Screw You, Marie Claire!

Monday, September 08, 2014

So there was a time, not too long ago when I really wanted to write, badly. 

But, here's the zinger - I didn't want to tell anyone. I was scared and embarrassed, I mean shouldn't I have already published a novel or something? Also, what if I sucked balls? 

So my usual M.O. was to secretly submit things that I had written to any publication with open submissions. I submitted this boo-hoo fest to Marie Claire in the hopes of exorcising my demons and finding a 6-figure book deal. Alas, not a word from MC (I am still holding out for the book deal), but hooey, here I am, I'm gonna self-publish this biatch because it hurt and it is important, albeit cringey to me. 

I think I wrote this last year in winter.

When my father died I was nineteen. My aunt told me what had happened and without strength I wept into her shoulder. All language mutes in the presence of grief. Well, that’s somewhat true, as I later learnt the simultaneous futility and satisfaction of a multitude of four-letter words. 

I remember the bizarreness of that first day that I had found out. How it hadn’t really sunk in, so I could still joke, albeit meekly, and smile as though my very own Atlas who had stoically held my world together hadn’t shrugged off and left me. I often think that my occasional smile must have seemed cruel and perverse, but it was all that I could muster, stupefied by the audacity of the universe. You see, I had always thought that my dad’s presence was a non-negotiable. My mother had died before I could remember her and I naively thought that the universe was a strict score-keeper meaning that I would be exempt from any future pain. Oh ha-ha, how that theory has been proven wrong. Seriously Universe, you are fucked up!

In the beginning, when I had just found out, the only time that his death really punched me in the stomach, quite literally, was in the bathroom. Alone with only the mirror to remind me of my feeble mask, I tried to understand that my daddy, my darling daddy was dead. When my mother had died, I didn’t have to think about how to deal with it, I was two years old and I don’t remember anything about her or her death. The rivers of pain that were to follow soaked my childhood with tears and loneliness, but I was just a child so I didn’t consciously navigate the grief or pain. I just felt the pain and let it colour my tentative picture of the world. 

However, as a nineteen year-old I was at a total loss. I had lost my dad, my compass, my home and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Technically, I stress, purely technically, I was an adult and as an adult, sadly, you are meant to lose your parents, so why did it feel so four-letter word, four-letter word, unfair?

The pain I felt was overwhelming and confusing. It screamed for attention like a bludgeoned wound. Yet, a part of me felt that I wasn’t allowed to feel so bad. I was a big girl now, I better act like it, right? So I tried to mourn with faux dignity, to only cry enough to lightly moisten the tissues in my purse. I now laugh resentfully at all of this. What to mock first? When I was a child I would always stubbornly say that my mother had died, she didn’t pass away or worse, I didn’t lose her. She died. I half-heartedly invited the awkward silence that inevitably followed my blunt statement as proof that the pain that I felt wasn’t insignificant. I found the whole dilly-dallying of words insulting. Why should I dress up death? It only looks good in black anyway.  

The days following the passing of my dad were some of the worst days that I have known. The person that I would have turned to in a crisis or even for a quick gossip was the very person that I was mourning. I stumbled around with my pain as though it were a septic limb that I couldn’t get rid of. I pathetically tried to be ‘normal’ with my friends and I attended lectures. I was genuinely surprised when I was granted an extension on all of my examinations, prior to that the world had cruelly continued to function as though nothing had happened. I found this all infuriating and I wanted to tell anyone who would listen that my world was falling apart, yet in reality I couldn’t say much and I reserved my feelings for quiet moments alone in my flat or as I’m now embarrassed to admit, while walking the busy streets of Cape Town. 

I remember the first time that it happened. I was walking down Long Street, a place that I had first discovered with my dad, and overcome with anger and sadness, I cried and cried, my collarbones collecting my tears. Looking back, I think that I felt so alone in the sea of faces and I knew that no matter how many people I saw, my dad would never again be one of those people.

Now five years later, I think of those early days without my father as a turning point in my life. As I slowly and stubbornly realised that I could be happy in spite of his absence, I became braver and more decisive; after all, what could the world possibly throw at me that could be any worse? I still miss him every day and I desperately wish that I could just hear his voice or see his sad blue eyes, but I now know that I am luckier than most. 

My father, John Clancy, loved my brother and I so intensely and doggedly that even five years following his death I still feel his love swimming in my being as though I had just spoken to him. I once read that real love is like fluoride in the water, it makes us stronger without our knowledge, this is certainly true. I know that all those years in the sunshine of my father’s love have given me more than enough strength to face the beautiful, terrible and wonderful world without him. I wish I could have told the nineteen year-old me sobbing in the street that although I won’t see him again in person, if I looked, not even very hard, I could see his love everywhere and sometimes that will be enough.


  1. This post is so well written and well crafted, I think "Screw you MC" is perfectly in order. I also just had a piece of writing rejected by a parenting site. At least we have our blogs! I am including this post in the September roundup for SA mom blogs (

  2. I really like how you wrote this. So it's definitely MC's loss. Isn't it just another little inner circle to break into anyway?
    And yes, thankfully we do have our blogs where we can write what we want, when we want. The only way I get to live my dream of writing.
    Sorry to hear that you lost your dad but what an amazing feeling to have his love surround you!

  3. Heather Clancy. It's writing and honesty like this that made my soul know that you are THE friend to have. Thank you for sharing this and I say SCREW YOU! to MC too. Luckily our dream is the run another magazine ( *whispers* ELLE) anyway.

    I adore your blog and I feel that you are a writer and you don't need your words to be published by "well known" individuals to be considered one!

    Heather Clancy
    Occupation: Awesome friend, loving girlfriend, future magazine royalty, the perfect baker and WRITER

  4. Oh em gee. I will resist the urge to get all feelings-y and share-y and resolve that by myself. You did brilliant. The crying in public resonates. The aloneness in mourning brought on by the fact that he would have been the very person to gather you were you not actually mourning HIM. FEELINGS.

    You always write well. I'm constantly restraining myself from changing 'writer' to 'aspiring writer' in all my things. Ugh. I'll stop here.

    All the love and warm emotionz

  5. Hi.

    Marie Claire is a woman's magazine designed for housewives. Your piece is designed. It's sublime but with no reference to the readership of MC... and as honestly and well crafted a story as it is, if it's not for their readers...

    As I lost my father recently (after a long adult life with him in it) I cannot imagine the reality you have endured, yet this story softly and beautifully informs me of your time and your pain. Thank you for this small slice of your life shared in such an open and inclusive manner.

  6. Huge loss to MC, what a beautifully written and gut wrenching piece.


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