Tayi Tibble, Diary of a (L)it Girl or,
Frankenstein’s Ghost Pig

When I was in Year 9, I had my first taste of irrelevant stardom by
way of making the 1st XI Soccer team—a rarity for freshmen. This
achievement resulted in attention: proud kiwi slaps on the back
but also some kiwi side-eye, but both made me determined to work
hard, play hard. However, I spent approximately 3/4 of every game
benched, and it was decided that I should go play for the 2nd XI
team, so I could have a go on the field.

My reputation as a glorified waterboy preceded me, and I was
welcomed into the 2nd XI team like a star. I got my pick of positions
and everyone always passed me the ball. The problem was that
everyone always passed me the ball. The more the ball was passed
to me the more aware I became of the pressure. People, whether it
was warranted or not, were counting on me.

This all came to a head during a specific match against, idk, Chilton
Saint James School. I captured the ball in the midfield, stepped out
player and passed the ball. The ball was passed back, and I got past
another player and passed the ball. Once again the ball came back,
and I made it past another two players and all my teammates were,
like, wtf!!!! but in a good way and passed me the ball.

Having never experienced an exercise-related endorphin in my
life, this was why I even bothered to play a sport. I did it for the
camaraderie, the energy; all of our ur hopes, dreams, victories and
regrets thick and electric in the air, like 5G. In that moment, an
ancient compulsion moved me. It told me to do the mahi. I thought,
āe. If the ball was passed to me, then the ball was mine. I decided I
to go the last stretch, take it up to the box and get that goal. I bossed
up, dribbled a few paces, then immediately lost it. Some stocky
blonde sweeper with Dutch braids captured it and sent it right back
to our defense with a single mighty horse kick. The entire team let
out a unanimous, heartbreaking groan. My coach called me a ball
hog, and pulled me off the field.

And ever since that match I have been haunted by a sphinx-like
creature with a translucent hog body with a soccer ball head. It
appears at random times, to boo at me. Once, a sexy Spanish man
asked me to dance with him and because I was a redacted amount of
margaritas in I did, but it wasn’t very far into grinding to ‘Gasolina’
when he hissed at me to let him lead and dropped his hands from
my waist in frustration. The thought Ball Hog slapped me off the

I was so terrified that I went home and visited a wise tohunga
(my mum) hoping they might dip my head into a water trough, or
give me some greens to sage my home. Instead they decided that
I needed to confront a specific childhood trauma: my sister’s first

It’s late summer, 2001. February 20th, to be exact. Shavaughn
Ruakere is on What Now and my mother’s ringtone is a bells and
whistle version of ‘Angel’ by Shaggy. Nana is in the kitchen whipping
cream for the cake and Aniqueja is sat on Grandad’s lap, all rosy
and adorable. Grandad is reading Aniqueja her new picture book,
something about a duckling who wants to go rollerskating with some
frogs, one of her many, many 1st birthday presents. It looks like a
warm and wholesome scene, but there is a dark force in the room.
The dark force is me.

Like most traumas I have repressed it and don’t remember much,
but apparently I am so disturbed by jealousy, and also quite sure of my
own stardom, that I am compelled to start hopping, and I mean like,
literally and lamely hopping on one leg, demanding that Grandad
stop playing with Aniqueja and ‘look at what I can do’ instead. Mum
says that this was the first time she was properly embarrassed that
I was her child and it certainly wasn’t the last time.

I hate this story and I hate myself in this story and every time it
surfaces, which it does quite often, I wish Mum had slapped me and
furthermore I wish I could’ve been there to slap myself. At home,
if I accidentally talk over someone—which is very easy to do when
you’re one of seven big-lipped bitches—at least two sisters will roll
their eyes and say ‘look what I can do’ out of the corners of their
mouths. It’s a cheap move, like button bashing the controller while
playing Tekken, because instantaneously, without getting a kick in,
I am dishonoured and defeated.

TLDR: Basically, if I was MK Ultra’d by the Illuminati as I one day
hope to be, ‘Ball Hog’ or ‘Look what I can I do’ would be the safe word/
down phrase my handlers would use if they ever needed to brainwash
me back into submission.

