Childhood Shorts – Chapter 20: Fly Guys, Fly Girls
Childhood Shorts – Chapter 20: Fly Guys, Fly Girls
August 06, 2019

(Photo by Melody Jacob on Unsplash)

Post-colonial colorism also made dating complicated. At the top of the girlfriend wishlist of every teenage schoolboy was a musikana mutsvuku (light-skinned girl). Even among us bantu-black sub-Saharan Africans, melanin, or too much of it in the shade of one’s skin, was mercilessly maligned. This overt societal inference – the idea that light was right – caused many a darker-hued child to rue his or her pigment. It also very much fueled profitability in the skin-lightening cream industry.

Boys were under significantly less pressure to look perfect. Ladies clearly fawned over the muscle-bound mhitsa (strongman) and vakomana vakanaka (fly guys). But the bar for the average joe was modest. A few decent clothes, a respectable haircut, some disposable cash, the right turns of phrase, and a dance move or two.

Fly guys were easy to pick out in the crowd. Even at St. George’s. They were the boys whose flamboyance made our mandatory school uniform – the khaki shirts and shorts we all wore – appear to be designed, at least for them, haute couture by Calvin Klein. Outside of school, fly guys had the hookup on all the slick threads. However, their coolness was not defined, but only accentuated, by their clothing. Fly guys had so much juice that they could show up to a party in pajamas and generate nothing but respect from their socialite counterparts.

“You rockin’ those flannels real tight, bru.”

“Seen, homie. Seen.”

Fly guys spoke like cigarette smokers. They had that dripping, dragging drawl in their voices. It added depth to their personalities and gave them the mystique of future masculine men of mystery. These boys had a captivating command of themselves and their surroundings. Nothing was new to them. You were made to believe they had been here before. Life, I mean, and high school. Like this was their second go-around, you know? There was much more to their distinctiveness, of course. But the most compelling characteristic of a fly guy was the regularity with which he was commonly in the presence of fly girls.

By definition, fly girls were breathtaking in every conceivable way. Their makeup resembled the ink of permanent markers in that it never ran or faded. They had ice sculptures for hairstyles which stayed in place without fail. Their smiles carried the risk of causing traffic accidents. Indeed, their eyes made truthtellers of liars and liars of truthtellers. These young women were dazzling, not just beautiful. They were otherworldly. Some even had dramatic origin stories. Like superheroes.

“I heard her ole queen (mother) gave birth to her in a steamy geyser, high up in the mountains, ek se.”

“Not surprised, bruh. Explains why she’s so hot.”

Fly girls did none of the normal things other people do. They never went anywhere, they only made appearances. They never ate meals, they only sampled hors d’oeuvres. They never perspired, they only effervesced. They never slept, they only ever rested their eyes.

I am sure in some ways the lives of fly guys and fly girls were difficult. I cannot quite think of any examples presently, so . . . Well, hold on. There was one. When we were teenagers, fly guys and fly girls sometimes had a hard time seeing each other. The fathers of fly girls did not trust fly guys. At all. They were too cool for school. Which meant they were probably trouble. Being suspicious of the young lads, fathers would seldom sanction any cavorting between fly guys and their daughters. The kids, therefore, had to be creative to concoct crafty plans that could culminate in their coming together. They could not pull anything off though without the asset that was known as the klanbet oen.

Most Zimbabwean secondary schools at the time were single-gender programs. Boys and girls therefore seldomly interacted during the school term. The few opportunities that were availed to them for mixed company came in the form of a handful of school-approved social events. Like our end-of-year dances and lip sync contests. Yes, you heard right. I did say lip sync contests.

Remember, this was the 1980s. Allen Fawcett was almost as famous as Madonna. His show, Puttin’ on the Hits (1984 to 1988) fulfilled the desire of millions to see not just stars but everyman in the music videos. Puttin’ on the Hits inspired a global explosion of copycat contests where performers, attention-seekers, and fun-lovers embraced their three-and-a-half-minutes of lip-syncing fame. Zimbabwe was no exception. Nor were its secondary schools.

Between 1988 and 1990, St. George’s College was caught up in the fad. Our school held the mother, the auntie, and the grandmother of all high school lip sync contests. Each competition was fierce and the acts were inspirational. Boys offered solo routines and also danced in lip sync troupes. They practiced rigorously, perfecting moves, and memorizing songs until they were ready to show off their skills. When the highly anticipated evening came, performers gave their very best renditions of tracks by Michael Jackson, Prince, Luther Vandross, Cameo, DeBarge, New Edition, Boyz II Men, Guy, Keith Sweat, Johnny Kemp, Tony! Toni! Tone!, and so many more. Each year was spectacular, and the lip sync contest at St. George’s became a highlight on the teenage social calendar. A be-there-or-be-square event, which, unfortunately for many, was strictly by invitation only.

