The art of avoiding something that threatens your identity

My mom thinks she’s an octogenarian superhero that doesn't need a walking stick.


Manson’s Law of Avoidance: the more something threatens your identity, the more you’ll fight it. My sister called me last week. “Don’t panic but…” she said. Instant panic. My mom had had a fall. Thinking there was potential criminal activity happening at her neighbours, she had raced into the back garden in the dark to peer over the wall and shoo the baddies away, presumably using her blood-chilling Granny Glare and the power of her rounded expat vowels. She certainly didn’t have her walking stick with her, the one I bullied her into buying after a night-time tumble when she…

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Manson’s Law of Avoidance: the more something threatens your identity, the more you’ll fight it. My sister called me last week.

“Don’t panic but…” she said. Instant panic.

My mom had had a fall. Thinking there was potential criminal activity happening at her neighbours, she had raced into the back garden in the dark to peer over the wall and shoo the baddies away, presumably using her blood-chilling Granny Glare and the power of her rounded expat vowels.

She certainly didn’t have her walking stick with her, the one I bullied her into buying after a night-time tumble when she was staying with me; the stick I made her swear she’d take outside at night, just in case; the one she could have thwacked an intruder with, if required. No, because my mom’s an octogenarian superhero.

But that wasn’t the end of her antics. She then took herself to bed without telling a soul about her fall, because clearly it would all be better by morning. Spoiler: it wasn’t.

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She has a badly broken wrist, so much so that she had to undergo surgery to insert hardware, and suffer two nights of hospital food where baffled staff repeatedly tried to feed meat to a vegetarian.

Naturally, she’s mad as hell about it all because she’s an independent lady and now has to rely on other people for everything, from doing her hair to driving her car to cooking her dinner.

But, again, did she take her walking stick outside?

Manson’s Law: the more something threatens your identity, the more you’ll fight it – even when it’s for your benefit. This identity threat is why ageing hippies won’t cut their hair (I’m looking in the mirror here), and 80s boy-men still have mullets.

It’s why people stay in high-profile jobs they hate, live in houses they can’t afford, persist in relationships that are breaking them, and wear high heels that hurt their feet.

People won’t get glasses, won’t see a doctor, won’t have their hearing checked, and won’t ask for help when they need it. They won’t even acknowledge that they’re struggling, even as the rest of the world sees them buckle and bend.

As for my mom and her stick, I think I’d better steer clear for a while, or she’ll start using it liberally – on me.

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