Two things triggered this post, someone’s tweet about celebrating her boyfriend’s 33rd birthday and Ifediora’s Facebook post about beer.
As a child, I absolutely loved the adverts on TV and radio. I preferred adverts to TV shows, often being annoyed that boring TV shows were interrupting my adverts. Perhaps I was more drawn to the songs, I’ve always been more interested in music than anything else.
Thursdays was my favourite day of the week because Lever Brothers’s 8pm slot had my favourite adverts, from Treetop to Breeze soap to Walls Ice Cream (I can still sing the complete song and I can probably write a one-thousand-word post on my memories of that brand of ice cream) and of course, planta margarine with the family descending the stairs and how it made want to be grown up for some reason.
I remember Checkmate as being this incredibly annoying show which interrupted my adverts on Thursdays. The only thing I remember about the show was Uncle Norbert Young played a professor in it and there was a young lady called Tamuno who was blackmailing him or something. Funny, I don’t even remember RMD from the show, just the professor and Tamuno and the Fuji family.
But Beer adverts had my entire heart, from Gulder’s Ultimate advert with the Rolls Royce as the ultimate car, Everest and diamond as the ultimate in their category and gulder the ultimate beer to Guinness power adverts, I loved them all. My favourite one however, was Star’s Share the Brighter Life advert.
It couldn’t have been more perfect if I had directed it myself, the bright lights and happy people who were clinking glass as white bubbles floated on the gold liquid which called my name. I wanted to be grown up so bad, to be an adult who would go to parties and share the brighter life while drinking that beautiful liquid.
I am still puzzled by my reaction to the partying in that advert because I have never liked parties. When I look at the pictures from my first birthday, I always chuckle at the varied expressions of discomfort on my face. The older me recognizes all of them, I wanted to be away from the noise and the pesky children.
Uncle Nnamdi was concurrently the best uncle in the world and the coolest person ever, you could tell him anything – literally anything at all, and he would take it seriously and you could have an actual conversation about it. He didn’t snitch or preach, he would listen and give advice that made more sense than anything we’d ever heard before.
One day when I was seven, Uncle Nnamdi was around that evening and we were all watching TV. After singing along to the star advert on TV, I went to meet him where he was perched on the sofa with one leg folded under him as was his usual custom.
He rubbed my head – another usual custom of his, as I sat next to him while the questions burning my mind were speeding up my throat. He was the only person I could have this conversation with without getting a shouting or lectures or reminders about my being a child. I was seven years old at the time and inside my head I was a grown woman.
I really hated being a child but my true hatred was reserved for the occasions when someone said, “Scosco/Adaku/Nnedi you’re just a child and you can’t do this or you can’t understand that because you’re a child”. Uncle Nnamdi never did that, he would explain anything I wanted to know with a fascinating story. He and his immediate elder sister – my mother, could make up stories instantly about any topic and for many years, I thought those stories were gospel.
I asked him how adults could bear to drink beer even though it was very bitter, I was asking because I wanted to start drinking Star lager but the bitter taste was a deterrent. I didn’t even know that I couldn’t even afford beer as I had no money. My grandmother (who lived nearby) sold drinks and at the time I didn’t know I needed money to get drinks, because if I wanted anything I would ask my grandmother and get it.
Was it still bitter in their mouths when they drank it? When would it stop being bitter for me? I asked. He told me my taste buds were not mature enough to taste the sweetness of beer, when I was grown up I would like it. On my thirty-third birthday, my taste buds would suddenly acquire the ability to enjoy the taste of beer. This was why there was a beer named “33” export lager beer because 33 was the age for starting beer.
“So it would disappear like magic?” I asked, for I wanted to be a glamourous magician when I grew up.
“Exactly Computer, just like magic.” He replied and rubbed my head again.
And so, I relaxed about the beer matter because I now understood beer was a thing to wait to grow up for. When I finally turned 33, I would drink beer and enjoy parties and share the brighter life without getting a headache about the noise people made in parties.
I have been excited about turning 33 since then, it is the only birthday which truly excites me. 18 was only noteworthy because I could get to vote and drive, neither of which I did at 18 anyway, but 33 was the real deal for me, the one which meant I was finally grown up.
I am still looking forward to turning 33 but for a long time I had forgotten exactly why 33 was so special (and not just because Jesus finished his earthly ministry at 33).
You know, I’d give anything in the world to be able to share a bottle of Star or “33” with Uncle Nnamdi on the cool December 31st evening of my 33rd birthday.