Sunday, May 07, 2006
So when did I become a man?
This Friday is a public holiday and we are gearing up for our first men's conference. As I started developing conference lessons, I wondered when I became a man.
First I have a confession to make. I'm a man. No, that's not the confession. The confession is that I don't know when I became one.
I've been male since my mother's egg was fertilised. At birth I became a boy and that was affirmed frequently all the way through kindergarden. Bad boy. Good boy. Boys will be boys. What do you expect from a small-town boy?
So when did I become a man?
At age 10 I got kissed by a girl. She was a year older and she was my neighbour. Then I caught a crocodile when I was 11. I trapped it with chicken pieces in a large mouse trap with a knife. Our gardener and maid knew what I was doing and the risks involved, but let this 11-year-old kid go ahead and trusted me not to injure or kill myself. The next morning I was surprised that it worked. It was not a small reptile. Our gardener, my brother and I hung it so we could skin it from the underbelly. Mom cooked it with herbs. It tasted like kampong chicken. When it was all said and done, no one proclaimed me a newly made man.
Then I was sent to an overseas boarding school. This was a boys school. At ages 17 to 18, I played competitive rugby. If I had committed a crime then, I could have gone to jail since I was no longer a minor. In the eyes of law, I was an adult, yet I know I was still was very much a kid.
I got my drivers license when I turned 19, as many guys did. For some, this is the defining event. It wasn't for me, though there are aspects of that day that could be considered an initiation into manhood. My mom, my instructor and the entire system trusted me with the operation of a 1-ton piece of machinery that could go 200 km an hour. I could have done some serious damage but showed enough maturity to handle it. For the most part, I was careful. For all the stupid things I've done behind the wheel, I never did anything worse than knock into a trash can. But driving didn't make me a man and wasn't recognised as passage into manhood, despite the fact that I gained rights and responsibilities.
At some point, I became a man, without any clear indication it had happened. The obvious thought would be that since I was a boy all through school, the transformation took place in university. Or did I become a man when I first took a job, paid my own rent and put food on my own table. Was I a man then?
Society doesn't seem to notice the lack of transitions until we do something wrong that proves we aren't the men we should be. This will be the starting point of my discussion with the guys on Friday.