Last weekend, I tagged my five-year-old son along to the barbershop.
Since he spots dreadlocks, him and the barber are not exactly acquaintances, so he requested for some money to keep himself busy at a kid zone right outside the premises.
Things were going on well until my ears caught sound of my son’s cry, and every parent will attest to having the unexplainable ability to tell their child’s distinct cry from a distance, even if they are wailing as a group.
I excused myself and went over to where I had left him, and it was true he was crying. He was surrounded by the zone’s minder and four to five young girls, all trying to soothe him.
Fellow boys were unbothered, continuing their play like nothing had happened.
INVESTIGATION DID NOT YIELD MUCH
My investigation into what had exactly happened did not yield much, as there were inconsistencies from the girls’ stories; one accusing a fellow boy of pushing him, another claiming they had fought over a toy while the third said he just broke down on his own.
The victim’s answer was even more shocking; he was crying because he’d gotten tired of the castle and wanted to play the PS.
Confused, I did what my own dad had, consciously or subconsciously, instilled in me when I was a young boy; tell him to stop crying in front of girls.
One, because it was a sign of weakness (which goes against masculinity) and two; because boys just don’t cry.
The acceptable minimum is that you can shed a tear when a loved one dies, but not for long because the world expects you to get over it quickly and smile as you always do.
The clever ones get away with it through crying in the rain, shower or when chopping onions.
NOT ALLOWED TO CRY
This theory was drummed into our heads so much that when I was dragged out of bed to face the knife in 1992, my dad kept reiterating along the way that I was not allowed to cry.
There is no worse physical pain than someone pulling the foreskin on your penis and sinking a knife into it, but you would rather pee on the mohel (person who performs circumcision) than cry the pain out.
News reaching the village that you shed tears at that hour of reckoning undoes all the gangster points you had amassed over time, casting doubt on your masculinity before peers and the fairer sex.
I had to make myself, dad and entire household proud by ‘swallowing’ the pain, which was by all means not a simple task.
As my son and I headed back home after the barbershop date, I remembered that the shortest verse in the Bible says ‘Jesus wept.’
My mind was like ‘hold on a minute; Jesus was male, the Son of God for those who are of Christian faith, and a gentleman in more ways than one.
So if the man sent directly from Heaven by our Creator openly let loose his tear glands so much that it is even documented in the Good Book, from where did this notion of men holding in tears come?’
And how did it manage to be so entrenched in humankind that it is always used against the boy child whenever he tries to express grief through the most therapeutic way; tears?
As a matter of fact, scientific research has shown that crying plays a huge role in regulating people’s emotions, a huge step towards reducing distress levels.
Attaching male tears to femininity for eons has in essence forced men to bottle up their stresses and appear normal while crumbling inside, reason there are more cases of men tossing themselves to the ground from high-rise buildings.
Probably more men would still be alive if they were allowed to just break down and cry all the pain and grief eating them up without looking over their shoulders or feeling like a let-down to male-folk.
I was a bit conflicted to be honest, because while I do not want to be the father who raises a son that will be a sissy in future, it would kill me to learn that he bottled in emotions for so long to look masculine then ended up depressed to suicidal levels.
I decided to let him know that as much as I told him not to cry in public, he should not die inside when things get out of hand because those tears could wash away part of the pain.
The male world may never forgive me for this particular lesson, but I think it was a lifesaver.
I saw my dad cry only once, that is when his mother died, and it was a coincidence because I walked into him hidden in the corner of a room.
He felt embarrassed about it. A few years later my younger sister died suddenly, and while mom wailed, screamed and wept for days, my old man kept a straight face, but I could tell that incidence ate him up so much it triggered what eventually downed him mid last year. If you ask me, that is toxic masculinity.
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