Not much could make a fly girl visibly excited. But I have to say, they lost their cool over our lip sync contests. Many almost hyperventilating in a delirium of desire to go. How to get invited, however, was the puzzle every girl had to solve. One would think it would have been a slam dunk for fly girls. Yet it was not. Ordinarily, any average joe would have given his right and left arms to spend an evening with a fly girl. But this was different, and most average joes knew better than to invite them. They settled instead for girls who were more naturally within their league.

The average joe understood that inviting a fly girl to our lip sync contest was about as smart as volunteering to be a bug in a Venus Flytrap. She would accept, of course. But with absolutely no intention of actually being with him on the date. Her sole use of him would simply be as a get-out-of-home-free card. A boy of whom her father would likely approve as her escort to the event. Once there, the unspoken norm was that the fly girl would inevitably spend her evening either in the company of her girlfriends or in the arms of a fly guy. This was common knowledge. Average joes therefore knew never to break with convention. For they would only have themselves to blame if ever they succumbed to the temptation of inviting any of the dazzling dames. Doing so would be a tacit choice to serve as an overdressed cabbie for the night. The only precious time he would likely enjoy alone with the fly girl he chauffeured would be on the drive there and on the drive back. With no guarantee that she would even talk to him in either direction. Everyone knew the score. Well, almost everyone. Everyone except the klanbet oens.

“What’s good, bru?”

“Ah, bruh, nothing. Just dossing (sleeping), Josiah. You?”

“Chillin’, chillin’.”

“Yeah man. You chill with the best of them, my guy. You da man!”

“Nah, you da man, playa.”

“Ha! I’m the last cat to be a playa, homie.”

“That’s not what I heard, cuz.”

“Whatever, blaz. Heard from who?”

“I’m serious. I was at afternoon session at Archies . . .”

Ah, ek se. You were at Archipelago? Ah, that’s lekker (cool), bru. How was it?”

“Yah. I was there. And I bumped into that babe you used to like. What’s her name? Fedora?”

“No, bruh.”

“Oh yah. I mean, Facility.”

“You mean, Felicity.”

“Yah, yah. Felicity. Anyway, Felicity was rollin’ with that girl. You know, Regina.”

“What d’you mean, Regina?”

“Like I said, she was with Regina.”

“No, my guy. Regina, Regina?”

“The one and the same, homie.”

“Ah, spanner in my heart, playa! She’s phyne! Fly, like an eagle, ek se. Yo, I wish I could have been the eyes in your head, bru. Heaven, china! How did she look?”

“What you expect? She looked great. Anyway, when I rocked up, Regina was telling Fallujah . . .”

“Felicity.”

“Yah, Regina was telling Felicity, that she’s got a thing for you.”

“Ah mayaz. For who again?”

“For you.”

“For me?”

“For you.”

“Josiah man, do I belong to the month of April, ek se?”

“What? No. What? Why?”

“Coz I skeem you skeem I’m a fool, bru.”

“No, I’m telling you. Why would I think you’re a fool?”

“Coz there’s no way Regina’s into me.”

“It’s true. She said so herself. She even asked me to give her your digits (number).”

“You should consider a career in comedy. Coz you funny. Keep it coming, my guy.”

“You don’t have to believe me, china. You’ll see.”

A few days later, the klanbet oen is at his house and the phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Hi, howzit, its Regina.”

“Ah, I skeem you got the wrong number.”

“Why?”

“Coz you called my number. It’s obviously a mistake.”

“No. I dialed the right one. I’m calling for you.”

“For me?”

“For you.”

“Forget!”

“For sure.”

“For real?”

“For certain.”

“Wow! It’s coming home! It’s coming home! It’s coming, football’s coming home!”

“What?”

“Ah, nothing. Just an expression. You called for me?”

Regina laughs.

“Tee hee. You even laugh pretty.”

Regina giggles again. “Thanks.”

“But seriously. Why you wanna rap with me?”

“Didn’t Josiah tell you? Coz I heard you sweet and I wanna get to know you.”

“Ah, mayaz.”

“Hey?”

“I feel like it’s April again.”

“What?”

“No, nothing. Never mind. So, you say you want to get to know me?”

“I do.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

“Ah, hop scotch! Ndapinda ini! (I’m in!)”

