What had hitherto been a great night suddenly jarred to a shuddering and embarrassing halt on account of … a bottle of beer. The ins and outs of the bottle of beer are not relevant. What is is that I got so angry over something that should have been a two second discussion, ending in a “no.”
When I woke up this morning, I was still livid about the incident. I was embarrassed, yes, that I had lost it like that on account of a beer, but I was still seething about something else that I couldn’t quite figure out. Before I proceed any further, I want to say that I am sorry that I got so mad where I did [in a crowded bar] no doubt mortifying those around, but that I am not sorry I got angry. The reason I am not sorry that I got so angry is that it finally focused my mind as to why I was so angry.
The entire day today, I have thought about nothing else but the lead-up to the incident last night. Given the focus I have managed to give it, I have finally been able to figure out why I have in the past sneered at relationships that cross the generation divide.
You see, possums, I have finally understood, almost at 47, that I don’t want to, cannot, date anyone I don’t respect. I can find it in me to be nice and sociable with people I don’t respect, but I don’t really want to be their ‘hang-out’ buddy let alone their lover. And truth be told, I don’t know of many under-25 Ugandans that have yet got the qualities (an educated mind, fierce independence, pride in whatever they are/do, self-respect, treating others the way one would like to be treated, personal/professional integrity, worldly outlook and/or exposure) that would make me respect them. Those qualities come with time. I shall stand to be corrected but I think I am absolutely right on this one.
Disclaimer: 25 is an arbitrary number plucked from the air to establish a benchmark. Much of what is to follow may relate to many people older than that. But a benchmark is necessary to have some sort of apex to work with and so 25 it is.
Young men in their early 20s are, to me, wonderful to be around for 10 minutes and then you send them home for their bed time stories or back to their studies to do prep. Spending time around men that young is a chore that I have realized is simply too reminiscent of what I was like at that age – not knowing much even if I thought I did, and definitely not able to contribute in any meaningful way to any conversations that veered away from my limited exposure at the time. I want to be around men of that age in a skills/career/personal development environment (yes, I have some Life Skills training from my past) where they talk and I make sure I say as little as possible since the session is really about them.
I once told this person I berated last night that I don’t want to spend time with anyone who sees me as a sort of cash cow, or omnipotent benefactor with limitless resources. But I now must admit that I have not been terribly good at enforcing my own rule. No, I have not been sleeping with young men under 25 and do not plan to do so. But I have been giving them conflicting signals given my avowed wish not to hang out too much with them. No wonder then that I kept on getting more and more angry without realizing why. I had broken my own rule and the resultant irritation whenever I felt taken advantage of by people who are the same age as my adopted son kept on eating away at me until, last night, I finally exploded, unfairly as it turned out, on the young man I ripped to shreds.
Oh, it was ugly and, I think, quite scary for those around. But I now accept that it was necessary in order for me to focus again on what I want.
Yes, age is just a number – when you are talking about a very, very unique type of young man; a very rare specimen to find in a place like Uganda where, thanks to children being raised by television, plus the rampant corruption in the country, the loss of personal and professional integrity has seeped into every facet of life and dishonesty is now the norm rather than the exception. All these young men have essentially been brought up to think that they are entitled to anything they want, and that life is about them. If it makes sense to them, it is the right thing to do. So, they have no qualms about coming out to a bar, sometimes with their friends in tow, and asking you for drinks as though you invited them out, and then they take umbrage when you don’t move to buy the drinks immediately.
I was raised to the standard that begging is demeaning and I don’t know any people of my generation who begged or beg the way these boys brazenly do. If you didn’t have money, and no one invited you out, you stayed home like a good boy and read your books, stared at the ceiling or jerked yourself off till your wrist went numb.
We certainly liked free drinks but we made sure they were negotiated beforehand with whoever was going to buy them so that when you walked into a watering hole the rules were already clear. True, we also went to parties with limited money and then resorted to pilfering drinks off other guests’ tables while they were distracted. Young people do that and, the scurrilousness of stealing drinks notwithstanding, I have more respect for that kind of creativity than for someone standing there, doe-eyed, with people he didn’t come with and barely knows, waiting to be bought drinks and then he has the temerity to ask for transport money home. The first one is really theft, but the second scenario is, to me, worse because it is irritating, craven, embarrassing, whiny, writhing, Uriah-Heep-like sliminess. It is ill-bred conduct camouflaged as street savvy that guilts people into doing things they don’t want to do in order to be agreeable. Steal my drink off my table while I am looking the other way any time. I will be irritated, yes, but will likely get over it in two minutes because I will learn my lesson and, if I ever come back to the sort of place where that kind of petty theft happens, will be more mindful to keep an eye on my drink.
So, I have again reached the conclusion that I reached many years ago and then somehow have been ignoring to the detriment of my temperament and, I am sure, the extreme discomfort of those around me:
1. Hanging around young men under the age of 25 should be limited merely to niceties as much as possible
2. Dating them must continue to be a no-no
3. While there is nothing wrong with buying them drinks, they must be made aware that I offer the drinks – they cannot, must not, should not ask me for them. If I don’t offer, they are free to go find someone else to siphon
4. I must continue to respect the older guys who find the under-25s alluring because each to their own. But that also means that I must be clear about my expectations from the young men that hang with my older friends should there be any whiff of a sexual or dating interest