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Keita
 
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How to avoid growing old

13 December 2012, 08:22

My boyfriend made an interesting comment the other day: “I need coffee to wake up. First thing I do is read the latest news. Then I go to work and shout at the idiot drivers around me. When did I become an adult?” (Expletives removed).

I thought that was an interesting question. It seems there just comes a point in your life when the monotony of the daily grind just breaks the inner child, and all your previous sense of fun goes out the window.

What disturbs me even more is that there seems to be people out there who actually think this is a good thing. They make it their goal in life to hammer away at you until you become a good little cog in the machine, conforming to the latest specification, a good, contributing member of society. Another ant in the hive.

Conformity seems to be the expected trend in this conservative environment.

Case in point: I went out with a group of friends a few months ago, and on a dare, a number of us dressed up a little...differently. Two dressed up as animals, and a couple of others, myself included, put on fake tails. Then we hit the Brightwater Commons.

One of my hobbies is people watching, and the reactions we got ranged from delight (mostly from the kids) to derision (mostly from teens) to anger and disgust (adults).

The kids couldn’t get enough of the animal-suited pair, and chased them around, playfully pulling their tails, and begging to have pictures taken with them. The two guys in the suits were great sports and played along with anything the kids suggested. Everyone had fun, except for a few sourpusses who would not let their kids join in.

As we wandered around, laughing and joking, we encountered a number of groups of teens who of course had all sorts of derisive things to say, but who quickly retreated when they noticed us noticing them. This amused me to no end. How brave teens can be in a group, but how quickly the underlying insecurity shows. ‘Are we as awesome as these guys? No, surely not...better make fun of them, assert myself and my group as the coolest around! Whoops! They heard me! Retreat! Retreat!’ We laughed at them and continued on.

At one of the pet stores (just dropping by to get some dog shampoo), one of us commented how nicely a collar would suit one of our animal costumers. We all thought this was a wonderful idea, and soon, all of us who were wearing tails had collars. This was the point where the nice lady behind the counter rather impolitely asked us to leave. But only AFTER she took our money for the collars (and the dog shampoo).

Once outside, one of our lady friends impishly produced a lead that she’d purchased and promptly attached it to the collar of one of the animal costumers. Much hilarity ensued, and for the rest of the day, she led the poor fellow around on a leash.

By now, we were noticing that the comments around us were becoming more and more unfriendly and offended. Several people approached us, demanding that we cease these dress u games, and especially remove the collars and leash. We were apparently an offence against god, or Satanists or some such thing. Others muttered about us having no decorum, and we should act our ages.

We politely – and by that I do not mean “politely” in a sarcastic way – told them to mind their own business and moved on.

What surprised me was the number of people who were outright offended by our sense of fun. We were not drunk, or overly loud. We didn’t go crashing into others. We didn’t swear at or insult the sourpusses. We just dressed a little bit strangely, and let our (admittedly quirky) sense of humour run wild.

Now I am left wondering. Why was it so offensive to them? And why on earth should we be all decorous and grown up? Indeed...why should anyone be? Does being adult really mean you should stop having fun? Or is adult fun supposed to be getting drunk over the weekend, or watching DVD’s, or having a braai? Is that what acceptable adult fun is limited to? Are you only allowed to have fun if you have kids to keep entertained? Should we only attend concerts, or have lunch at boutique coffee shops?

Why can’t we go out and play? Why can’t we enjoy our quirky sense of humour, and let our inner kids out?

Seriously, what is it to you if we do?

I know why kids today act out more and more. It’s because they look at the sourpusses – and sadly, that seems to be most people these days – and see in their future the horrible possibility of turning out like that. They see the death of fun, the expectation of conformity, the soul-killing, crushing weight of forty years of labour, and at the end of it, very little possibility of happy retirement. By the time you’re sixty-five, you won’t have the energy to do the things you worked forty years to do, and that’s provided your retirement fund is large enough, and also provided there isn’t another economic melt-down between then and now. That is the future they see, and I’m not at all surprised they don’t like it.

There is a way out of this, though. It’s very simple, and it goes like this:

Just go out there and have fun. Don’t let that inner child die. So you have to work for forty years, and be all decorous and sober there. Don’t let that spill over into your personal life. Go out there and have fun! Go play! It’s cliché, I know, but that tired old saying of “You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing” is very, very much true.

I saw a grand example of this just last month when my work-place’s social club took us to Durbs for the weekend. We’re a very mixed group at work. Gay, straight, single, partnered, old, young, white, black. There’s a lot of diversity there. There’s this old lady, Thandi. She’s fifty-four years old, and the very soul of professionalism. I’ve never seen her put a single foot wrong. Always friendly and nicely sociable at work. She’s a shining example to us all. On the bus down to Durbs, Thandi joined in when we started singing travelling songs, unlike some of the other, younger folks, who just rolled their eyes and glared at us. Thandi was always up with the rest of us, ready for that dawn swim. When we went out dancing, Thandi trudged along and danced along with us. She was there going down the waterslides at uChaka right alongside us youngsters. And you know what? We didn’t mind one little bit having her along. Sure, she’s a bit slower than us when it comes to moving around, and not quite up to dancing all night. But she did join in, and I’ll admit...many of us were grateful to have the excuse of “keeping Thandi company” at the bar when we ourselves needed a rest.

Thandi kept us more or less civilised out of respect for her without spoiling our fun. I just love that old lady! Many of the “sourpusses” were somewhat derisive of her, for not acting her age. For those of us she joined: she is our hero!

She is the ultimate example of how to live: just keep having fun.

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