“What, sorry?”

Girls are heard chuckling in the background of Regina’s line.

“No. Nothing. It’s fine.”

“Oh, okay. Cool.”

“Yah. Cool. Cool, cool. Like an Eskimo.”

“You so corny, man. That’s why I want to get to know you more.”

“He’s an idiot,” a different girl’s voice shouts in the background of Regina’s phone.

“Shut up, Florence!”

“Regina, who’s Florence? Is she there with you? What did she say just now?”

“Yah, but don’t worry. She’s my friend. She’s just envious.”

“Envious?”

“Look. All the girls are talking about you. But I got dibs on calling you. I’d love us to spend some time and learn about each other.”

“Learn about each other?”

“Yes. You know. Like chemistry.”

“Oh!”

“Exactly. I just wish there was an evening coming up when we could do that. I know my dad would like you. He’d definitely say yes if you wanted to take me out somewhere.”

“Wow. That’s great, Regina. You know the St. George’s lip sync contest is coming up soon, right?”

“It is? Oh yes, it is. I had forgotten.”

“This might be a bit forward, but would you be interested in coming to that with me?”

“It’s not forward. I’d love to. Thank you so much, sweetie!”

“Er, you’re welcome, he, he, sweetie. You too.”

“Oh, it’ll be so fun to be a couple at the event.”

“A couple. A couple. Like two? The same, like together? You and me?”

“Yes. If you like.”

“Yes. I like. I do. I do.”

The girls in the background chip in again. “Slow your role, Prince Charming. It’s not a wedding yet.”

“What was that? Your friends again, Regina. I can’t quite hear what they’re saying.”

“Don’t worry. They’re just excited for us.”

“So am I.”

The laughing gets louder. “Sha, I can’t believe it worked! He’s dense. Josiah will be so pleased.”

“Did someone say something about Josiah?”

“No. Florence just said she thinks Josiah will be so pleased that you’ve invited me. He thinks the world of you.”

“Yah. I guess he does. We’re boys. We’re tight.”

“You are. Thanks again. Send me the invite. I’ll give you my address and I’ll ask my dad. Can’t wait! Bye for now.”

More girlish laughter as the phone rings off.

“Bye, Regina.”

The klanbet oen holds onto the phone for several minutes. Eyes closed and a smile on his face, he is like someone whose biggest dream has just come true.

“A couple. . . Ah, yes man! Ndapinda ini.”

A characteristic of Zimbabwean youth culture during the 1980s was the propensity of teenagers to speak from time to time in a form of backwards language. When we did, our tradition was to reverse the first phenomic segment of a word and leave its remaining parts the same. For example, the reverse of the word “backwards” was kcabwards. Sometimes though, for ease of pronunciation, we would only swap the initial letters of each phenomic segment. Which is how klanbet oens got their name.

A special breed of teenage boy, the klanbet oen was a romantic. He was naïve and believed the best of everybody. Unsuspecting of hidden agendas and unaware of himself and his surroundings, he often fell shy of knowing his own limitations. He was gullible to the point of being cajoled into rushing in where average joes feared to tread. This made the klanbet oen the perfect mark. An at-the-ready asset perceived by fly guys and fly girls to be moving through life almost kcabwards. Unconsciously, as if fast asleep for most of a decade. Like under a “blanket.”

Related Posts

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 38: Greater Glory

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 38: Greater Glory

Aside from the title, any writing assignment we did at St. George’s College required inclusion of the date and the initialism A.M.D.G. (abbreviation for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam). The latter was a reminder for us boys. A prompt to help us put into practice a foundational principle of our school community.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 37: Man in the Window

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 37: Man in the Window

Mommy was nowhere to be seen. But a group of orderlies rushed out to the parking lot. They took hold of the man and ushered him into the building, back to the solitary confinement of his ward. Our chests were still heaving when mommy finally returned.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 36: Latchcar Kids

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 36: Latchcar Kids

I spent a good portion of my early childhood in the car. Babysitting options were rather limited back then and we were too young to stay home alone. Mommy therefore took us everywhere. On visits to see friends, to appointments, and on her various tours of chores.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 35: The Beast

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 35: The Beast

I continued to prioritize basketball even after I completed high school. Zimbabwe had a budding men’s league that boasted competitive teams. I first joined Hellenics Basketball Club where Sludge and a few other St. George’s College graduates were playing.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 34: Gone to the Dogs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 34: Gone to the Dogs

Ross once told me it was possible to die from breathing in a single strand of a dog’s fur. I believed him. Not because it was necessarily true, but because Ross was the one who had said it. When he wanted to, the kid could be awfully convincing.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 33: Puppy Love

