You must know when to grow up
By - Jan 1st 1970
Sometimes, the fact of your age is a quiet companion; a box in the backseat of your car, just there. You’re only aware of it when you happen to glance back, and then you go, “Oh, I almost forgot about you.” Or it is a frown line on your mother’s face that became a wrinkle overnight. Or maybe a chance encounter with an old man who was a young man just the other day when he was teaching you BODMAS.
Sometimes, though, the reality of your age is a conversation with a spindly youth who casually reminisces about how H_art the Band’s magnum opus Uliza Kiatu was a highlight of his high school days. High school?! You’re too stunned to even react, so you quietly pull your phone out to Google when those boys landed on the entertainment scene, and Google laughs and tells you “Yes, Grandpa, you’re that old.”
Most people remember the exact moment this realization hit them. For some, it was a gentle tap by Father Time on the shoulder. Like an M-Pesa agent seeing your laminated ID Card and whistling softly. For others, it is a shower of bricks falling from a great height. Like a toddler asking you if you were part of the Mau Mau rebellion.
Still, few things will shake you up faster than going out and ending up in the company of small boys. The first warning sign is actually that you went out too early. These youngins pregame before the pregame. They start liquoring up in their studio apartments in Roysambu, then in the car while they decide where to start their debauchery.
The earliest they will roll into that club will be midnight. You, on the other hand, came straight after a grueling day of passive-aggressive emails and office politics, so by 9 p.m. your eyes are heavier than Professor Kiraitu’s accent. By 2 a.m., which is the point when the kids have now switched to cheap alcohol and are throwing limbs on the dancefloor, your whole body is shutting down like a Dell laptop ridden with viruses.
The music also goes right over your head. You don’t want to admit that it’s a bit too loud for you, so you settle on shaking your head at the peculiar choices the DJ is making. The loudest cheer came when he played an Amapiano song which sounded exactly like the 15 he had played before that one. And you just don’t get it. What happened to Papa Jones? Nyash? You would even take Willy Paul at that point.
And then the kids leave, and you almost sigh in relief, but then you overhear that they are going to the second club out of the six they plan to tour that night. Even Baba could never fit in that many locations in one day of campaigning, surely.
You would much rather drink quietly in your own house, you realize. You can play Rhumba Japani and pass out on your couch by 11 p.m. You can wrangle your hangover and get into a good argument with your spouse by 6 a.m. the next morning before getting back to those emails. You know, like an adult.
However it happens, sooner or later, we fall out of the basket our parents and society have kept us in for years. The world stops telling us we are the future and starts asking us to make a better one for our children. We blink, and ‘vijana’ no longer refers to us. Unless, of course, it is an election year.
It is inevitable. At some point, you are going to realize the world is no longer meant for you. It is tempting to rage against the dying of the light. It is easy to turn into the old man yelling at the clouds. To frown at everything and snap at everyone. But I assure you, it’s not a good look.
Nobody wants to deal with the mzee leering at small girls in the club. No one wants to look at aging legs squeezed into skinny jeans and tight muscle shirts. And few people want to find themselves in a conversation with a ‘Back in my day’ peddler. You are right, Tik Tok is a wasteland. Maybe keep that to yourself, though.
Let the kids have their fun.
There is another world out there, that’s the silver lining. A world of distinguished older gentlemen, and that membership is also worth its weight in gold.