A Love Letter to My Sisters: Mbali and Nonhlanhla

My babies,

I have been meaning to write this to you for a long time, I have not had the courage to write this because each time I try, I remember that I am not worthy to be giving advice to such smart, talented and immaculate young women like yourselves. Each time I see both of you move into different and transformative phases of your lives, I feel a sudden guilt filled conviction. Each time I look at your lives, I remember and get saddened by my flaws and failures as your older brother.

I promise I am not one of those chauvinistic brothers the world is filled with. But I am sorry for failing you by not standing up for you when I should have.

I am sorry for not standing up to you to our parents, uncle and other senior family members when they shout or cane you when you get back home once the sun is down because “girls are not supposed to be roaming around the streets once it is dark.” I am sorry for not standing up for you when they told when that you will never get married because you refused to wake up at wee hours of the morning to sweep the yard like other girls in the neighbourhood do.

I am incredibly sorry for not standing up for you the day the church usher gave you slut-shaming stares and handed you a dirty royal-blue piece of cloth to cover your body because “your skirt was too short and revealing for a church-girl and boys will easily get tempted;” although I was wearing equally revealing skinny tight pants yet I was not told to cover my body. I am sorry that I have not been able to stand up for you when the church and the rest of the world continue to police your body.

I am sorry that I did not slap and beat the perverted hell out the idiot with sagging pants who starred at your behind and stripped you naked without touching you but with his eyes. I apologise for not being a good brother.

I am sorry that I will not be able to protect you all the time. It is excruciatingly worrying that you will have to do this all by yourself. It worries me that a group of old man, who know nothing about you or your dreams, will seat around a table and negotiate your worth like you are some property and reduce your worth to a number of cows.

I am worried that you will have to explain and have to prove your femininity, or the lack of it.

I am worried that your worth as a woman will be equated to your ability to conceive, your breasts and your pretty face. I am scared that no one will see the fact that you want to be the first pilot in the family and you want to be an esteemed Mathematician.

I am scared that you will starve yourself so that you might have a “perfect” figure like those bony women you see on magazines, who look like their parents buried them under a stone each time a meal was shared.

I am scared that a stupid boy will make you feel like less of a human being because he hasn’t dealt with his bruised ego and vilifies you for it. I am scared that you will be forced to “man-up” because girls like you are rare to find in boardrooms that still have egocentric, perverted and shallow men around.

I am scared that you might end up not loving yourself enough because of who you are expected to be. I am scared that you will be made to aspire to marriage and purity while I am taught to be successful and be a “man.”

I am scared that people will compare you to a negative photo. I am scared that men will find it easy to say “why can you not be like other girls,” when all you want is to be a better and honest version of yourself.

I am scared that people will compare you to me—which I believe is stupid and a great injustice. People will expect you to be my mirror image. To be honest, I do not want you to be closer to anything I am. I do not want you to become apologetic like I have become throughout my life.

I do not want you to give CPR to dead relationships and situations like I constantly do. I do not want you to bury yourself in tragic and romantic novels and avoid life outside fiction. I do not want you to cry yourself to sleep about things that do not really matter but they always clog your mind as it always happens to me. I do not wish to see you cry yourself to sleep wishing that your life was any different.

I do not want you to be afraid of the unknown—like forgiving and letting go of things that have caused you pain but have brilliantly learnt how to sweep them under the mat like you have done with your confidence. I do not want you to hide your scars in journals and arrogance like me. I do not want you tell the world the truth but lie to yourself.

You both have been the best definition of love I have ever known. When we get to heaven, I want you to be close to my lap again like you have, all our lives.

You’re the reason I believe and love God.

Your loving brother,


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