Uncle on the dance floor

2014-07-06 15:00

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Trending columnist Malibongwe Tyilo turns 35 and wonders who moved his fountain of youth

It was a couple of months after my birthday. I was at the mall. Canal Walk in Cape Town to be exact. A dear friend had bought me one of those vouchers that lets you buy from any shop in the mall. The best gift, the laziest gift.

I’d already decided that I was going to get a pair of Rollerblades.

Now, before you judge me, hear my story. One, I think we can all agree on the necessity of exercise. Two, I absolutely hate sports, with a raging passion. As for gym, it can suck on my love handles. But there I was, sedentary, with an ever-expanding waistline. Activity was no longer a matter of choice; it was a necessity.

The only recreational sporting activity I could remember enjoying in my life was in-line skating, pretty much throughout the 90s. It was cooler back then, dope even, and for a short while in the noughties, I revisited them to drop a bit of weight I had gained. So now, in 2014, my blades were to be my weapon of choice once again. Never mind their current dorky status.

As I was walking out of the lift towards the sports shop, a group of about four youths walked in, almost blocking the exit. One of these kind young things stretched out his arm and gestured to friends. “Guys please, make way for the uncle.”

I was caught up in my own thoughts and ecoconscious daydreams about leaving my car at home and skating to work, so much so that I hadn’t recognised that there was someone else in the lift with me. So I moved aside, looking behind me, thinking that I’d show some manners and let the uncle exit first. I was raised properly you see.

No uncle behind my right shoulder, so I looked over my left shoulder. Still no one. I looked ahead at the youths, my face scrunched up in confusion. They were looking straight at me. Oh shit, I was the uncle. I said thank you. I didn’t smile.

Now to be fair, they all looked like they were in their very early twenties. I had just turned 35 a couple of months earlier. I must point out, that 35 still officially qualifies as “youth” in some African countries, including South Africa, as stated in our National Youth Policy – albeit the highest acceptable age of youth. Small mercies. According to the UN, youth ends at 24. Thank gawd I’m an African, not only do we not crack…

My stress was not so much about my age, but rather that 35 absolutely doesn’t feel anything like I imagined it would. Sometimes when I look at people in their mid-thirties, they look so much older than I feel, so much that I have convinced myself that I look nothing like them. It was all going so well until actual younger people saw fit to remind me of my place in the world.

As for me, I didn’t look at the youths and immediately feel an age difference. After all, this is the same age group I often see at clubs and parties. Wait. When they see me out partying, do they look at me and think: “Look at the uncle on the dancefloor?” Am I that guy I used to look at and wonder what he was still doing here? Do I need to start a family?

Anyway, f**k ’em. A life of physical activity and reduced greenhouse emissions lay ahead of me, so I walked into the sports shop and looked for the in-line skates section. I asked the sales assistant manning it to point me to the brand I was looking for.

“No problem, sir. What’s your kid’s shoe size?” he asked.

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