About this writer
With her voice as unwavering as her stare was unflinching, she bellowed, “In that case, you are not a man”.
It was a Saturday afternoon. I was in the company of an obviously intelligent but, as it turned out, obviously bitter woman. We had met for a long overdue drink, to talk about what we had been up to and where our lives where headed. We meandered through discussions about our love/hate relationships with our jobs. Then we grudgingly lumbered through the sorry state of national and international politics. Finally, we came full circle and started talking about family. Family. This word, for the woman across the table, translated to a different but not entirely unrelated word: Men.
By the time I had been stripped of my gender, men, all men, had been accused of all manner of evils, both real and imagined, I had risen to the defense of my kind, an act that seemed to incense the woman further. ‘Men sticking up for other men’ is seen as more a conspiracy of a brotherhood than it is the act of loyalty we believe it to be. See, according to her, all men, except maybe for Bill Gates, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tyson Beckford, are irresponsible, impulsive and impassive skirt chasing Neanderthals.
Hmm … to live without responsibility or complex emotion. To give in to only our most basic instincts. To reel in one woman after the other with absolutely no regard for the consequences. That is what men do? The woman at the table was right: in that case, I am not a man. But, looking at the description she accorded men, I think it would be rather great to be a man.
I can just picture it. If I were a man, I would leave behind the woman who shares my dreams to chase after a loose liaison; one who will forget that I exist as soon as I emptied my wallet. The image of the mother of my children, the custodian of my most intimate desires will fade as soon as I set my eyes on the girl whose personality is as manufactured as her beauty. Forget all you have heard about thoughtful and meaningful conversation with my significant other; all I will want are the right-on-cue giggles and shrieky laughter of a barely pubescent girl.
And who wants to watch their children grow? Surely, the joy of teaching a son how to tie his shoes comes a distant second to that of watching my favourite, foreign football team play. Why would I want to spend my Sunday afternoons with my daughter, teaching her how to play a musical instrument? I’d rather be at the local eatery, stuffing my face with blood dripping chunks of meat and copious amounts of alcohol. I would not have time to help them with their homework; my brain would be engaged in the stimulating activity of guessing what the next government will look like.
According to this obviously enlightened and insightful woman, if I were a man, I would have the emotions of a rock and the feelings of a plank of wood. And would that not be bountiful, benevolent bliss? I would go through life never haunted by the actions of the ghosts of girlfriends gone. My heart would never flutter, every time I saw the smile of girlfriend present. I would smile every time my heart broke and throw a party with every betrayal I would suffer.
I looked at this woman and I had only one question for her: really? Did she really believe that men are such vile and uncultured creatures?
As the fiery afternoon gave way to a cooler and calmer evening, my disenchantment with her gave way to pity. It was sad that the men she had encountered in her life had discoloured her world so much as to leave only stark and bare distinctions of what should and what should not be. In the world she lives in, being a man is at best a handicap and the only way to make a man an acceptable creature is to strip him of his very gender. Please note that I’m not blind in my defense of the testosterone carriers: are there men who fit the description given? Of course. Are some of them men that I know? Absolutely. But it would be extremely and unfairly naïve to assume that all men are cut from that same blemished cloth.
Some of us honour, protect and love our women. We tackle our responsibilities with fortitude and pride. When wounded, we bleed. We use words like honesty, fidelity and virtue, not as punch lines, but as a way of life. We do these things not in spite of being men; we do these things because we ARE men.