OUDROZE | ANTIQUE PINK @ Ernst Coppejans 2021
1935 Enschede / worked in the business sector and at the University of Amsterdam / art collector
‘Because of my mother’s abandonment, I got stuck in a relationship’
‘A deviation, that is what I thought of homosexuality. I hated my feelings. Then I made a bet with myself on how long I could be without a boy. Sometimes that worked for a year, sometimes less.’
Boys or girls?
‘I was born with clubfoot. I couldn’t walk until I was four. Because of my disability, children avoided me, while I very much longed for contact. I was always picked last in gym class. In order to be able to interact with boys, I did something around the age of fourteen that I thought went against my nature. I had sex with older guys. Actually, I didn’t want to. That’s why I’ve always been a bit confused whether I liked boys or girls.’
‘I studied in Amsterdam between the ages of 18 and 23. I had steady girlfriends, but that wasn’t enough. So late at night I also had contact with guys. My father met one of those girls, but he didn’t like her. He didn’t want me to have a girlfriend until I graduated. He thought: study, get a good job, no more nagging. Later I studied in Frankfurt and lived in a large student flat. I shared a room with a boy, so we crawled into bed together and I visited his parents’ home. But I also had girlfriends then. The annoying thing was that those girls always wanted to introduce me to their parents. I didn’t want that.’
Out of the closet
‘Coming out to my father was a very special event. I was about 34, we were standing outside my house, and I said, “I have something to tell you. I have a boyfriend, I’m gay.” He then pointed to the filth in the moat, grabbed his coat and left. We didn’t have any contact for six months. My stepmother repaired that broken relationship. After he met my then boyfriend, my father had no more objections.’
Fear of abandonment
‘My great love? I need a long time to think about that question. I was in a relationship with Peter, a German, for 47 years. Wow, you would say. But it wasn’t that pretty, actually. In the beginning yes, there was real love. But we lived in Amsterdam, and he actually wanted to be in Germany. We were stuck in that relationship. I didn’t want to be alone. I think that’s because as a young child I felt so lonely and was abandoned by my mother. She left and took my brother and sister with her. I stayed behind with my father. I didn’t see my mother again until she was on her deathbed, and then she didn’t recognise me. The abandonment at such a young age has always been a problem and it continues to have an effect on me to this day.’
Peter passed away eight years ago. After that I became ill, but when I recovered, I wanted to go outside again, to do new things. I had once read about Senior and Student. They link students to seniors. I drafted the following profile:
Bob is someone who, at a relatively old age, still wants to prove that he can utilise a wide-ranging expertise and that he can provide relevant input, and he is someone who still wants to provide a useful contribution in various sectors of society to the solution of social problems in the broadest sense of the word.
Since then, I have been in touch with young people. Students and recent graduates between the ages of 23 and 29. The one comes, then the other comes, we cook together. We do all sorts of things. Really great fun. I have built very valuable friendships this way. I have plenty of space, and one of my friends lived in this house until he got married. Now another good friend lives there. It’s so cosy. I’m actually catching up, because I didn’t interact with guys in my youth. A turning point in my life. Fully!’
Bob Vlake Foundation
‘Together with two young friends, I founded the Bob Vlake Foundation. With expertise and financial resources, we support projects that have social value and that contribute to a healthy and liveable future. So you see what you can still do at 86, there is no reason to become a wallflower.’