By Muyiwa Adetiba
I barely knew her. But the little I knew I liked. She came across as warm and unpretentious when our paths crossed. She is petite, light complexioned and still shapely for a grandmother. She also didn’t have the airs some half-castes seem to acquire.
Our two brief conversations though were light, polite and very much on the surface. So I was slightly taken aback when I got a text message purportedly from her a day or two after the second meeting inviting me to a party.
The party was for Thursday, Valentine’s Day. I used the word purported because we never got around to exchanging phone numbers. So the invitation was by proxy from the mutual friend I met her through. The IV was specific. You had to be over 50. There would be plenty of good food and old school music but you had to bring your own poison.
It was also to start a little after noon and end at dusk. The whole thing sounded mature and I dare say, appetising. But there was a snag or an omission. There was no mention of Valentine or the usual reference to ‘a touch of red’ that Valentine day parties are known for. Was it deliberate or inadvertent?
I reached for the phone and called my friend. He explained that there was no thought of Valentine when the date was fixed. She just wanted to hang out with her friends and like-minded people. She had earlier been invited to a place where ‘elders’ hang out every month to relax with choice food, wine and old school music and was impressed.
She thought of her ‘ageless’ friends who had always wanted a decent place and opportunity to let their hairs down and decided to organise what she hoped would catch on. I politely excused myself. I had to. My Valentine’s Day had been booked for as long as I can remember by an old friend who was born on February 14.
It was our day to catch up with old classmates and ‘seasonal friends.’ Then my ‘Valentine birthday’ friend called a few days to valentine to say that due to a family challenge, he wanted to spend the day in prayers and contemplative privacy. I was free, and with my spouse out of the country, available. I called our mutual friend again to say I would be there; but only briefly.
I wondered, as I drove towards the venue, what I was letting myself in for and if I would know anybody at the party outside our mutual friend and the hostess. A room full of strangers can create barriers and unnecessary affectations. I was in luck. As I alighted from the car, coming towards me with a mischievous grin was an old colleague from our Punch days who had veered into politics and made good.
Obviously relieved to see a familiar face, we exchanged banters. I told him he had violated one of the rules of the party because he did not have drinks on him. He explained he had been invited through a phone call and drinks were not mentioned. He immediately turned back to get drinks at a nearby supermarket. I was left to proceed into the unknown alone. What I met threw me back a bit. Although I had half expected a disproportionate male/ female ratio, I didn’t expect a ratio of almost ten to three.
I was still trying to get my bearing when the hostess spotted me and reached out. She took the drinks politely and gratefully and led me by the hand to an array of food. It was while surveying the delicacies that she briefly told me the reason for the party. Valentine was not on her mind when she fixed the date. She had recently lost her husband of many years and with the children out of the house, the once cosy nest had become big and lonely. She wanted some fun and laughter in the house. Secondly, she has friends who had devoted their active years to work and family. Now in their late 50s and early 60s, they feel their best years are slipping away. They therefore feel the urge to make the best of whatever is left.
I was led to the motley crowd and introduced. I knew one of the three men who am sure must also have been relieved to see me but none of the ladies—I was to meet two or three I knew later. The living room was spacious and the ambience was good.
But the music did not ‘carry.’ It was okay if you wanted to sit and converse but a dampener if you wanted to dance and dance. And the ‘girls’ wanted to dance. A professional DJ was quickly arranged. This to my mind showed the resolve of both the hostess and her friends to maximise the day’s fun.
My politician friend came back with drinks and a male friend. Two other men also came in. But they did not improve the ratio in any way as some women also came in. But it really did not matter. As soon as the DJ had set up and old school music belted out, the ladies reached for the floor—with or without men.
It was then I noticed that most of the ladies wore trousers with trainers or flat shoes. They literally came in their dance shoes! At a time a lady received a call from her husband. She told him she was at so and so’ place having a party and catching fun. She must have received a thumps up because she laughed into the phone before dropping it.
This experience buttressed what I have always believed. That we all bemoan the passage of youth in varying degrees. Men are lucky in that they can stretch their youth a bit more. They marry but still attend bachelors’ eves, still attend parties and still allowed to pub crawl. Many have ‘fun’ by the side. And when they eventually slow down, there are the gyms and social clubs. Women on the other hand, marry and everything is supposed to stop. Between child bearing, child rearing and career juggling, there is very little else except weddings and sedate parties. Suddenly the children fly the nests and become parents themselves.
They are left with another choice of becoming full time nannies moving from house to house. They can’t but wonder where the years have gone and how much of ‘me time’ they have had. I think husbands should take their spouses out more, to naughty places sometimes. More importantly, they should be allowed to go out with their friends to movies, meals and occasional parties. It should be remembered that true happiness consists more of memories than possessions. I recollect what an 80-year old woman told my wife some six years ago. ‘I enjoyed my life,’ she said, ‘you should.’
We all should. It is only one life.