On the eve of my 22nd birthday I made a declaration, this year would be the year I made an effort to finally find myself a Blesser. Finally exhausted with the stumbling and quite frankly disabling poverty that comes with your 20s I was ready to get a little help. Perhaps its better we begin this story with what an actual Blesser is.
The beauty of language and culture is how quickly it evolves. A Blesser is an older partner who provides the ‘blessings’, which are of course monetary possessions. In some cases he/she will fund anything from an education, businesses, drinking habits, hair, make up, shopping sprees, holidays, new cars and day-to-day living expenses. Quite frankly put, a Blesser is the new name for a sugar daddy which is clearly to sugar coat the realities of a transactional relationship. They’re often justified because the Blesser or modern-day sugar daddy has evolved; he is relatively young, attractive in the way only George Clooney and Idris Elba handsomely execute, with way too much disposable income for a 30+ years old and a desperate need for a trophy girlfriend he can show off to his friends.
Personally unfamiliar with the being blessed life, I called a friend and asked if she could set up a date with a Blesser and his friends so I could perhaps find one I found remotely interesting. Two hours into the date I had already called my mom, my dad and begged my older cousin and his friends to get me out of there. As usual my saviour came in the form of my best friend, I sat comfortably in the back seat of his 4×4, feet on the arm rest in complete silence, with not a single bit of FOMO of the Range Rover Super Charge that had offered to drive me anywhere in the city I wanted to go for my birthday. 30 Minutes later, I stood in a parking lot with my cousin and our friends while they laughed at my failed attempt at being blessed and we drank bottles of Absolute Vodka (I hate vodka) and ran out of dash despite having had someone offer to buy bottles of Jack Daniels at my favourite club.
I laughed at myself later that night while another of my friends drove me home in his not so fancy car and I offered to help him pay for fuel. How did I, this person that pays for my friends’ fuel if they drive me home think I would be comfortable being a kept woman? The truth is, in the two hours that I was on that date I realised that the world packages Blessers as this neat luxurious accessory. But the realities of inter-generational and transactional relationships is that they are based on an uneven power relationship. In fact, they are without a doubt based on a predatory need of an older person with money. I had simply gotten caught up in the brand and forgotten that the reality of such relationships is quite traumatic.
Transactional Inter-generational relationships have been identified as the leading cause of the spread of HIV/Aids in Botswana. So much so that organisation Young 1ove exists to discourage young people from entering relationships with older generations. They of course use the reality that some of the largest HIV/Aids population belongs to men between ages 35-45. About 43 percent of men over 40 years of age in Botswana carry HIV, far higher than the 4 to 5 percent infection rate of men in their teens and early 20s.
Although it’s not a terrible thing to have a HIV positive partner, and they are numerous ways to keep the virus from spreading, the concern in transactional intergenerational relationships is that there is a huge power play in such relationships. Generally, Age always puts the older person in control of a situation. Regardless of how mature a young person is, they will always look towards someone older for general direction. This gives the “Blesser” power over the blessed to manipulate the relationship in their favour. Add money to the circumstances and the “Blesser” has complete power over the blessed. This complete power often leads to unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, emotional and physical abuse and is a large contributor to young women who drop out of school.
According to Young 1ove’s website in a survey of Gaborone, 600 girls aged 18 and older were asked if men at least 10 years older had ever offered them money for sex. It discovered that 40 percent of those girls had been. Although many explained that they had refused any propositions, the survey found that 1 in 3 sexually active girls were in a relationship with an older man. The realities that these young women face considering the power play of the relationships they’re in leave them vulnerable to multiple issues.
So for some reason while I had forgotten due to the language used to describe these relationships, sitting across from a man way too old to sit at a table with me, everything about him reminded me of another reason why Blessers just don’t cut it. It’s probably not nearly as academic as the HIV/AIDS argument or gender based violence. But there has to be something fundamentally wrong with any man who is remotely interested in a woman at least 10 years his junior; something that is a clear indicator of a failure to launch if he cannot connect with his own age mates, and if he can? Why choose to spend your Friday night entertaining the stories of a life you have already had the chance to go through?
I’ve decided I’ll take the long way to my dreams, no sugar daddies, no Blessers, no shady investors in my businesses and while my feminism does require that I respect other women who may choose otherwise, I cannot co-sign the Blesser culture. The reality is while some women end up married with children and nice houses because of a Blesser, in Botswana the realities of majority of these relationships are way too scary for me to encourage young women to take that option.