Freight trains and blow up dolls

I saw a picture of the guy I once loved with another man. Nothing sinister, they were just out and about having a gay ol time. But actually it is kind of sinister when you think about it, isn’t it? It’s the cheer and glee that you are no longer a part of that pours acid into your tummy like a tumour of pain; it is a hand on a leg or an arm around a shoulder that forms the rusty chainsaw that rips you open at the sides. If that’s not sinister, then Julius Malema is a genius and I will eat his shoe.

The transition of hurt to healing is inexplicable. No one knows how long it will take. God it’s hard enough to figure out when it will start let alone finish. It can happen that you think you are fine, skipping along through life as an untouchable, immortal ball of happiness until one sunny Tuesday, weeks or months after D-day, a freight train careens off of its tracks, blows right through your torso and obliterates everything you thought was holding you together.

If you’re still reading this, somebody should tell you that you are a sucker for punishment. If you are crazy in love right now and still reading this, then you are definitely a sucker for punishment. There is nothing more annoying than being in love and reading about some other Dumbo’s hard luck who lost theirs. There’s just a disconnect and all you want to do is sprite them on their way with a heel-click and a sing-song ‘cheer up dear, toodles!’  

I was never very good at listening to people like me. I used to hit them on the back and say vapid things like ‘Ooooh my gaaaawd… Yuuuu are so gonna find someone better than him in like no time, swear!’ It’s common practise really. What is the right thing to say? ‘Your boyfriend was a scumbag in disguise and that condom wrapper you knew you had never seen before defs had his denial written all over it?!’

The day you choose the low ground is the day before they will get back together. Then you look like the daffodil in the corner, hiding your red face while furiously sending urgent text messages off at speed. To yourself.

All this makes you wonder why we bother with love at all, right? Let me have a crack at it. We bother with love because a blow up doll from Adult World won’t give you gooseflesh in the first weeks or months of meeting. It won’t send you flowers when you are sad or starting a new job. It won’t bring you soup when you are sick, make you tea in bed on a Sunday morning or hold your hand in a movie house on date night. It won’t make you feel protected, get you your favourite artist’s CD before it is released or dance with you to all the music you so annoyingly love so much. It won’t drive for four hours to see you, fly halfway around the world to stay with you before having to go home to another country, write a poem about you, message you nine times a day or buy you take-out when the devil inside your horrible boss rears its ugly head and all you want to do for the next twelve hours is cry and sleep.

We have certainly evolved, haven’t we? We landed a man on the moon and we are on the brink of a cure for HIV. But we still don’t know what to diagnose for a broken heart or how long treatment should take. Maybe there is no diagnosis. Maybe there is no treatment. Maybe there is no cure. Maybe there isn’t supposed to be one.

Maybe the only way out is through.


© Dylan Balkind


Creatives critiquing creativity

How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? One and a chorus of whingers to point out that someone else has – somewhere in the history of the planet – already changed a light bulb, so changing another one would be unoriginal and therefore completely pointless.  

Creatives are an odd bunch. We work inside the silos of the sanatorium called an agency, being a part of the tug of war between our central creative pull and the client’s same when it comes to their brand mandatories.

We know the drill. We know that to get a campaign out involves a dozen meetings where the idea that has been presented, critiqued, reworked, re-presented, reconsidered, re-tweaked and re-presented is then put through some real paces and eventually given the green light. It is (almost) never the case of a good idea sold and preproduction briefed, because a good idea inside my head for example, may make no sense to the others at the table and the same may be true of what comes from them.

So then why are we such a bitchy bunch? I’m no saint when it comes to opinion – I can’t handle bad advertising and my candour when I see it is palpable. But bad advertising is often very clear about how bad it is. Like when two women who obviously travel with their washing machines are seen standing in a kitchen talking about how concerned they are that their husband’s shirts don’t look bright and new. I always travel with my washing machine so that’s not the part I hate. No wait, it is – because that’s just stupid. It sets feminism back a hundred years and has been responsible for more eye rolling than Julius Malema or Marie Straub.


