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MANTALK: Perils of raising a ‘mama’s boy’

Saturday April 13 2019

Let sons learn how to swim on their own.

Let sons learn how to swim on their own. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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There is a boy I worry about. A nice boy. He’s a confident and charming boy, one who has since cracked the code of staying afloat in this big bad city; people, relationships. At the age of 25, he’s a little too tall and little too handsome for his own good, and of course a little too cocky for that age. Older women like him. Older men think he’s their peer. But he’s only a boy.

At 25 years, first job in the bag, new haircut to fit the bobbing corporate throng, he wants more before he has done more. He’s straining on a leash. He wants to take off. To go. Now. He wants to run off and do what he imagines men do without letting go of his boy-pants. He wants his first million tomorrow at midday. He wants a car. He wants success, the type that you get after Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. But see, he doesn’t have time, at least not the time to do the 10,000 hours. Why would he make his bones when he and his ilk are the custodians of the Internet, and isn’t the Internet the home of every imaginable possibility? So he continues to chase a mirage.

Oh don’t I worry about this boy. I call him a boy when ideally he should be a man. I should be drinking with him. I should be talking life with him. Yet he’s still a boy and so I have to speak with him in the language that boys know. One of his greatest lucks is that he has a wonderful mother, this boy. A woman who is always thinking, always moving, always planning, always nurturing, always wanting more and giving more. A woman with a big heart that wants to fill everyone with the helium of her love. But his luck turns out to be his misfortune because having a mother like that hasn’t allowed him to be a man.

How do you leave the comfort of a mother who knows what you will eat for lunch in the office? A mother who bails you when you have blown your salary on superfluous endeavours? A mother who pays for your holidays and buys your drinks? She who lets you stay with her rent-free, food-free, electricity-free, Wi-Fi free, let’s you pack leftovers for lunch in the office, lets you have one of her cars to go “dundaing” with.


How do you leave that comfort? And when finally, you leave because now the men around you, the men around her, have insisted and protested and cajoled and said, leave that house, leave your mother, we will put down the first deposit of that little house, and you get into your mother’s house again, it’s the most heartbreaking thing known to man. It’s still your mother’s house because she bought the bed, sheets, spoons, stove and curtains and mattress (for chrissake!); and the door’s welcome mat, table cloths, fridge and television; and paid the first month’s rent. To mean, everything. Who moves into their first house with a TV set and a fridge?

And it made me so angry and sad for this boy. I told him, “your mother is not helping you, she’s ruining you! She’s weakening you. Leave her shadow. Or you will suffer. Or you will never know what it is to be a man.” But remember I said he’s a nice boy, he hears but never listens. He’s charming. So he still goes to his mother’s house to eat.

The boy doesn’t know what to struggle means. He will never know the pride that comes with living in a single room with one bed, and a baby-meko and no fridge because, you only ever cook eggs; and what you cook you eat everything anyway. He will never know the pride of wanting more for yourself and slowly and painfully building onto this. Of buying your first TV set, your very own, with your own remote, a TV set you watch from the bed because you haven’t made enough to buy that one-seater you are saving for.

The pride of bringing a girl home to this meagre existence, but your own existence, borne from your effort. He will never know how it feels like when you know that when things go very wrong, you can never go back home, because home is two-buses and nine hours away. Plus, there is nothing at home because this is where folks go to retire and look after their chicken.

I worry for this boy. In the years to come, some poor women will try and figure out what’s wrong with him; this laissez faire to life, this lethargy to lead, to have a plan, to show, to own. These women will wonder why he still can’t do anything without looking at his mother. And they will keep leaving because the crop of women now have a lower threshold for nonsense. I worry for this boy — and boys like him. I say kick them out of the house when they get a job, any job. Let them learn how to swim on their own. Let go of their hands.