I USED to want to be the kind of girl who would walk into a room and cause someone to say, “Glory!”
Southern Sister with Thembe Khumalo
You know the type of girl: Stylish and sophisticated, with clothes that say, not just “Notice me!” but “Remember me!” The kind of girl whose posture and bearing would carry an air of mystery and inspire a thousand daydreams of glorious island holidays and scenic rides in drop top cars!
And then I grew up. And instead of glory, I started aiming instead to be a woman of honour. I wanted to be the kind of woman who could always be depended on to tell the truth; a woman who could also be depended on not to tell.
I wanted to be the kind of woman who could just as easily carry a bucket of water on her head, as she could carry the responsibility of caring for others, and do both with an elegance and energy that defies comprehension.
I heard a preacher say once that when honour is given, it is humbling, but when honour is withheld, it is humiliating. Often we try to force honour and respect.
We insist that people call us by a particular title, sit us in a particular space and ensure we get a certain level of the type of attention that we believe is our due. But the truth is that while the title is supposedly important, we cannot compel someone to respect us. We may be entitled to their respect, but that is no automatic passport to receiving it.
After a while the prospect of honour without glory started to seem a little dry — a little too hollow and without the marrow that gives service its pleasure. The excitement and glamour of glory beckoned, while the righteousness of honour peered over its half moon glasses and pursed its lips in disapproval.
And so I thought, “Maybe one can have both, no?”After all, when an Olympic athlete runs, he runs for the glory of the medal and then for the honour of representing his people.
When I first came across the word honorific, I thought it was a slang word which was a combination of honour and terrific. I thought this represented the happy medium that I aimed at. As in, “Now that lady is honorific!” (I was young bakithi!)
When I later discovered that the word actually describes something given as a mark of respect, it seemed a much more serious and sacred space. I wasn’t sure I could be worthy that.
The word I was looking for needed to describe someone who embodies the dignity of dialogue, a well as the delight of a diamond; someone who would demonstrate the strength of submission while showing the power of passion. It needed to be a word that would conjure visions of building, doing, inspiring without denying the allure of sensuality and suggestion.
I realised then, that it was a word that I already knew, a word that would encompass both honour and glory. That word was woman!