The beauty of being 41  

Saturday December 1 2018

There are many reasons why this is the best age to be – including the freedom to be oneself, free of society’s expectations. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

There are many reasons why this is the best age to be – including the freedom to be oneself, free of society’s expectations. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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I forgot to write that I turned 41 a month ago. Can you imagine that? Forty one years old! I was telling someone the other day that technically, we have crossed the half-way mark and we are in the final half.

We probably have fewer years left ahead than we have behind us, I said. He cringed, because we are Africans and we‘d rather talk about late harvest than talk about death.

But this is not about death. This is about life and living. The funny thing is that I never feel that I’m in my 40s.

Also, it helps that I never wear jeans with an iron crease running down the front like some 42-year-old friend of mine called Sande. Things like that just age you. In fact, the only time I feel my age is when I meet much younger people.

The other day I sat down to interview two 18-year-old kids and one of them said, “Oh, my big brother is so old.” I asked him how old his big brother was and he said 32. I laughed and I said, “I’m 41.” They both looked at me and the girl said, “Gosh.”

She said it like I had a disease and there was no medical hope of me ever recovering. She said it like I was dying. Like she was sorry for me. Then the boy said, “But you don’t look like other 40 year olds,” which I figured he meant I don’t wear jeans with an iron line running on its front.


I love being 41 years old. I never imagine that it’s an impediment to anything. Actually, it feels like a plus. I might not understand some of the cool popular culture that is on now and sometimes, when people are talking about certain things like Snapchat or whatever, I’m always the last one to catch on.

For instance, it’s only recently that I started ordering food through an app. I used to call Ben and say, “Ben, nifungie chapati and hiyo kuku, na come,” then drive all the way to the restaurant to pick the damn food when I could have saved the 30 minutes. But this is not a product of age, I suspect; it’s ignorance.

I have also not been one to go with fashion trends, not since I got over teenage hood back in the late 90s when we used to wear whatever Snoop Dogg wore. I once tried some pants and my 10-year-old daughter said I “embarrassed” her in school. (The nerve of these kids.)

Now it’s jeans, khakis, shirts, t-shirts and comfortable shoes. Repeat for the whole year. When I’m being very risque (end month, mostly) I will wear a red sweater with elbow patches.

Or pink (the shirt, not trousers) even when my friends who wear jeans with iron lines up front make fun of me. I distinctly refuse to wear pants that don’t reach my ankles like the cool, fashion forward gang does.


The best thing about being in this age group is that somehow, things don’t bother me like they used to. I walk away from negative energy at the drop of a hat.

There was a weird point in my life that I thought having many friends was the hallmark of a fulfilling life. Good grief. But then after my mid-30s I realised that a fulfilling life is not the number of friends you have but the quality of those friends.

There are people who only have two friends and a plant and they are more fulfilled than people who are always the center of attraction in bars, surrounded by tons of “friends”. I also don’t suffer from FOMO.

(That’s Fear of Missing Out, for those of you who are 50). In fact, if the whole world was going North, I would much rather stay where I am, or go West.

At 41, I also seem to be cracking the nadir of life. Please move closer for this. The nadir of life is not a steam room in your house, it’s contentment. And contentment is not looking at your neighbour’s grass. It’s looking at your grass with its patches and saying, “I like this grass of mine, I like being here.

It works.” That comes with age I guess because 10 years ago I wanted a lot of things in the assumption that things would fill my life with happiness. Also at 41, I have learnt that there is nothing like happiness. Happiness is like plasticine.

We all have plasticine but some people look at what the other person has mouled with their plasticine and feel insecure or inadequate at their own model. Do whatever you want with your plasticine.

At 41 everything in my life is shrinking. Increasingly I’m attracted to people who live “small” lives.

I have been reading about this very successful chef who doesn’t own much, who lives in a modest house in some god forsaken place in south America where celebrities travel for days, crossing numerous time zones to go eat in his small restaurant where there is no menu – you eat what you are served.

I really see myself living in a small cabin by the lake, going out fishing, drinking whisky, and filling my days with writing. (And not caring if my daughter finds my trouser disgusting.)


To everybody in their 40s, salut!