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October 19, 2018

Sugar mummies and daddies in hashtag age

Back in the early 1990s, at the dawn of my journalistic career, I worked with a group of creative people whose excellence was not confined to clever headlines and page layouts but was even expressed in ways to save a few bob on the price of a beer.

Our offices, in the Nairobi CBD,  were across the street from three bars we frequented. With decontrol, these watering holes had jacked up the prices of beer, and we were forced to search deeper in the CBD for more pocket-friendly prices. 

A member of the group, I forget who now, eventually discovered this shady little off-licence bar in the back of a sewing machine shop.

The bar could be accessed through a backdoor in a filthy backstreet and had street and upstairs levels. Both sections were dingy and dark. You had to drink beer out of the bottle, as the glasses’ cleanliness was not something even the most hardened gambler would want to bet on.

For a  few weeks, in protest at the higher pricing at our ‘local’, we became part of the bar’s clientele. After the first few drink sessions at our new hole, we  started to notice the other clientele. It was mainly women in their 40s and 50s and upper middle class, who were accompanied by young, barely legal men, aged 18-21. 

Since it is unusual in Kenya for mothers and their young adult sons to frequent bars in each other’s company, the assumption, which turned out to be correct, was that the women were striking a blow for equality. They were sugar mummies accompanied by their boyfriends. 

We assumed many of the young men were from the nearby university campus supplementing their ‘boom’ with a little side action as gigolos. And why not? It was well-known that a number of the female students on campus had their sugar daddies.

As my friends and I were not a judgemental lot and just wanted to enjoy our drink in peace and cheapness, we didn’t pay too much attention. In later years, I did wonder, during the odd idle moment, what happened to the bar and its clientele, and were there other places they drank?

I got to thinking about this time of my life the other day when I came across the hashtag #blessed, which was trending here in South Africa. Apparently, there’s a new type of sugar daddy in South Africa, and he’s got everybody talking.

The new man is called a Blesser and the best description I have found so far was in The Mail & Guardian newspaper: 

“He’s a new version of the sugar daddy, except his spending power puts him on a much higher pedestal, giving him a god-like status. And when you date one, it is said you literally feel like your life has been blessed. Fiscally, at least.”

You know there is a truly a new world order when it suddenly dawns on you that matters that once were considered shameful if they became public knowledge and that were normally conducted under the cover of darkness — or at least in the darkest corners of a dingy bar — are now proudly broadcast on Twitter, complete with a hashtag.

It puts a whole new light on when preachers ask congregants: Are you blessed?

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