There is so much to consider when making a quick, uninformed quip about an ad on a social media forum: a) Are you the target market? If you are not the target market (believe it, not everything is aimed at you), it was not intended to resonate with you anyway; b) Does it successfully speak to the target market? c) How would you rate the production values? Because there are cheap shit ads, and there are cheaply made but very effective ads. The list is long…

I made the senseless mistake of engaging a silly sally on Twitter recently who evidently has no awareness or skills on the above measurables. She is an editor in chief which means that she must have some common sense, somewhere. But on a scale of one to Lindsay Lohan, it’s quite clear that not everyone who has it, uses it. She hates stereotypes but has become one in the process: a tightly wound, self deified strawberry who hears but does not necessarily listen – let alone think.

They say you can’t put people in boxes. Wrong. You can if you want to – even with creatives. There are those that have to have five different colours in their unwashed hair – simply because they are a creative. There are those that take long, dramatic moments to pause, deep in thought before sprouting their pearl – simply because they are a creative; skinny jeans, aloof and emotionally unavailable – or flowing cotton, open shirts and a self-created quirky lilt – simply because they are all, well, creatives.

You can also put people in boxes as to whether they are, for example, a features writer, a copywriter, a script writer, a blog writer, a vapid content creator, or a twitter update writer. Where your talent resonates is what you live to be proud of. Sure, it’s been said that good work shouldn’t need to be defended, but then does that mean you shouldn’t be passionate about what goes on your porti? If so, be sure then that while you sprout this cliché, your own work is at an infallible level for all the world to see and bask in.

I hear there are shock collars for dogs that need testing. I can think of two people who should sign up.


© Dylan Balkind

The Ex’s Axe

Stumbling upon the information that your ex is spending Q.T. with someone else is as appetising as an anthrax scare from your toilet paper company or getting the new 50 Cent album as a birthday gift. Either one of these will leave you feeling short of breath and a little off colour.

It’s not about timing, because let’s be honest, there’s never going to be a good time. Unless you get there first. If I had got there first I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be losing this valuable time of your life reading it.

Efforts to move-on / compete with / win / find happiness (not necessarily in that order) have proven that this whole ‘new love’ thing is a very dangerous space to traverse. It requires that you commit to a series of… *cough* … “first dates” … which – from personal experience – are an intolerable, exhausting and ridiculous right-of-passage that have the very real potential to scar you for life.

I have proof! Somebody’s else’s personal experience. And just so that you know, this is a real story about a real friend; this isn’t one of those I will pretend it was a friend to save myself the embarrassment. She’d tell you herself if you asked her.

Jolene* finally scored a date with the guy she had been after for as long as Telkom hadn’t answered their phones. The big night arrived, she tried on nineteen outfits and went with the first one, obviously. Their evening was like a soft focus, candlelit montage wherever they went… until he spoke. Their proximity was much closer than it had been on campus and she found out the hard way that he was a ‘spalker’: a spitter and a talker. She went on record to say that the two elements must have been out of sync somehow because, even if he was saying very little or nothing, she was a glistening glob.

As charming as she wished he was, she was more so. Always polite. Ever refined. It wasn’t like Jolene to excuse herself for the ladies and leopard crawl out through some restaurant-kitchen’s back door. She is an endurer – to a fault. So as the evening wound down and he held her hand along the sidewalk, she convinced herself that there were way worse qualities a guy could have, and when he asked her back to his place for coffee, she summoned some sparkle and accepted.

As her luck would have it, his house was actually his parents’ house. This is not a problem. There are all sorts of contributing factors that have respectable adults living with their parents. Ask me. I know. What secured this man’s role as the leading lad of lust was that his parents – who chirped a hearty “hello” when they arrived – were seated at the dinner table in their underwear. Correct. Their underwear. No exaggeration or embellishments here at all.


On a Friday night.

And they’re Jewish.

Fast-forward to Jolene and Don Juan in his room. She wasn’t sure if this geography was better than the underwear convention in the dining room or whether she should feign a burst appendix and call it a night.

She should have.

Despite being near impossible, things got worse. In a small way.

What is it with guys who know you like them and their gumptious grit to get away with anything?

Cut to my point: It’s a terrible sump of peril out there. Because if a perfectly good girl from the right side of the tracks with an incredible mind and all the manners in the world can barely stomach a chance nauseating evening like this one, what hope is there I’ll ever get back on – or even near – any horse to speak of, ever again? There is (almost) nothing polite about me, but I will say this though: I have standards. Despite my own sagas of small penises and overzealous spit, I grew up in a household that taught me to draw the line at nekkid Shabbat.

