Saturday, November 3, 2012

Please girls, let sleeping dogs lie

By JACKSON BIKO

Half the time, manhood is really about putting on a brave face. You keep that face despite all the financial turbulence, relationship conundrums, and professional unrest you may be experiencing.

Only women are allowed to wear their emotions on their sleeves. A man cannot suffer such colourful acts of exhibitionism and so he has to keep it under his hat. A man has to put up a brave front.

And so it is on this noble premise that one of my friends announced in the bar one Wednesday as we nursed our tipple and listened to Josky Kiambukuta’s (do not even pretend you know who that is) honeyed voice that his wife was planning to join Alabastron. I am not exaggerating when I say that you could feel the air literally being sucked out of the room by that announcement.

That self-help/therapy thingy

“What is that,” one of my friends who live under a rock asked. “Is it like one of those yoga things that every woman is doing now?”

So we explained to him what it was; a support/trust/support forum “thingy” that women go into to find themselves and come out as fearless influencers in society.

“Oh, so you mean like a self-help book?” he quipped. Uhm, yes, sort of. Someone fished out his phone and we googled it, and read the real life stories of the women who have been transformed by this group.

We don’t want to change

Now, there were five of us around a table and all of us (that includes caveman) agreed that it was a rotten idea and that he would soon find himself under the bus. That his wife going into this “programme” was going to change the dynamics of his marriage in such drastic ways that he would not believe it.

But the guy wore that brave face and brushed us off. So we asked for the opinion of the barman, a very respectable chap in his 40s, a man of God in his 40s with two grown daughters. He shook his head glumly and said: “From experience, those things might be good for the ladies but they never really end very well for the man.”

Let us not pussyfoot around this one. There is no use pretending that although we all wear that modern coat of modernity, by virtue of the fact that we have had some decent education, and kiss our children on the mouth, we are still all inherently and deeply traditional.

Support women’s empowerment

Although the world has moved fast and we have been given little choice but to catch up with these changing times, we are still caught up in this invisible time warp that constantly reminds us that we still believe in the supremacy of manhood.

This is one of them. Very few men embrace programmes that promise to “empower” our women and make them fulfilled and strong.

But to be clear, there is nothing wrong with a woman who is empowered, a woman who has “found herself”. The problem is if these tools of empowerment are used to diminish the influence of a man, because every guy wants to be in charge. To call the shots. To be the big kahuna.

The truth is in what these programmes do; they wire the womenfolk to believe that men are an impediment to their self-growth. At least that is how it looks like from this side of the pond.

Before I proceed to work myself to the ropes, let me say that I am really trying not to come across as a degenerate misogynist here because, really, I am not. But it incenses me that we would imagine that such acts of “self-awareness” are actually healthy for relationships. They are great for single women, but will work not for women who are in commitment relationships because it changes the “language” with which the relationship is conducted. And language is key.

But not self-absorption

These programmes might help in many other ways, self-confidence, awareness, esteem. But let us be honest and admit that they also put the woman in a mind-frame that makes her self-absorbed about her abilities to do without a man.

It also shortens her patience towards men, which perhaps, is the greatest evil because I believe that women are unique because they were intentionally blessed with this spectacular innate ability of stoicism, or perseverance.

And, to be honest, almost all relationships last as long as they last because women have a great capacity for patience, for digging in their oars. Women do not give up as easily as men do.

What I am saying is this: we — men — are all generally very selfish cavemen who need a playground that serves our needs, and that is nothing to be awfully embarrassed about. In a nutshell, what forums like the aforementioned do — in all their usefulness — is to create an environment where your woman believes that you should take turns making the bed.