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 33: Puppy Love

How could I not fall for her? She was gorgeous. I loved her from the first moment I set eyes on her. She was shy and a little timid in her surroundings. But I think she noticed I was smiling and that helped her settle.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 32: School Police

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 32: School Police

Jets was not alone in the execution of discipline. He had help from prefects. Prefects were deputized agents of the school’s system of control. They were a small body of boys from the sixth-form (twelfth-grade) called out to preside as watchmen over the broader student body.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 31: Hartmann Hill Sheriff

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 31: Hartmann Hill Sheriff

Among the films daddy brought home during the 1980s, Cahill: U.S. Marshall (1973) was probably the first in the cowboy genre we ever watched on VCR. Just for that reason, we played it repeatedly. John Wayne’s character, J.D. Cahill, is a lawman of incorruptible integrity and saddlebags of style.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 30: The Real Fall Guys

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 30: The Real Fall Guys

(Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash) There is a chorus of crickets and frogs, and other creatures as well. Its sounds pierce the silence of night just as the light of the new day begins to perforate the darkness. The calls are joined by the noises of birds, and of...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 29: The Good Old Days

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 29: The Good Old Days

Our starting point guard was Clive Rugara, a wizard with the ball in his hands. For a guy who shuffled his feet, Clive was super-fast on the dribble. He had a Magic Johnson type of game. It came with full-court vision that spanned 365 degrees. Clive could see...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 28: Ting, Ting. Round One

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 28: Ting, Ting. Round One

Two separate walls of cheering students flanked the basketball court where the final game would be played. On one side, an army of red blazers. On the other, a battalion of purple blazers. Between them, air that was thick with tension, excitement, and anticipation....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 27: Rise of the Wolf Pack

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 27: Rise of the Wolf Pack

The shift from “Saints Basketball” to “Saints Wolves” was subtle. But for us schoolboys, it was a micro-reflection of the sentiment that had captured the nation in 1980 when the country's name changed from “Rhodesia” to “Zimbabwe.” In 1991, we broke the seal on our...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 26: A Bullish Makeover

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 26: A Bullish Makeover

If you were a basketball fan from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, you either loved or you hated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The NBA third draft pick behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie, Jordan joined the league from North Carolina in 1984. His entry into...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 25: One Basket, All Eggs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 25: One Basket, All Eggs

(Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash) At St. John’s Prep., I was a relatively big fish in a small pond. When I arrived at St. George’s College, I realized that I was a rather minute tadpole in a significantly larger body of water. The pool of talent was...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 24: Hustle and Grow

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 24: Hustle and Grow

(Photo by TJ Dragotta on Unsplash) “Again.” Salty streams of sticky sweat slipped and swept along my brow. Dripped and dropped their drenching dew, down my eyelids and through my lashes. They irritated with their splashes the saline surface of my corneas. “Again.”...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 23: Unfinished Business

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 23: Unfinished Business

Although only sixteen years old in 1986, Sludge emerged as the top scorer on the first team. He amassed a total of 214 points by the last whistle of the final game. He brought a different level of skill, flair, confidence, and style to the play of Saints basketball....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 22: Finding Nemesis

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 22: Finding Nemesis

(Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash) Vernon Williams pulled up at the three point line, to the right of the top of the key. He pump-faked. But the defender was too experienced to take the bait. The guy stayed planted, doing exactly what his coach had instructed....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 21: Homies R Bad.d

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 21: Homies R Bad.d

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash) “Ask me what I’m doing!” “What?” “I said, ask me what I’m doing.” “Ok, Jerry. What you doing?” “Me? Just minding my business.” “Great.” “Now, ask me what my business is.” “Come on, man. I’ve got better things to do.” “No. Ask me...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 19: Wannabees and MaNose

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 19: Wannabees and MaNose

(Photo by Calvin Lupiya on Unsplash) The 1980s were difficult if you had no rhythm, but brutal if you had no style. If you fell into the unfortunate category where both were true, then staying asleep would probably have been the safest way to get through the decade...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 18: How Many Left Feet?

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 18: How Many Left Feet?

(Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash) Before the end of my first year at St. George’s College, I was grafted into a small, gritty, and eclectic posse of boys. Tavona Chihambakwe, Garikai Maphosa, Nelesh Gulab, and Vusimusi Nondo. We were bonded together by our compatible...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 17: Chop and Hop

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 17: Chop and Hop

(Photo by Ben Wiens on Unsplash)If it was at all within your power, you would do well not to miss late night television on Fridays. Particularly those final two hours of programming before the midnight shutdown. The timeslot drew a large, faithful, and near-cultish...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 16: Boogie with a Disco Queen

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 16: Boogie with a Disco Queen

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash The Bees Knees became my go-to move. Much so for the next ten years. I pulled it out every opportunity I had to dance. I went from novice, to expert, to one-trick pony with this singular aspect of the Charleston. It worked for...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 15: The Bees Knees

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 15: The Bees Knees

No matter where we lived, whether in Zambia before independence or in Zimbabwe afterwards, our lives were invariably filled with music. Daddy was always listening to something or other from his collection of long-play vinyl records. And mommy, our songbird, could...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 14: Red Blazer Nation

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 14: Red Blazer Nation

I believe I cried on the first day of school at St. George’s. Possibly the second day too. I was overwhelmed and rather intimidated. The college is a sprawling empire of a campus, with fields that stretch out like interlocking plantations. It has courts, and pools,...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 13: More than Blazer Thin

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 13: More than Blazer Thin

St. John’s Prep. was not just a school. It was and still is an admired institution across Harare and Zimbabwe. The school first opened in 1956 with 13 students. Its initial mission was to provide a “sound system of education in an atmosphere conducive to the growth...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 12: A Race for Relevance

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 12: A Race for Relevance

Let go of Superman? Not a Cadbury bar’s chance at a chocoholic’s convention. Giving him up would essentially be abandoning comics. Losing Superman meant forsaking Clark Kent. Which I was not at all prepared to do. In my mind, it was Clark who made Superman super....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 11: It’s Not About the Cape

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 11: It’s Not About the Cape

(Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash)If we were not reading Asterix or The Adventures of Tintin, we were huddled by the television watching a variety of new shows and reruns courtesy of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s TV1 channel. The station brought joy to...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 10: Ice Cream and Skin

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 10: Ice Cream and Skin

(Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash)Asterix was by far my favorite hero. A shrewd, crafty, defiant, and plucky little warrior, living in about 50BC. In the stories, Gaul, his homeland, is occupied by the Romans, except for one small village where he lives. Asterix’ best...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 9: Blame the British

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 9: Blame the British

Our first twenty-four months in Zimbabwe were like one prolonged episode of the reality documentary This is Your Life (1952 to 1961). Except a better title for our experience would have been something like “This is Your Parent’s Country.” Almost every day was a...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 8: The Grasshopper Instinct

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 8: The Grasshopper Instinct

(Photo by Bradley Feller on Unsplash)During those early years in Zambia, I generally paid attention only to those things that directly affected my little life. After all, there was plenty to keep me busy in our dynamic, unpredictable, and oftentimes perplexing...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 7: The Life of Bugs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 7: The Life of Bugs

(Photo by Manlake Gabriel on Unsplash) Nothing unnerves me quite like snakes but bugs I do not like. If I am being honest, I have never really appreciated them. I find them to be totally creepy, crawly, and vexatious. Having said that, I do not abhor them all equally....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 6: Snakes and Robbers

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 6: Snakes and Robbers

(Photo by David Clode on Unsplash) “Mubuso. Wake up. Go to our room. Be quick and hurry up.” Our household, like many others in Olympia Park, had a burglary-preparedness protocol. If a home was ever invaded, children were to scurry into the safest room in the house...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 5: Fried Chicken Fridays

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 5: Fried Chicken Fridays

(Photo by Léo Roza on Unsplash) Daytime in Zambia was carefree and charming. It was filled with games and gladness and all the wonderful things that make childhood delightful. Nighttime, however, was the exact opposite. In many respects, the dark was disturbing. On...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 4: All Things Nice

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 4: All Things Nice

Despite them taking advantage of me in vexing ways, I could never stay angry at my two sisters. My blood should have boiled, watching them roll over each other on the floor laughing, tickled by the success of their mischief. But their cheeky chuckling was deeply...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 3: Super Nudge

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 3: Super Nudge

Quarreling is certainly one way to demonstrate to the world the depth of your foolishness. Another quite effective method is to show yourself to be impressionable. Granted, I had the excuse of childish naivety in my early years, but I must admit that I was as gullible...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 2: Hot Ross Summer

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 2: Hot Ross Summer

We were a sorry pair, but by golly, what good times. My brother and I were regularly rendered into two convulsing, spluttering, blubbering, blue-faced, and half-conscious heaps of wide-eyed crazy. We experienced many such episodes during our childhood. They were...