Maybe after all is said and done – there’s nothing ‘stumbling’ about it?!

Maybe everything is just as it should be.

*Name has sort-of been changed in a half-arsed effort to protect Jolene’s very ex prince charmless. 


© Dylan Balkind

The ROI on friendship

Moral support is a way of giving support to a person or cause, or to one side in a conflict, without making any contribution beyond the emotional or psychological value of the encouragement. ~ Wikipedia.

I’ve started wondering what the measurement tool would be to deem the behaviour from some of your nearest and dearest as ludicrous. It’s important to note the context of the relationship because someone close to Lindsay Lohan for example, wouldn’t find the comings and goings at 4am during a slumber party, odd. That would be the drug dealer delivering more cocaine. Close pals of a Catholic Cardinal wouldn’t find his catalogued collection of Playgirl magazines odd either. That would be the Cardinal’s dedication to infiltrating the dark world of homosexuality so that he may rub off his own intimate perspective among these wayward men.

But another kind of mate? A close chum? Someone you had spent years growing up with? Because you spend a lot of time with someone, you’re bound to form a bond and do your bit to have their back, right? Wrong. I am a terrible judge of character and seem to be having trouble with the lesson on the rarity when it comes to the return on investment (ROI) with people. It’s a constant surprise to me that when I am drunk and make nine new best friends at a bar while buying them shooters all night and nodding politely as they tell me how amazing I am, never translates into a scurry of enthusiastic calls the next day by these new members of my harem.

I am getting better though. The last time I fell for that one was a few months or days ago. All in all, these jokers will never be my real friends. A real friend is someone who doesn’t let you eat sauceless spaghetti or stand within kicking distance of an Ostrich. And when a friend asks for a little moral support, it’s really not the hardest thing to do. I have done it. Kept schtum, shown respect and had a few backs in my time. Has it made me any wiser in choosing members for my own circle of trust? No, clearly. Will it make me any less willing to continue to wear my heart on my sleeve with friends old and new? No. Clearly.

The next time that I hope certain friends will like my life-changing Facebook comment to show their moral support of things I may be going through, I’ll do it in Russian. After all, moral support is about the morals you have and some of the folks I know appear to be guest stars from Moscow, drinking way too much of their own kool aid (read extremist persuasion here). I haven’t fully learnt Russian yet, so until then: идти ебать себя.

Looking back on the how ludicrous this farce has been, I’d have to cede that my morals have been in question too, or maybe my judge of character or even just my eyesight. In my defense, if it looks like a friend and sounds like a friend, it usually is a friend. But is this always the case?




© Dylan Balkind

Lego for my Daddy’s nephew

#The FinnDiaries

I have big dreams. I think about them all the time and ways I can make them come true for me.

When my Dad goes to the shop, I wait by the front door to see what surprise he brings for me. When he opens the door I jump up and pull the packets down to look inside them. Sometimes my life is hard and there is no surprise for me and this doesn’t help my dreams because then I have to make more dreams for the things I didn’t get and put them on the same list as the things I always wanted. But I think I’ve figured out a way to get my dreams myself. I have to have a credit card because I have seen all the things my Dad can get when he says he swiped his credit card so it seems to be easy and the best way to get my dreams.

The things I will buy when I get my credit card:

  • A brick of cheddar cheese
  • A new kitty because the one at my house doesn’t play with me
  • A pair of socks that I can chew because they will be mine
  • A mug with a picture of me on it for my Gogo because she says I am cute
  • A mug with a picture of me on it for my Granddad because he says I am a cool little guy
  • A mug with a picture of me on it for my Daddy because he kisses my face a lot
  • Lego for my Daddy’s nephew because I chewed his. His name is Matthew.
  • A bed for my Daddy because he really likes mine because I know because he is always sleeping in it
  • Courage because when the bad men came to steal stuff at our house I cried and hid away
  • Hot chocolate

When I get my credit card I will have a secret pin but I can’t tell you what it is because I have to keep it a secret.

Finn CC

My name is Finn. Visa Finn.

Stars May Collide

Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever. Some people are meant to take a long walk off a short pier the same day you meet them. If I was an underwater chess champion and some floozy selling fish net stockings came calling, it’s not likely that we’d high five each other and go for strawberry milkshakes together.

