The real lives of educated, motivated women

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the lives of women and their dating experiences. Picture: Pixabay

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the lives of women and their dating experiences. Picture: Pixabay

Published Dec 1, 2022


The Soft Life: Love, Choice and Modern Dating

Lebohang Masango


Reviewer: Hazel Makuzeni

Let me come clean. At first glance, the title of this book and the picture that accompanies the cover conjured opulence and frivolous living in my psyche. I was therefore surprised to read the back cover and discover that it is non-fictional. The book is by feminist thinker and anthropologist Lebohang Masango, and features the real, lived experiences of five motivated and educated women.

The author earned her Master of Arts degree from the University of Witwatersrand in 2019 after submitting the qualitative research thesis that this book is based upon. To quote her: “This book is about five different women and what their truths, stories and insights can reveal to us about love, choice and modern dating in South Africa and how exactly these aspects contribute to ‘the soft life’ moment that we find ourselves in…” So dear readers, as the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.

The book focuses on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of these women, their dating experiences, the influence of social media, the women’s vulnerabilities and their political beliefs.

Lihle is a 31-year-old entrepreneur from Alex, Joburg. She is the life of the party with her make-up always done. Her relationships have been characterised by men loaded with cash – a man seeking love has to be content with being the one to spend on her. The Covid-19 restrictions created turmoil in her love life.

Jolie is a career-focused 29-year-old-old living between Joburg and Tshwane. She’s also engrossed in establishing herself as a singer. Her Senegalese upbringing has instilled in her that boyfriends and husbands are the providers of the home. She expects men to take the financial lead in relationships. Three months into the pandemic, she ended her relationship of five years.

Nomonde is a 33-year-old devoted traveller with many years in the advertising industry. She left her career because she was unfulfilled and blissfully departed from Joburg for Cape Town. During Covid-19 she had online relationships. Her pressing concern is that young women are impressionable and unable to correctly weigh the consequences of pursuing soft lives at all costs. Now armed with adulthood, she hopes that in her current relationship, material things will manifest later.

Warm and lovely Bongi is a 27-year-old entrepreneur and a Joburg resident. She has recently earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and established an online handbag store. She once enjoyed having multiple partners but is now in a steady relationship with one man.

Friendly Camilla is a 28-year-old junior publicist with a three-year-old son. She associates having a soft life with not having to spend her own money. She has no qualms about a man spending money on her. She tells the author that she’s in pursuit of a life where she can have nice life problems. She once met a man at a restaurant who asked for her number. She gave it to him. The next thing, the man sent her R3 000 and never spoke to her again. Talk about being #blessed!

The women in this book identify themselves as feminists and share some of the ways this takes shape in their lives. The book gives valuable insights and the motivations of the young women who want a "soft life". Women who defy society’s expectations of respectability and are often vilified, ridiculed and accused of being prostitutes on and off line. If we are to be honest, since time immemorial, women have been using dating and marriage as channels to a better life. As the author says: “Soft life is simply an articulation of aspirations inherent to all human beings. It is just actualised differently according to our personal circumstances.”

What I notice about women living the soft life - the slay queens and blessees - is that one has to be immaculate to be desirable. The women are always perfectly made up and well-groomed. The nails are well-manicured, the hair is flawless and the clothes are outrageously expensive. And, let me not forget, the dolls’ eyelashes. Those astonishing eyelash extensions. With a great sigh, I’m afraid this leisure and lavish lifestyle is out of my radar. Instead of upgrading my looks and femininity, I’m constantly on a spiralling downgrading mode. There’s always the Lotto though…I also want a life free of hardship damn it!