Seven skills that a man must have

Saturday February 20 2016

Boys from the Xhosa tribe after circumcision

Boys from the Xhosa tribe after circumcision are pictured near Qunu, Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. PHOTO | FILE 

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Last year, our son attended a 10-day rite of passage camp with other teenage boys. They were there to learn, among other unwomanly things, how to be a man.

When they returned to us, we noticed that something had shifted, there was a new dynamic in the mother-son relationship. In an effort to make sense of it, I went online and stumbled

on the site, Art of Manliness, and in particular an article titled 100 Skills Every Man Should Know.

In it, the authors write, “Part of being a man is being competent and effective in the world. To do that, you’ve got to have skills.

A man wants to know (or at least feel like he knows) that no matter what situation he’s placed in, he’ll be able to handle himself — to act rather than be acted upon. Hence our

incessant drive to figure out what skills we’ll need to know in order to demonstrate confidence and capability in our manly roles as procreators, protectors and providers.”

I can’t comment what it means to be a man for obvious reasons. However, I’m best placed to lend my two cents to the things I would like my son to know as his mother. This piece,

Now That You Are A Man, is dedicated to mothers of sons everywhere. Read it and weep, as I did, as you bid farewell to the little boy who will never again hold onto your skirt but

will forever hold your heart strings. Read it and rejoice that the said boy is now taking his place in the world, as he rightly should. 

Now that you are a man, my son, I hope you learn to make something, anything with your hands. More power to you if you can build a mud or a wooden hut, anything that can

provide shelter. 

Now that you are a man, my son, I hope you learn to fix things. Preferably as soon as they get broken. Learn to fix a faulty bulb, a leaking tap, a broken stool, a flat tyre, a fractured


Now that you are a man, my son, I want you to know that you will always be a hero in my eyes by virtue of birth, but as you take your place in the world, you will need to do kind,

noble, unselfish things. Learn skills that I hope you never have to use. Skills like first aid, performing CPR or rescuing someone from drowning.

Now that you are a man, my son, I hope you learn to speak up and speak well. Tell a funny joke, ask a woman on a date, gently let a woman down and when the time is right, ask a

woman to marry you. Please don’t be one of those ‘progressive types’ who lets her beat you to it. I hope you will be able to ask for a raise, a discount at the store and when you find

yourself in a debate, state your case calmly and convincingly. I hope you learn how to start a conversation with just about anyone and make it interesting.

The same applies to ending a conversation deftly. 

Now that you are a man, my son, take pride in yourself. It isn’t true that clothes make the man, but at the very least, clothes reveal him.

Yours is the unfortunate generation of sagged trousers and creased clothing but hopefully you won’t jump onto that bandwagon of fashionable disasters. Let your appearance

communicate in your favour. Take pride in your people, culture and have a personal sense of identity. There’s a reason you were born on or raised on this beautiful continent we call

home. And while you are at it, learn to speak an African language just as fluently as you do English. Master your craft and the money eventually follows. When it does, make it your

servant, never be its slave.

Now that you are a man, my son, better yourself. Today more than ever, there’s vast amounts of free knowledge at your fingertips. Read widely. Don’t ever believe that you have

become all you could be. Life is the journey through which you become your best self. No-one can make you a better man. You have to do that for yourself.  Part of being a better

human being is about how you treat others. Make it your aim to leave people better than you found them.

Now that you are a man, my son, work on your culinary skills. Real men can cook, so brush up your breakfast making and bar-b-cuing skills. Have at least one signature dish that

everyone raves about.  I hope you learn how to hunt, fish in a lake or river and slaughter a chicken. Speaking of killing things, I hope you learn how to kill a poisonous snake. It helps

to be prepared in the unlikely event that you find yourself alone on the proverbial island like Robinsoe Crusoe.