When does a boy become a man?

Today I bought a hammer. Last week I purchased my first machete. Walking away from the hardware store, I caught myself saying, “You’re a man now.”

What are the signs that you’re becoming a man? Hair on your chest? A few strands of hair on your face? A sudden but permanent change in voice? In biology class we are taught that these physical signs show a male is maturing. Some civilisations still have a ritual that a boy performs so he can be considered a man. But my trip was nothing like going off into the forest to survive with a piece of stick for two weeks. A few hand tools from the shop was all it took.

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Does the loss of your virginity count?
The moment you score your first sexual encounter is sometimes seen as a key marker that you’ve entered into manhood. In our society, to not do this may signify that you’re not yet a man, in the truest sense of the word. Sexual prowess is a key feature of manhood in male dominated societies. But does it truly making you a man?

As a teenager one could be forgiven for thinking its an embarrassment not to have a girlfriend. You couldn’t survive high school years without having a girl. Whether by lying or pretence your group of friends needed to be convinced that you’re not a “board man.” I am not entirely sure if girls had any similar pressure.

If you manage to successfully navigate high school and college years by fooling the crowd, the intense scrutiny begins when all your friends start getting kids. The “gelding truck” is not one you want to be on for too long a time. A gelding is a castrated male horse. Males who are yet to father a child are commonly referred to as geldings. You may be taunted with all types of sly comments. It may appear to be just good humour but then when your grandparents and older ladies start asking questions, the pressure foments.

So, what makes a male a man? How do you know you’re a man?
As far as definitions go, you might be better off not consulting the dictionaries because they’re more confusing than pages of quantum physics to a first year student. These days you can be a male and not be a man because you may identify as a female. You may be a woman who identifies as a male or vice versa. If that’s too specific then Sam Smith may have some advice for you. Still, that’s what obtains now, next few months may provide an alternate truth.

Without a doubt, nature and nurture will hew out a man according to their predetermined standards. Maybe you’ll be macho and read the paper on a Sunday morning while your woman slaves over the stove making breakfast. Equally, you could be one who does the laundry and dishes. None of these tasks were designed to be gender specific. We would do well with not labelling them as such. A man should be able and willing to wash, iron, cook, clean and do anything else around the house. If for some reason you’re not able, then be apt to learn.You live in the space too.

IMAGE: absolutleability.com

There is a great difficulty in escaping the mould created by your father or his absence. We become our fathers or the man our mothers want us to be. Rarely do we turn out to be the man our granny thinks we are. Alas, society may even have a greater sway than all these influences put together. “A man should be rough and tough. Crying is for wimps, real men don’t cry.” The list goes on and on. But what is so wrong with a man being emotionally intelligent, sensitive and willing  to cry? It takes nothing from our manhood. It takes incredible strength to manage expression of emotions. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid they’ve been offering.

This post did start with my visit to the hardware. After my tool shopping, I went home to do “manly” things. Took my machete and cleaned the flower patch which was overgrown with weed. Finally, I drove a nail…to hang a picture. Ah, I really feel like I’m a man now. Think I’ll keep the machete beneath my bed like dad did. Oops! Completely forgot  it’s my evening to make dinner.

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