Taxi’s and didn’t give a shit about my Master’s, my job, my stresses about my family, my anxiety about finances for the year, and everything else back in Cape Town that sneaked into my dreams at night and made me wake up with a scream.
Towards the end of Taxi’s gig, George, the lead singer shouted to the crowd, “Show us your tits, Up the Creek!” Okay, hello, I was ready. I’m not the tallest of people but managed to get close to the front line. I took my bra off and held it up, but knew I wouldn’t be able to throw it all the way to the stage – past the security gate and guards and all that rock ‘n roll stuff. A tall gentleman next to me saw what was going on and offered to throw it for me. He asked where I wanted it. I kinda sorta knew the drummer and pointed at him. Drummer was super hot, but had an even super hotter girlfriend. So screw that, I thought, he could have my bra.
My bra flew over a few hands and landed at the front of the drummer’s kit. We all high fived like it was the best thing in the world. And then, nothing happened. George kept shouting and rocking, and no one noticed the bra. I looked at my friend. “I want my bra back,” I said. It was my favourite bra after all. And screw them if they didn’t even notice it. We found a little loophole in the security system and slipped to the side of the stage where a big man was hovering. No one else. He invited us to sit next to him while Taxi did their thing. I pointed at the bra saying I wanted it back. He just nodded. I think he was stoned, or high, or just happy.
Security guards were close by and I knew they would push me off the stage as soon as I set foot on it. So my friend and I devised a quick plan. The moment Taxi Violence finished, we would jump on stage and get my bra. Okay, great. We smoked a ciggie and sat next to the big, smiling man. And waited. But George had other plans for me. He spotted the bra at last (was I happy? Relieved? Embarrassed?) and shouted to the crowd, “Who’s bra is this? Come forward and identify yourself.” We jumped up and down and hit the stage with our hands, but he was looking out over the crowd, until the base close to us saw our scissor-like jumps.
Frontman George was all over that shit like a real rock star. I flashed my boobs, pointed at my bra. He rushed over, pulled me on the stage. Someone handed me a bottle of tequila. I pretended to take a sip, and put it back neatly on the stage. “You are such a sport,” someone said. I was smiling, smiling, grinning, laughing, grinning like an idiot. George started counting down and on three I flashed my wondrous boobs at the crowd. There were lights and smoke and screams and general mayhem, but I couldn’t see much from the stage so in my mind I thought if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me.
I was lifted off the stage and my bra was thrown into the throng of screaming people. My pink bra, I thought, I will miss you, but it was so worth it. I spent the rest of the weekend on a little bit of a high, and the general nods and “it’s the boob-girl” that followed me wherever I went, wrapped me in a sort of rock-star-happiness-freedom bubble.
If the boob story had ended there it would have been a good one, but not exactly a great one or a very different one. Sure, many women have flashed a bit of skin at festivals, and as far as I understood nudity was often encouraged at outdoor events. But for me – this was a first, and I did spend some quiet moments back at home wondering if evidence would show up on Facebook and thinking if my sweet parents found out about it, it just wouldn’t be cool.
This paranoia led me to obsessively check online for evidence of my freed breasts after my return to what-suddenly-seemed-like-a-very-tame Cape Town. I Googled “Up The Creek 2015 + boobs” and read blogs, but nothing noteworthy came up. Thank goodness. Until the MK article and one Henry Cloete.
Henry Cloete is a Cape Town-based journalist and author. His first novel Draalnoot vir ‘n janfiskaal was released in August 2014. He works at Media24 and is a correspondent for MK (the Afrikaans online music channel). He’s a band guy; his online presence is testimony to his passion for all things rock ‘n roll. He wrote a long and detailed piece about Up The Creek and as I scrolled through it, I looked for my boobs. And there they were! Right where he sang his praises for Taxi Violence, my boobs got a full-on five sentences, and I quote it here:
“In suiwer Taxi-styl is die cock-rock-element ook nooit ver nie en hoofsanger George skroom nie om dames vriendelik te versoek om hul buuste te openbaar nie. Een van die dames gee nie net gehoor nie, maar betree die verhoog en bied aan die hele gehoor dié aangesig. Nou, dit is die soort gebeurtenis wat sommige feministies ingestelde akademici sal laat kwyl om die mondhoeke om ingeëtste chauvinisme te kan indink en formuleer. Aan dié akademici wil ek sê dat ‘n postmodernistiese verstaan van identiteitsvloei nie net ‘n tydige, skadelose, argelose meelewing van diverse persoonlikheidselemente en die genot wat die wegbreek van inhibisie meebring erken nie, maar dit op eksistensieel-fenomenologiese vlak konstruktief bemoedig. So fokken whê.”
(Link to article) The main theme is that Henry saluted the boobs-moment and enjoyed the freedom of it.
The curious in me of course Googled the man immediately. I considered emailing him to say, “It’s me, it’s me! I’m the boob-girl” but decided against it. The article wasn’t about me, but about his experience. When an email from my editor arrived in my inbox the next day about a radio drama workshop in Cape Town, and it was sent to this Henry man, and me, I thought, No shit, it’s a sign. Maybe we were meant to be friends or something. I emailed Henry asking if he was the MK writer person and that I was the boob-girl (and also a serious writer). From there it escalated into an email correspondence of mutual understanding about the life of a full-time employed frustrated writer and it ended with an invitation to meet over beer at Van Hunks, the local bar for frustrated writers in Cape Town.
What followed was the start of a typical Cape Town friendship, as in ‘now I see you, now I don’t’. I often bump into Henry at industry events and bars, but to date we have actually never had a full-on chat about Up The Creek, and somehow it doesn’t matter. That moment in time wasn’t about tits or boys or bras or booze – it was about allowing myself to face the world and say, “Here I am. I love me, and that’s good enough.”