It’s hard to find your “likely pair” though, isn’t it? The world is so full of right-nows and maybes and not-reallys. It’s also really full of perfection that’s too far away, the torment of the imagination and the wounded jade of a heart that has been hurt.

There are few souls that want to sail alone because to spend a rainy Sunday on the couch in your cotton pyjamas watching romantic comedies, picnic in the park or throw smarties into a mouth – you generally need an other. Isn’t it funny then that all the things that annoyed you about being in a relationship are the very things you miss when it is gone? No? Me neither. A heart of stone here too.

We are all the same. We all need a connection. I just did the unthinkable and marched down into another open-plan office and boldly stated that I needed a hug (momentary lapse in heart-of-stone’s function, obviously). We all need to be needed and that doesn’t necessarily make us needy. It makes us honourable. It makes us dignified. It makes us feel.

They say you are lucky to find someone to spend your time, money, holidays, cellphone bill, frustrations, patience, petrol, bonus, kindness and love on. They are right. They also say that if you love something, set it free. That’s the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard. It’s even worse than that whole having your cake and eating it too madness. I cannot remember the last time I bought a cake, but I can assure that if I am going to buy a cake, I plan on eating it. And I plan to find somebody to love that I don’t have to set free but that I can need, be honoured by and feel for.

© Dylan Balkind

The labyrinth of perspective

In my fourth year of reading Dramatic Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, I took a Poetry in Performance course. So, twelve years ago I wrote and performed this ‘story’. So much of it has changed and some things are still exactly the same. This is not a bad thing. It’s breathtaking and interesting, but it’s not a bad thing.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 9.33.26 AM

© Dylan Balkind

89 Random Acts of Kindness

Two NFL players have ‘come out’ in support of the LGBT community. This doesn’t mean they’re learning the lyrics to I Will Survive nor that they’ve submitted their applications to drive the Pope’s little bulletproof Cinderella cart. It just means that they respect the humanity in you and I because each respects the humanity in himself.

Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe were born and raised in homes with parents who taught them to think for themselves, treat everybody fairly and defend their opinions with gusto. It’s a bitter-sweet celebration because this shouldn’t really make headline news – it shouldn’t have to. But until we live in some sort of tolerant Utopia, we will always need stories like this to protect the bashed and defend the brave.

To prove his unwavering support for equality, Brendon donated a pair of tickets to a gay marriage fundraiser, which made a fourth term Maryland Politician go all Mel Gibson on his efforts. The oh so honourable Emmet Burns sent a letter to Brendon’s team manager demanding that he “…take the necessary action … to inhibit such expressions from your employee,” before ending off his love letter by adding: “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.”

I know of no other person that thinks fishing is sexy but that doesn’t mean this glorious pastime doesn’t exist. Ergo, this unwitting Emmet is the same guy who got into a fight with a tow truck driver in 1999. Now I’m not down with the sub culture of tow truck drivers in the US, but let’s just say that here in South Africa, anyone who picks a fight with a tow truck driver is just stupid. So is anyone who names their child Emmet. So, perhaps it’s not all his fault that he grew up to be a complete boil.

But fret not for Emmet. I think I’ve found him someone to hold hands with on the straights-only playground. This talented tulip posed stoically in the lush forest of loserville, dressed in her hardcore K-mart tee and delivered her best Eminem impression.

She and “author” E.L. James should hang out together and fall into an open manhole. They’re as progressive as our very own fearless leader, the turtle, who said this week that we “…should not lose faith in our own humanity and collective ability to correct the wrongs we see in our country.” I think he’s onto something there. The murder, rape and hijacking statistics sure prove it.

So with cupcakes like these, it’s an absolute pleasure to hear good news stories about people committed to doing and being good examples. Samantha Manns is an 18 year old Ohio teen who since the passing of her 89 year old grandmother, is committed to honouring her memory by performing 89 Random Acts of Kindness. Her first was to pay the bill for the car behind hers in a drive through.

They cried.

Times are hard.

Who knows what their story is or what happened in their day before they got into that queue for food.

We need more random acts of kindness, South Africa. Could you think about yours – maybe even doing just one a week? It makes what Emmet and that poetic poepol fill their days with look like an absolute waste of time to me.


© Dylan Balkind