WHEN I BECAME A MAN
“When I became a man”……nothing really comes to mind when I try to stick that phrase with a particular moment. I do have moments in my childhood worth remembering but am not sure that if I was to write about any of them I will give it that heading. Unlike our friends on the other side, when posed with the question and they have no idea what to say, they have the safe answer of menarche….”my first menstruation” they say. Although I can’t hold anything against them, I find it a little boring (boo all you want, but that’s an argument for some other time). Men have no default moment when they became men. Am sure there is no time any man had walked to his mother asking, “Mummy what is this?” which was followed by a day-long lecture on tampons. However, not all women look to this time as the moment they attained womanhood. If this question appeared in a battle of the sexes, the only points that will be agreed as the moment any human attains maturity is the first time they placed themselves in danger of premature parenthood, and the other, when they awoke to a sense of responsibility.In some parts the world, the moment a boy turns to a man is actually a planned event, especially in times and places where dressing half-naked wasn’t a sign of moral decadence or borderline crazy, just your average Sunday wear and seeing a dinosaur wasn’t much of a surprise. Traditional rites like running naked through fire, hunting down a wild animal single-handedly or running an obstacle race with eggs in your mouth (ok……I got that one from the horrible remake of Conan the Barbarian), were the sort of challenges that had to be overcome to attain manhood. Personally, I don’t think any of these should count, not that am a hater for the old gritty ways, but I had my fair share “special moments”. I have been struck by lightning (true story), fallen into a crocodile pond and finished a meal fit for three men. All these before I reached the age of twelve, and I was still a brazen fool. Even if one were to set the bar as low as growing facial hair, then any hope of using that as the standard was well disproven by my brother, who though he had facial hair that the late Osama bin Laden (of horrific memory) would have been proud of and was still obviously as much an idiot as a vampire walking in broad daylight (please note: this is no reference to the twilight vampires, am talking good old vampire classics).
At this juncture, I believe anyone reading this is already tired of me shooting down everything that’s points to attaining manhood. But this has brought me to the fact that as men we all have to recognize those separate moments we got to feel like men for the first time. The moment when we first felt the weight of responsibility mixed with a sense of pride and humility to hide it, the first time we looked into the eyes of a girl a floated away, the first time we felt regret and admitted our flaws or the first time we took the blame for someone else’s flaw. I have felt these on a number of times, and although I can’t remember the first time I did, every moment makes me relive those feelings.One of such moments happened to be a bus ride I shared with someone and it was quite an experience. As I sat there enjoying my conversation with this person, all I could feel was a sense of regret. I regretted that I was on a last bus ride on a city I was about to leave in less than three hours, and talking with someone that I would have really liked to have shared such conversations with at least once a week for the 4 years we both shared the city. It is in such moments of regret, I believe, that a man is made. Moments he wishes he could turn back time not for himself, but for another. And the moment he realizes he can’t, trudges on, swearing never to let such moments pass him by again. It is in such moments I believe that WE BECOME MEN.