I’ve been thinking about what I can do which is apparently hogging
the ball because I was at a book awards recently eating fry bread
and caviar like the bougie native that I am when a friendly face
materialised and asked me what it was like to be living the dream.
I accidentally sucked a fish egg down my windpipe. I was highkey
wrecked from being too tu meke at the Jess B gig the night before.
I was also on my shy buzz and wylin’ in front of Carol Hirschfeld
and Stacey Morrison, the OG Bougie natives. I assumed they must
be referring to the food, because if the dream is a world in which
Māori and Pākehā can engage in mutually beneficial and reparative
relationships that enhance the world, then yes, without a doubt,
fry bread topped in caviar and cream is the height of that dream,
but when I said, ‘Mmmm mean oi,’ they said, ‘How was Europe?’
and ‘Gee your book seems to be doing so well.’ Essentially they were
giving me the Kris Jenner, You’re doing amazing sweetie.

So like the good Māori girl that I am I immediately felt shameful.
If I had less melanin in my skin, my cheek would have reddened. Out
of the corner of my eye I could see Frankenstein’s ghost pig booing
ball hog, ball hog, ball hog at me. I covered my mouth politely and
exaggerated my chewing. I was buying time as I mentally sifted
through the details of my recent trip: the Edinburgh Book Festival,
the VUW Alumni reading in London, fun in Paris with Annaleese.
More importantly, I thought about the photographic evidence of the
trip; me laughing while straddling a cannon, me looking sunkissed
while strolling the Thames, me actin’ Parisian while in Paris. Then,
for good measure, I thought about some of the un-instagrammable
actualities of the trip like the food poisoning I gave myself cooking
dead animal with salmonella tongs or the late-night drinks where
I was encouraged to talk to international agents who barely
acknowledged my existence, which may or may not be related to
the fact that one of them also thought that Māori were extinct. I
thought about all these things until finally, the big payoff for all that
chewing, sifting, thinking and stalling, I swallowed and said, ‘Yeah
it was cool.’ I heard a cricket and thought, weird time of year.

I watched that friendly face droop with disappointment. I might
have seen their lip curl. They offered a polite smile, but a specific
kind of polite smile that you only really give to someone you think
is a real dick. I felt as though I had confirmed something for them
which also confirmed it for me: the dream was wasted on me. I felt
like a hog who shouldn’t have been passed the ball. They peeled off
and made their way towards the kiwifruit juice.

This is not the first time I have been asked this question or
something similar and it’s definitely not the first time I have had
the same limp reaction. Weird flex but it’s sort of like when I get
referred to as a star or a literary it girl. I think, that’s hot, because I
love Paris Hilton and vanity is a dark-sided Libra trait, but the thrill
is also accompanied with a specific kind of awkwardness. It is an
awkwardness that stems from our national allergy to tall poppies
and the noxious fumes we all inhale from living in the land of the
long white colonial shame; the shame of recognition, the shame
of wanting to be recognised. Which is why every trip, literary
festival, panel, reading, editorial position, hint of quasi fame that
I get the slightest whiff of amongst the same ten people who attend
book launches in this country, is both thrilling and terrifying; like
I’m back on that soccer field. Even when I’m preparing a pic for
Instagram, I mind find myself scoffing ‘look what I can do’ like a
self-flagellating disciple. I think these things, fret, hesitate, wait for
my coach to yell at me, but then, almost always, I upload it anyway.

TLDR: Despite not always feeling like that bitch she continues to be
that bitch.

I was having a coconut gelato cocktail and a mini debrief with my
e hoa Nicole recently, following the Te Hā National Māori Writers
Hui. She was filling me in about a session I missed in which Patricia
Grace, in conversation with Renée, mentioned that even with her
most revered and popular works, like Pōtiki, she felt as though she
had fluked it. My reaction to this was weirdly defensive. I thought
impossible and ridiculous. But then I started thinking about
imposter syndrome, how I’ve experienced it, and how it is almost
impossible not to feel like an imposter when you’re the only nonwhite
voice in a journal, or brown face in a room. Or maybe, there
is another brown face at the reading, but it’s the bro serving the
drinks and you make eye contact and the overwhelming feeling of
stink makes your voice crack while you read your poem which you
now recognise as having an ironic tone. You don’t know how you
didn’t notice it before. I know because E! True Hollywood stories, it
happened to me.

