I had a photograph taken at the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. Being one who loves selfies, I decided to post it online on Facebook.
After getting the usual “You look good,” “You have not changed a bit,” and “Kugug’othandayo,” comments, one brutally honest troll blatantly posted, “Usugugile!” (You are old).
I have to be honest, I was mortified, yet it’s true. I held my rage back and sarcastically hit back by responding, “Sonke!” That shut him up for good.
But don’t get fooled. You won’t be if you have an idea of how old I really am. Let me give you some context. When I was a boy, the Dead Sea in the Middle East was only sick. Okay, I stole the joke from someplace, so what?
I found myself at the supermarket queue the other day. A very pretty young lady behind me tapped my shoulder and pointed to the “Senior Citizens” till point. Here I was, thinking I am the hottest thing since toasted bread. But I was enthralled by her level of pity for this grey-haired fossil in front of her.
Later, I found myself counting the number of years and grey hairs and I could not finish! No, I can count, dom-wit! But I am now at a stage where simple things like bending down to tie my shoelaces require a lot of motivation. And I often lose my temper too often.
But earning the honour to jump supermarket and bank queues isn’t the kind of thing that inspires confidence. My late mother once said it was a blessing to reach such a “ripe old age.” I now understand what “ripe” meant. Add “and wrinkled” to that!
I now know I am old by the cost of candles that exceed that of the birthday cake. I am now horrified at celebrating my birthday. I may not have enough breath to blow all those candles out.
Colleagues who are over the hill will agree that we refer to everything in the past tense. Mostly, when you begin a conversation with, “When I was your age…”
Do you remember when you were the life of the party? Dancing until the small hours of the night without breaking a sweat? A friend and I decided to go out to a nightspot “to let our hair down.” Don’t laugh at the pun because it is intended. The first thing that struck me was how loud the music was. At my age, one becomes sensitive about everything, including light.
The strobe lights cause all sorts of problems. Least of them is identifying what colour they are. It becomes a task to use my reading glasses, let alone find them. It’s like looking straight into God’s flashlight.
At my age, eyesight begins to go south, or it just goes. If you find yourself having more than one set of glasses, then know you know!
The wicked thing about a nightclub is that you cannot “instruct” them to turn down the volume, nor switch off the lights. In fact, you also discover that the owners, the DJ, waiters and barmen combined are young enough to be zygotes, or worse. And you are the crazy one.
The best they can do is to shunt you to the non-smoking section, creatively labelled the “VIP Section”. This is where you find all the pot-bellied animals! The only thing making them attractive is the size of their wallets. You don’t understand the music that is being played. No matter how hard you try. Dancing to it is a chore. You need an ambulance on stand-by. Attempting to keep your eyelids open is another challenge. If you last two hours awake, please call me and share your secret.
Besides going to the nightclub, there are other areas that have since become no-go areas for geriatrics like me. The gym being chief among them. I should admit that I have never been a gym person. So much huffing and puffing (literally that is) just to gain a few centimetres of muscle.
I have always found going to the gym something of an ego trip. An act of denial that the body is shutting down. No matter what those six-packed dudes tell you on TV. All that lifting of weights, running on the treadmill, push-ups and other ridiculous acts just to impress those chicks in tights is, sorry to say, suicidal.
My doctor (and they are many) advised me there was no need for heroism at this age. A brisk walk around the coffee table would be enough. Then he bought me another round of beer. I always feel better when my doctor says something is normal for my age. At this point, the doctor is your friend, any doctor. In case you collapse and he comes in handy. He still needs your money and you are no good to him dead.
Social soccer was another exercise in futility. There was a time when it was the best form of exercise, a kick about with the boys at Amavevane social. An excellent excuse to guzzle “several” afterwards. But I quit some 20 years ago and yet the oMathonsi labo Sikhosana are still hard at it. I admire their resolve.
I agree with the late Woody Allen who once said, it’s not that we are afraid to die, we just don’t want to be there when it happens. There many other things about hitting the other half of the roaring 50s. Such as the number of times you wake up to go to the loo at night, or forgetting what you have just said.
I now have a tough time remembering people’s names, or where I last put the car keys. Finding the car in the supermarket car park feels like Liverpool beating Barcelona. It’s always a sweet victory for me.
Don’t ever lie to me by saying I am ageing “gracefully.” It’s like a nice way of saying I have never looked worse off. The most painful part is when you spot that first grey hair . . . on your kid. So one learns to live each day as if were your last. Life begins, not ends at 50.