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What the youngsters have taught me

By Ruth Lubembe | Published Sun, August 26th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 25th 2018 at 23:08 GMT +3

My dad used to say he would live long because he laughed a lot, and the reason he laughed a lot was because he spent quite some time among young people because he was interested in seeing the world from their perspective.

Even into his 70s, he played football with his grand kids on the grass outside his house – although they tried their best, they could never get the ball away from him or past him. He also played tennis against them – and beat them. And he loved cracking jokes with all of us, his favourite being ‘Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight (ate) nine.’

I found his enjoyment of young company fascinating considering most of his generation believed that children were to be seen and not heard. In those days, children almost had to raise their hand and hope to be noticed before they could ask the simplest question. Stuff was done for and to them whether they liked it or not. They wore the clothes and shoes that were bought in their absence and loved them regardless of personal taste.

Hair was either cut or plaited in one prescribed style and in school they did the subjects they were told to do. That’s just the way things were then and we went along because that was all we knew. But Dad was somehow able to break these barriers and have an equally engaging time with a 20-year-old or with his age mate.

I think I must have taken after him because I really enjoy hanging out with younger people. I could happily spend an afternoon in their company just listening to them talk, watching them interact and trying to figure out whatmakes them tick. Their experiences are vastly different from mine when I was their age, especially because of their easy access to technology and the internet.

When I tell them about standing outside a Kenya Posts and Tele-Communications phone booth waiting to make or receive that one important call, or about tapping the landline at home because Mum had locked it to tame the phone bills, they think I’m talking about stuff from the dinosaur age.

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You are ‘lit’

Because I am not a trend follower, hanging out with youngsters has broadened my scope of knowledge in many areas – lingo, fashion, make up, music and dancing… For instance, through hanging out with our young ones and their friends, I know words like ‘lit’ (though I’ve never tried to use it in a sentence).

‘Tuning’ a girl

I enjoy watching them laugh to the point of tears and clutching their ribs when I tell them that in my day, ‘tuning’ was what a guy did to get a girl interested in going out with him. And that we went out for the ‘heng’, not the ‘rave’ or ‘clubbing’.

From the girls I’ve learnt that make-up is VSB (very serious business) – so much so that they’ve had to induct me in stuff like matte versus glossy; primer vs powder; ombre vs regular – all part of #facebeat.

 Odi dance

It is through them that I know the dab, nae nae, whip and, of course, Naija-inspired moves such as shoki and odi. But just because I know them does not mean I am allowed to do them. In fact, I am under express instructions to NEVER attempt them anywhere – not even in the privacy of our home. By the way I thought #inmyfeelingschallenge was totally ridiculous. Or am I just old?

Dreadlocks rave

Some years ago, the hubby and I had to swallow our old school ways and accept that dreadlocks were coming to a place near us. Our older girl put up such a spirited, unrelenting campaign to be allowed to grow them that we had to re-examine the instinctive ‘no’ we gave her when she first ‘applied’, and eventually gave in.

In exchange for their colourful perspectives, I give the youngsters I come across advice on life, friendship, work, relationships and anything else that pops up. While I cannot pretend to have all the answers, I can share vastly from my own experiences. After all, I havebeen where they are now, but they have never been where I am. I think that counts for something?

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