Keep it together, gents

Saturday March 2 2013


We all have been hurt before. Only as men, we never say it openly. That is too fruity. But hurt by any other name would still sting as much. However, pain has to be concealed, partly because it makes a man look weak, and also because it robs the inflictor of the benefit of seeing you all broken and crushed.

We cloak hurt and hide it from the prying — and judgmental — eyes of the world. And there, like a sore wound, it gets septic and eats us up from inside, in solitude, until either two things happen; we meet someone else with the exact (or bigger) hips as the woman who hurt us, or we look in the mirror and say, “look at what you have turned into; a pathetic, long-faced pap. Get over the snivelling and mopping already!” Then we go out and look for bigger hips – the only exorcism our hearts understand.

The truth is that we all have done some things we wish we hadn’t during those moments of pain: embarrassing things that showed our lack of control. Below are a few:

Begging and crying

She says she cannot take it anymore. She is moving on. She has always threatened to leave; in fact she has always left. But you always got her back. It was not that difficult. Now there is something different in her eyes: resolve. She is gone. So, like a little girl, you boohoo before her, on your knees.

You plead to be taken back, promising to change. You blame the devil, or other dark forces, but she looks away uninterested. The resolve in her eyes smells like burning rubber.

A few months later, you think back and the thought of you all wet-cheeked and pleading fills you with deep regret. Regret that she left, yes, but also for what she turned you into.

The carrot girl

Maybe she was not even ready to leave. Maybe she was just trying to test if you would be moved enough to stop her from leaving. Maybe her acting was so convincing that it made you start blubbering promises to take her where she always wanted to go, or to go see her parents, or to stop drinking, or to give her half the money for the car, or offer to pay her rent.

After the dust has settled and she has said she is giving you a second chance, the reality of your promises dawn on you. And you kick yourself a little.


You blow her friends phones, asking for details of where she is, who she is seeing, or where she is seeing them. And you keep showing up with your sob story and sorry face.

Following her everywhere, like a phantom, your sense of dignity low as an envelope, your self-esteem non-existent. But you keep doing this until one day she calls the police or her deranged ex-convict brother. Then you stop because you are a coward.

Showing up

In campus there was a gorgeous Ugandan woman who lived next to where I shared a crammed room with another student. One night, at 1am, her ex showed up, deep-voiced and drunk out of his head. He knocked on her door repeatedly, begging to be let in. It was annoying.

My roommate and I decided to go tell him to keep down the racket, but when we opened the door and realised he was about 6’5’’ and with a hand the size of my roommate’s thigh, we slowly receded back into our cubicle. But that man is not unique; we all have shown up at the ex’s door unannounced, demanding answers or to be taken back, or to be given our money back.

Some guys have found the new guy in the house and showered him with a few ungentlemanly words as she stood there, glad she made the right decision.


For some reason, to get back at her, you decide that it would be a great idea to hit on one of her close friends. The bitchy friend she can’t trust because she feels better than everyone else.

You did not need or care about this information before, but now that she has decided to leave, and you want to serve your revenge, you will hit on that friend and maybe succeed.

She will say she does not care what you do, but she does. She will be humiliated, of course. She will be disgusted and you will have succeeded in losing face, and maybe even respect.

Drunk dialling

It is amazing how at 2am you always imagine that your ex is sitting by the phone waiting for your call. Dutifully. That sleep is not as important as hearing your drunken and half-coherent declaration of love. You declare how your life has screeched to a halt, and how she took away the sunshine.

Hell, you can even break into song if the night is right, worse, in your mother tongue. In the morning, with a splitting headache, you wake up with a deep scary feeling that you did something horrid the previous night.

And when you muster the courage to look at your phone, it is there on the call log: 12 calls to Brenda, 11 rejected. You go on your knees and pray that the headache kills you. Gentlemen, let us keep it together this weekend.


We made it OK for men to cry in public

In recent years a number of male public figures have defied the stoic image of manhood to publicly display their sensitive sides through an outpouring of tears. The debate that usually ensues after a prominent man breaks down elicits mixed reactions, but luckily they do not get much flak for it. Here are some who have choked up publicly:

Barack Obama

In December last year, US president Barack Obama fought back tears as he addressed Americans after the shooting of high school students in Connecticut. The previous month he had cried while addressing his supporters in Iowa after he won the presidential contest last year.

Tiger Woods

He broke down in tears after winning the 2006 British Open. He later explained that the emotions had been locked in, especially after the death of his dad which caused him to take a nine-week break, and added that he wished his dad had been there to witness his win.

John Boehner

It is said that this Speaker of the US House of Representatives has no qualms expressing his emotions and has wept publicly quite a number of times, such as while making a speech on the floor of the house in 2007 over military spending, and when he was handed the gavel on becoming the speaker of the House in 2010.

Boehner once said at a TV interview that he would not apologise for being emotionally attached to the things he cares about.

Andy Murray

This star tennis player was pretty optimistic about winning the Wimbledon final against another top player – Roger Federer – in July last year.

However, that was not to be as Federer took the title, driving Murray to tears. During the post-match interview Murray lost his composure and in a shaky voice praised his opponent Federer and thanked the fans.