I just came out of a meeting where one of the participants was introduced as preparing to get married next month. In the words of the moderator “…next month he becomes a man…” and I began to argue with that thought line in my mind, asking myself the question “what makes you a man…? Because honestly, am not sure I have a definite answer to that.
I grew up knowing that the man is the one who fathered you, as in, he doesn’t get to carry you in the womb. He is the one who’s last name you get to bear in school. He is supposed to be the one you ask first when the fees are due in school. All of these are the realities I grew up with as a child, but as an adult, should I still see these things as the defining factors of who a man is?
Going back to what prompted all these thoughts in the first place, marriage. My bible tells me that “…therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife…” (Gen 2:24). I have heard pastors quote this passage at the few wedding ceremonies I have been at, or at marriage-related seminars, stressing the fact that the bible says A MAN was going to leave and cleave, and not a boy, obviously trying to buttress a point, but it always leaves me wondering who gets to be called a man. Obviously, my moderator at the meeting tonight had the notion that marriage made you a man(and I have heard so many people tow that line of belief as well), but I have also heard pastors say from the bible that you had to be a man BEFORE you get married.
In exploring various thoughts, I know that there were cultural practices(some of which may still be in existence), which required teenage boys to go through initiation rites, after which they became men, not minding the fact that these rituals didn’t go on for years, not even months. I have raised this point because, although it is no longer a common practice, there was a time and in different cultures too, when it was the acceptable norm and I do not think we are light years wiser than those who carried out such practices. I see no difference between this practice and the beliefs that you become a man as soon as you get married. After all, they both say an event makes you one.
To some people, you become a man as soon as you can impregnate a woman, and though I do not have ready medical statistics nor evidence, but I should think that any 15 year old would be able to do that(correct me if am wrong). I know I would get knocks for this thought, but I have heard an Igbo adage which though I do not remember verbatim, it basically says “Once a young boy starts checking out his father’s wife, then it’s an indication that has become a man”. Now I ask myself when the average teenager starts having feelings for women, whether he admits it or not, and the answer I get is… (Never mind just put yours, lol). So if I understand that cultural point of view, you become a man when you can impregnate a woman.
Now another point of view: you become a man when you have a job and can take care of yourself. This view gets me upset because I have seen people get out of school and stay five years without getting a job. We all know how ‘easy’ it is to get a job in this part of the world, so then I ask myself “if an external factor way beyond your control is used to measure who you are, can we be said to be fair in our judgments?’ I mean, if I have my way, I would want to leave school and get to start working immediately at the peak of my profession. So technically, my childhood friend with whom I happen to be age mates and we both left school at about the same time, gets to become a man five years before me if after school he immediately got a good job, but I had to wait for five years to get a decent job. Hmm, how logical a thought!
I would want to present a final viewpoint; one which I find interesting because it really has no clear cut demarcation as far as I am concerned. I am sure a lot of you guys would say been a man is about been matured. Now, the question is “what exactly defines as maturity?’. I have had people tell me that maturity is of the mind, but that always sounds as vague and elusive to me, as the concept itself. Don’t get me wrong, I totally accept the word on its own merit, but who defines what? It obviously has nothing do with age, and call me “over-logical” if you want, but I always have a problem with concepts that you cannot pin down and nail on the head. With such concepts, people very easily begin to speak from both sides of their mouth.
On a lighter note, I would want to share an incident with you. I was sitting in church next to a young lady, and in the course of the sermon ,the pastor made a statement, saying “…let all men be liars, but let God be true…”, and the lady mused to herself( but loud enough for me to hear) “…yes pastor, all men are liars…” You and I both know they were obviously talking about different ‘men’.
And that has always left me asking the vital question, “Who is a man”…