Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

55 and loving it


I have never been one to care about birthdays; to me this annual celebration was always something that should be left to kids, and should certainly not be celebrated after the age of thirty. After that, it’s just silly. You’re now beginning the count-down to old age, hardly cause for celebration.

But nosey ones I had a change of heart when I reached the big five-0 and actually appreciated reaching that milestone. Now I’m even more excited at the thought that, in August I reach 55. Yes, I plan to celebrate.

Oh yeah, I am over the moon about this birthday. And why shouldn’t I feel good? After all, I walk a lot (well, too often I am forced to walk, since the bakkie always has one problem or another and always at times when I don’t have the moola to fix it immediately). I also exercise regularly, follow a good diet, etc. Alright, I am not perfect: I really must dig deep and fight this smoking thing, quit.

But, nosey ones, truth be said my happiness at reaching 55 has more to do with having been spared some of the pitfalls of life that have seen many 50-plussers, even the odd 40-plusser, smacked by what is commonly described as a midlife crisis.

But that’s nothing compared to the biggest crisis our generation has faced, the HIV/Aids pandemic. Many a friend and acquaintance who should have been celebrating their 55th birthday with me were sent knocking on heaven’s door by Aids.

I have also been fortunate to be spared some of the other typical midlife events: finding yourself stuck in a job you hate (does not matter how much the job paid), divorce (well that can be attributed to not having been married), no maintenance headaches (well that can be attributed to not having any children due to responsible and very – and I mean very – safe sexual behaviour). But hey, all is not lost with marriage and a child. Those are still on the cards. Some might say it’s a bit late – yeah, right, try telling that to Mick Jagger who recently fathered another child at the age of 70. So in the words of Mick, all I can say to my better half is:

If you start me up
 If you start me up
 I’ll never stop…

 You make a grown man cry
 You make a grown man cry
 You make a grown man cry…


Man oh man perfect lyrics for this diatribe of mine.

The bottom line: I am now very comfortable in my own skin, I am content with where my life is.  And as such I will make my partner happy and our child will enjoy at least 15 years (God willing) of active time with his/her papa before I begin to feel as if I am “old”. Before the critics crucify me: my lovey-dovey is 23 years my junior, but I am not a blesser, I am just, as a good friend use to describe me, a young old man.

I am one of the lucky ones, I seem to be defying the traditional ageing process. On the other hand many things in our lives are influenced by state of mind. Heck, if you want to tell yourself you are too old to go for a jog or just a lovely long walk while listening to Led Zeppelin or Michael J then you deserve to succumb to the ageing process. Get up and move Baba, Mama and get your groove back or better said, keep your groove.

Now then, speaking of reflections, I recently found myself looking back on my writing for this here Noseweek and realised one thing, I need to get my groove. After all, throughout the 10 years-or-so I have spewed my diatribe about everything I can think of, politics, annoying security guards, shady debt collectors argh! the list goes on and on. Now this has smacked me with what I will call a “mid-commentator’s crisis”.

What is the solution here? Simple: my column will now treat the reader to excerpts of  a book I’ve been anxious to put to paper and after much deliberation I finally came up with a title: 55 And loving it – a reflection of my life thus far and my South African-ness. It should be a fun read.

For example you will read about how I was bewitched and found myself running and running, while throughout this ordeal a song by American hard-rock band Van Halen was running through my head. The song? Running From The Devil. Obvious. No joke.

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