Sometimes the most powerful revelations are the most obvious
ones. It’s a cool feeling, being so braindead that the smallest eureka
is like being defibrillated back to life. I was fully shook as I thought
about how weird vibes it would be, to not only be one of the few
brown faces in a room, but the actual first brown face to pull up.
Ever. In history. It occurred to me then that there was no Patricia
Grace for Patricia Grace to look up to. Patricia didn’t get to grow
up self-identifying as one of the sleeping cousins while reading The
Kuia and The Spider or writing essays on ‘The Geranium’ at high
school. But I did and I am so lucky that I did. If I was in that position,
writing into the dark/white world, the first published wahine writer,
ever, I can easily imagine that the whakamā and imposter syndrome
probably would have paralysed me.

I worry about whakamā and imposter syndrome paralysing our
people, making them too afraid or inhibited to really live their
best lives or at least the best lives they can under the hellskies of
capitalism and party politics. I’m all about the people, and I’m all
about the best lives.

At the end of 2018 I was named one of New Zealand’s most
fabulous people by Viva magazine and I can’t front, I was Beyoncé x
Nicki Minaj feelin’ myself, because I don’t serve these outfits like I’m
working in a diner for nothing, and also because Kanoa Lloyd and
Rose Matafeo gave me the follow back, OG bougie natives. However,
in the write-up it said ‘she doesn’t indulge in fake modesty’. They
asked me why I was so confident. I was like, sounds fake but okay,
but what came out of my mouth was ‘my mother’.

I told the magazine that she ‘grounds me’ and ‘helps me keep my
big head on my shoulders’ and ‘looking in the right direction’. It’s
true, she does, mostly by way of mocking me with tales of tantrums
past, but she also encourages me to ‘do the mahi’ so that her own
mahi pays off.

I think about all the things that my mother and foremothers have
done for me, but I also think about all the things they couldn’t do. I
think about their lives, the stories they have told me. I think about
the ways they have had to internalise their experiences of inequality
and assimilate, in order to get on with minimal harassment, in
order to avoid bringing attention to themselves. I think about how
my mother and my Nana have never left the country. Maybe they
never cared to. For a long time I didn’t care to, but it also didn’t seem
like a possibility. It always seemed like a privilege that for whatever
colonial reasons I never entertained. But now that I have been, I
wonder if they ever wanted to. I feel guilty and afraid to ask.


I was sick in London, and spent the majority of that time killing
the vibe. However, on the day before we were to leave for Paris, I
felt a little better and caught the train to meet Annaleese at the
Tate Modern. I sat outside on the grass, waiting for her to arrive
and felt deliriously happy. The sun was out and I could stomach
fluids—simple yet underrated pleasures. Afterwards, we walked
along the river and I asked Annaleese to take a photo of me and
like a good bitch she took a lot. There is one photo in particular, a
b-side where I am looking off to the side, all natural and candid and
unposed and upon seeing it, I didn’t recognise myself at all. I saw my
Nana. Another very obvious yet powerful revelation struck me and
in that moment I was almost moved to tears, overwhelmed by the
realisation that I am my ancestors and my ancestors are me. And
despite a history of colonisation, alienation, annihilation, here they
were, facing up to this notorious city, alive, Māori as, and smiling
in a photo. And, even if only for a moment, I felt properly proud of
myself in my entirety, all my work, history, whakapapa, I looked
around just in case, but the ghost hog was nowhere to be found.

TLDR this entire essay: I feel some kind of way about being the
editor of this edition of Sport due to multiple childhood and colonial
traumas, a lack of Maori representation in literature and the
publishing industry generally, a culture of shame and shaming that
makes people struggle with feeling deserving plus the desire to be
a good humble girl that is sometimes feels in conflict with, but not
necessarily exclusive to my badgal Rihanna vibes. But also yolo, I
have aroha in my heart and I’m really out here riding for our writers
and our stories and our kulture with tears in my eyes like a biker
with a poetic heart in a Lana Del Rey Music plus 4 kaupapa, and my
campaign to #makenewzealandswagagain, more balls 4 everyone
to hog I reckon, and I love our edition of Sport.

I’m proud to present to you this edition of Sport. I hope you find
that this edition is particularly gang, hot and flossy. Thank you to
everyone who has trusted me with their mahi; your words are the
only vibe check I need. In this issue, I made no concerted effort to
make sure a ‘wide range of diverse voices were represented’ in this
issue so in this issue you will find a ‘wide range of diverse voices
represented in this issue’. I am deeply honoured and highly hyped to
include words from literary kaumātua like Patricia Grace, as well as
words from fresh af writers who, in Sport 47, will be making their
iconic sporting debut. And actually, in true ball hog fashion, it’s my
Sport debut too.