My poor Ben 10

By Thandekile Moyo

I GREW up in a small, tight knit, gated community with just around 33 houses and therefore at least 33 families, if my memory serves me right. Our parents were all friends as we lived in the staff houses of a teachers’ college. I knew all these people personally and considered them family. I would like to believe that we all got along well and loved each other dearly despite the inevitable disagreements every now and then, giving us unforgettable moments of drama, excitement and subjects for months of gossip.

The children were like an unimaginably big group of siblings and I always marvel at how any of us could decide to have a meal at any of the homes without any eyebrows being raised. My mother taught me to bake at a young age and my holiday afternoons were spent baking all sorts of goodies and making endless pots of tea for any neighbours who decided to pop in.

We had endless parties: birthday parties, kitchen teas, baby showers, Christmas parties and tool club parties for the fathers. My childhood memories are mostly of all the joyous moments I spent there.

We were an extremely adventurous group of kids. We would go mountain climbing, wild fruit picking, picnicking in the woods and there was a stream we loved to go swimming in. We burnt a lot of bushes, hunted and roasted a number of birds and insects, and stole fruits from the agricultural department’s orchard. We did all of this together, all 25-30 of us in my age group as we were always together, us “college kids”.

We walked to and from school together, played together and lived together. There was also fighting, bullying, jealousy and everything you would expect to find in a family with many children, but over and above it all, we were a family. When a baby was born, there was happiness all round. When someone died, we all mourned wholeheartedly.

I remember when Christophilios Dube passed away; he must have been in Grade 4 when he drowned in the local river. The tragedy broke us all, both kids and adults and for the longest time it was like a dark cloud had settled over the entire college. To this day, my eyes still well up for I lost not just a neighbour, but a brother too.

All the boys younger than me were my young brothers; all the fathers were my fathers and up to this day, any man just a few years younger than me, I only see them as a young brother and any man significantly older than me or not of my generation,  I see them as a father figure.

Which brings me to the subject of this week’s column: Ben 10s. Ben 10, to those who have no idea, is the title of an American animated series featuring 10-year-old super hero, Ben Tennyson, whose life changes when he picks up the  HYPERLINK “http://ben10.wikia.com/wiki/Omnitrix_%28Original%29” \o “Omnitrix (Original)” Omnitrix, a powerful watch-like device that allowed him to turn into ten different aliens. With his new powers, Ben 10 is the protector of those around him – a truly likeable young man whose abilities win him lots of fans, including hordes of female admirers.

Ben 10 has been used to refer to the phenomenon of older women dating much younger men. Our fathers’ generation used to refer to these young men as “toy boys”.

I may be slightly strange, but I can’t wrap my head around the sight of an old woman coddling up with a little boy, neither does it make any sense to see young girls throwing themselves at men old enough to be their grandfathers.

I can never imagine what romantic conversation I could ever have with either of these two groups. I believe if I were to get myself a Ben 10, I would turn out to be the worst girlfriend ever. I would probably view him as someone I can toss around, like I do all my little brothers. I imagine myself sending him to the shops, making him run errands and even ordering him to clean up his house if ever I found it upside down!

And if he ever dared disrespect me, talk back at me or do something stupid like misappropriate funds, I would probably punch the poor boy in the face and find myself in prison for assault, domestic violence, child abuse or whatever the police call crimes against little boyfriends.

As for a sugar daddy, I can’t help but think girls are brave. How does one deal with an old man, I would probably be respectful to a fault and bore the poor man to death. What would I possibly call him? For there is no way I could call anyone my father’s age by their first name and I would probably feel silly calling him “baby”, “honey” or anything sweet. I would probably have to call him by his surname. ‘Good morning Mr Ndlovu,’ or something ancient like that.

It would embarrass me though, to have to introduce my boyfriend to my friends as Mr Ndlovu, already that just screams OLD!

Calling him baba (dad) would be awkward, especially when visiting my parents as I already have a baba back home. How would I greet him if he came to pick me from a public place like the airport? There is absolutely no way I could hug and kiss an old man like I would a boyfriend in front of hundreds of staring eyes. I would probably just give him a huge smile and a hearty handshake and pray everyone thinks he’s my uncle.

Our entire relationship would be a constant battle of me trying to hide him and him fighting to flaunt me. Remember, I come from a semi-rural place where your business is everybody’s and thus in everything I do, I will forever be burdened by the thought “what will people think?”

A sugar daddy would be an extreme burden to me as I would have to tend to his every need and handle him with kid gloves for I was taught to respect the elderly. How would I fight with him, or argue about anything? Can his music tastes be anything close to mine? The thought of having to dance to 1980s hits with him at parties and watching Chuck Norris movies after being entertained with stories about his hey days just deflates me.

My sister, Sakhile, and I are always laughing about how if we married old men we would die of frustration because they would probably hit it off with our dad and become the best of friends. While other couples our age go to Zanzibar and the Victoria Falls, they would leave us all alone and engage in things that make old men tick. Remember that most people in that age group all graduated from the University of Rhodesia so there is always that danger of my person turning out to be my parents’ former classmate or worse still, an older relative’s ex-boyfriend. Above all, I refuse to put my mother through the horror and discomfort of having to call someone older than her, “mkhwenyana” [son in law]!