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Is It True What They Say About Black Men? by Jeremy Helligar

Is It True What They Say About Black Men?

by Jeremy Helligar

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who Are You Calling "Old"?

Last night I went out with Bart, a guy from Melbourne whom I met earlier this year outside of DJ Station while he was on holiday in Bangkok with his brother. We hadn't really kept in touch, so I had no idea we were going to be in Bali at the same time. Running into him was one of those pleasant surprises that often kick off the best holiday stories (like the time I ran into my college buddy Christian on he Charles Bridge in Prague).

Over the course of more than six hours and at least as many drinks, we bonded over our similar semi-outsider status -- he grew up the son of Dutch immigrants in Australia and even has a "Van" surname to show for it; I grew up the son of West Indian immigrants in Florida, with a surname that means "holy man" in Dutch -- and our opposing viewpoints on a number of hot topics: cars and motorbikes vs. pedestrians in Southeast Asia, racism, gay etiquette, etc.

We'd made our way to the second of three venues, Pro Surf on Legian Beach, and we were watching the evening tidal waves, darting from topic to topic, when Bart told me about a bar he went to a year or two ago in Melbourne, one that had a strict 28-and-older door policy. He's 30 now, so not only did he just meet the age requirement, but he was among the youngest clientele there.

"It was great," he said, after setting the scene. "I was getting hit on by so many women. They were all old, but it was a big ego boost!"

My heart must have skipped a couple of beats. What the hell? What did he mean by "old"? And more importantly, was the moonlight doing a decent job of concealing my own vintage status? I started picturing Bart holding court with the Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia. No way was he talking about fortysomething cougars (to use a now-outdated term that must have still been in heavy rotation at the time). Surely he'd been fighting off borderline retirees, modern-day Golden Girls!

"Well, they were old compared to me," he offered, as if he had been reading my mind. "Probably in their 40s."

Moonlight glow, please be working your magic tonight, I thought to myself during an uncomfortable pause that seemed to go on forever.

"But you're pretty old, right? I remember you're older than you look. Aren't you in your thirties?"

Silence.

"Your forties? How old are you?"

Now I knew how Methusalah must have felt, especially in his final days. It's not like I've ever been ashamed to tell people my age, nor have I ever lied about it. I was starting to reconsider, though. Who was he calling "old"?

"Well, that's pretty obnoxious." I tried to sound breezily sarcastic, but I'm pretty sure I was glaring at him. Clearly, I was not amused.

"Oh, so you are old. Otherwise you wouldn't get upset, and you'd just tell me."

He was smiling, but I wasn't sure if he was teasing or taunting me. Whatever. I wasn't going down without a fight. "I guess it depends on what you consider to be old. I'm the same age as Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez. Are they old?"

"Well, they're all pretty much past their prime, aren't they?"

Now I had a feeling he was just fucking with me in that typical Aussie way, showing affection by taking shots, but he'd brought out the argumentative beast in me.

"Past their prime? Where have you been? Matthew McConaughey is having the best year of his career, and he'll probably get an Oscar nomination for Magic Mike. Just today someone was telling me how amazing Jennifer Lopez was last night in concert in Kuala Lumpur. And have you seen Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses?" They're all in their prime, as am I! I'm 43."

He had to admit it: I had a point -- three of them actually. "You look at least 13 years younger than you are."

I wasn't sure whether he was trying to save face by suggesting that we'd still make a perfectly age-appropriate-looking duo, or if the moonlight was as flattering as ever, or if he was just saying what he thought I wanted to hear.

In the end, it didn't matter. I'm in the best shape of my life, and I let him know it. "The bottom line is that I look good, I feel good, and I'm living a life I couldn't have dreamed of living when I was your age, an age, incidentally, I'd never want to be again."

He nodded. He got it.

A little more than 12 hours later, I caught myself wondering if maybe he'd had a point, after all. Maybe I was just exhausted from the four-and-a-half-hour flight from Bali to Bangkok, and neither my mind nor my memory was functioning at full capacity. I tried to tell the taxi driver the two BTS Skytrain stops closest to where I live -- Chong Nonsi and Sala Daeng -- and I couldn't remember either name. Every time I opened my mouth to speak, the wrong words came out.

"Nusa Dua... No that's not it! That's in Bali....Chit Lom? Right city, wrong stop."

I never did figure out "Chong Nonsi" and "Sala Daeng" on my own. When I got home I had to look at my Bangkok map to refresh my memory. I wondered if I'd been the victim of a brain fart or a genuine senior moment.

Ah, who cares? I decided. I've never been great with names. Why should I start now in my old age?
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