As the world celebrates the International Boy Child day today, I am overjoyed. I clearly remember ranting about the silence that accompanied this day last year. I was disappointed that all my female friends, who I would usually turn the world upside down for on the women and girl child days, were oblivious of such a day, nor thought of a need for one. That day, I wrote clearly on my WhatsApp status: “men’s lives don’t matter”. I ranted and some apologized.
But that night, beyond my rantings, I was confronted by an uncomfortable truth that hit me below the belt: the men themselves were not aware, and even I had only come to know about it a few days before then. This got me thinking about the reality of the boy child and the social scripting that raised him. I’ll save the intricacies of that reality and its many discrepancies to a later and more detailed thoughts and what others have had to say. For this post, I’ll share an incident, a very personal one, that has changed my views in the last two years.
It was a sunny afternoon in the city of Ilorin that day, as I assembled to do my laundry beside a storage tank somewhere in the compound of the humble home of the Bamideles. It was a difficult moment for me as I was just trying to make sense of the new phase of adulthood I was transitioning into. The burden of a multi-talented young creative had gotten a good part of me as I battled with the direction to channel many passions and skills. I was constantly bombarded with more than a few good options and the thought of the kind of focus needed for growth. I had also suffered an emotional setback that had caused me to plateau due to my denial of the hurt, yet I had emotional needs I couldn’t ignore.
All of the many different aspects and phases of my current situation played itself at once. I was confused and overwhelmed. I looked around, I felt helpless. I needed someone to help me, to console me, to ‘rub my head’, to tell me what to do, and to just solve the problems for me. Tears were beginning to form in my eyes.
Instantly, I scolded myself:
“There’s no time for weakness, you are a man
There’s no help anywhere, you are on your own
You will have to deal with it as a man
You can’t break down. You can’t get all these.
You’re a man, you’ll have to deal with it.”
As I bent down to continue scrubbing the clothes I had piled up, a few tears dropped and I was quick to dismiss them. Few moments after that, I got a call from a female friend. She had encountered some difficulty and needed someone to talk to. It was something as simple as finding where to get something fixed or choosing between two tough options as she was settling into a new city. In fact, she may have been in a similar place, mentally, to mine. I asked her relevant questions to help her clarify what she really wanted and affirmed my trust in her judgment. Few sentences later, she knew what she had to do. I gave further assurance that she’d be fine, and the call ended.
As I ended the call, I wasn’t sure if I was to laugh or cry. I chose laughter and I laughed hard. Like seriously? Just like that, at the slightest hint of overwhelming trouble, she spoke up (and trust me, she’s one of the most intelligent people on earth). There I was, if the problem didn’t almost snuff life out of me, I may not say a word. I’ll keep trying to fix it. She spoke to me who was almost crumbling under my weight and my first instinct was to help solve her problems, not to complain. I bottled mine in and carried hers with mine. That’s some basic male instinct right there.
That day, I asked myself some serious questions:
Why didn’t I think of reaching out to someone?
Why did I think I was on my own and had to solve it all by myself?
What stopped me, like she did, from calling someone and pouring out?
That day, I decided to not keep quiet. I started to take my friendships and mentors seriously. I became open and vulnerable to them. I abandoned all the thoughts that held me back from showing weakness. I put away the pride to look so strong in the face of other men. It wasn’t the absence of men that was the problem but my tendency to charge through life alone.
On one night, those two boys, Ayo Alade and Tope Aluko forced me to reach deep into a hurt I had kept hidden all along. I ranted and cried before them like a baby. And I found comfort.
Men will not always have it all figured out. Men will have moments of weakness. Men will need help. And like my friend, FIF, says: Men need Men.
While there’s more to the intricacies of the reality and the discrepancies the society associates with manhood, it’s important to note that the boy child needs to experience the beauty in wholesome relationships, a place where he can be accepted, heard, and be allowed to thrive.
Again, Men need Men.
We all need others to thrive.
I am the ImisiOluwa