‘Wow, you still live with your mom?’
I’ve heard this flippant statement far too many times.
There’s nothing quite like flat hunting in the Mother City. Trying to bypass racist landlords, finding more than a small hovel to stay in and gentrification creeps around every other corner. My mother and I moved once again this year, from Sea Point to Woodstock, amidst all the hungry property developers.
This trek was a big one because I finally have my own space. Let me take you back to 2013. I lived in a huge four bedroom house owned by my grandmother. But there was no hope of me getting a job within my field of choice in my hometown. And what else can a young graduate do with a piece of paper and no career prospects?
So I finally made the move to Cape Town and that came with other problems. Enter an identity fraud case, my poorly paying internship and my mom was struggling to get a flat for us to stay in. I couldn’t afford to live on my own. Going back wasn’t an option. Not knowing where you’re staying from month to month takes a toll on you. We talk about homelessness as if it’s so easy to understand. The sheer uncertainty of it all leaves you in survival mode. I couldn’t think of my far off future because every other day was about trying to make it. I dropped to 45kg.
When we did find a place (via a mutual friend) it was a studio apartment in Sea Point. Open plan and big enough to house our two beds but with very little privacy for us both. But it was a home I didn’t have to leave after one month yet again.
‘Why don’t you just move out?‘
My mother’s ex-partner happened. The abuse escalated. He got physical with my mom, threatened me and showed up at our house at odd hours. Broken Black Label bottles at our doorstep. Going cold whenever I heard someone at the front door.
I could now afford to flatshare with others, but my mom wasn’t safe. Neither was I.
Despite all this trauma, in the grand scheme of things, my mom and I are still quite privileged. We could afford to pay for shitty hostels and hotel rooms. We lived in ‘decent’ areas and we were never without. But in the midst of those stormy times, I’d often hear peers complain about relatively First World Problems and think ‘wow I just want a roof over my head and my own room to decorate.’ Shelter is a basic need, after all.
So now I start 2017 in a brand new space. We’re safe. My career is lit. My support system overwhelming. My mom is happy and even when she annoys me, we’ve only ever had each other.
I’m Alyx. I choose to live with my mom. I’m turning 26 and after two (and a bit) years I finally have my own room. And I’ll never forget what a privilege it is, again.