October 16, 2018

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Society does not treat boys and men kindly – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

Society does not treat boys and men kindly – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

My 7 year old son hates sleeping in the bedroom with only his younger brother. He wants an adult to be with them before they fall asleep. He feels safer this way.

Safe from what exactly?

Spiders.

Do we have an invasion of human sized tarantulas?

Nope.

We see the occasional spider but in his imagination, they exist and that scares him. In fact when he was younger, he woke up one day and was seeing spiders all over the house. It took a while to get him to calm down.

Some people are afraid of rats. Or snakes. Or lizards. Or roaches. My son doesn’t particularly like any of these creepy crawlies but spiders are special.

So, he comes to my room and we talk. I think he needs to conquer this fear. He is the singular reason why I don’t have more children than I already do. Many nights he comes knocking loudly. Or he drags my husband to come sleep in their room. How are we expected to do the do? Ok, he is not the singular reason but I imagine if we wanted more children, he would be a steady road block.

I say to him

“Baby, you need to stop being afraid of sleeping on your own. Nothing will happen to you.”

I know it won’t work but I say it to him all the same.

“When we move to a bigger house; our own house, you will not share a room with your brother. You will have to sleep alone.”

He then has a full melt down.

“I don’t want to move from this house. I don’t want to be older. I don’t want to stay by myself.”

He is already hysterical. Snot and all.

“We are not moving right away. Besides you will be a bit older when we move.”

He is sobbing in earnest at this point.

“Ok, then I want a wife. I can’t sleep alone.”

I start to laugh and I see he is seriously scared of being alone so much so that he is willing to marry in a bit.

I hug him and pacify him. I promise him he is safe at home with us.

That always gets me thinking.

My son has no clue. No idea of what lies ahead.

Boys are not allowed to be afraid.

Some girl somewhere is being groomed to be the damsel that must be taken care of. The one that when she squeals at the sign of a rat or a spider, a man must abandon all his fears and come to her rescue.

My son thinks that a wife will be there to help him feel safe. While in reality, it will be his manly duty to ensure that she is safe. Not just her but their children included.

Men are not supposed to crumble at the sight of a spider.

They are supposed to kill snakes, check out funny noises downstairs and fight other men who disrespect their women.

They are also expected to be handy men. They must be able to fix light bulbs, automatically tell why the generator is making a funny noise and fix it as well as tinkering under a bonnet to fix a car that just stopped on Third Mainland Bridge.

Talking about cars, men must know about cars and it is their lifetime duty to handle mechanics and all car related matters. They will get calls from the women in their lives while they are in meetings..

“Honey, your car is not starting o…”

“Where are you?”

“I am at Okota…it just stopped.”

“Open the bonnet.”

“I have opened it. What do I do?”

“Can you see the battery head…tap it lightly…”

“Ah ah, there is only jerry can here o”

“I said the bonnet not the boot!”

“Oh, ok… how do I open it?”

“Check at the left hand side underneath the steering wheel and pull the lever”

“I have pulled it. But it is money that is here o.”

“Money ke?”

“Me, I am tired of this car o. Call your mechanic to come and carry it, I will enter taxi.”

“I am at work. I just want to know if the battery head is loose. Or did it overheat?”

“No, I don’t know. Wait… Oga Oga, please help me open the bonnet…”

A passer-by rescues the man.

After 30 minutes of trouble shooting he peers into the car and sees that the gear is on reverse and in an automatic car, the car will not start.

“Thank you sir… thank you sir…”

Husband has been trying to call Gafar the mechanic and wondering if he will need to tow the car.

“Honey don’t worry, it has started. I will call you later.”

Have I digressed? Sorry, I got a little carried away. But my point was first that men are groomed to carry and not to be carried. They are not to be afraid, they are to know what to do in every situation.

Probably some girl out there is being taught that a man must pay for major things like ‘rent’, ‘school fees’ and ‘projects’. And that man who would be under pressure would be my son. And because society expects this of him, an inability to meet up would make him loathe himself and be subject to scorn by his wife, her family, his family, their friends and children.

I write a lot about the expectations that are placed on boys. I write because I have 3 sons and I see the world differently now.

A lot is said about male privilege. And yes, male privilege is a thing. But what you may not know is that this privilege is also a huge burden. This burden dehumanizes men in the process. Dehumanize because it is human to have fears. It is human to have and express emotions.

I hope my son overcomes his fear of spiders. But if he doesn’t, I pray he has someone in his life that will not berate him and question his ‘male-ness’.

Lastly, if you have a daughter and you are reading this, teach her about cars…my son cannot go and kee himself trying to repair a car remotely because your daughter cannot open a bonnet!

(Please do not feel insulted by the dialogue over the car that stopped. That was an actual conversation between you know who and her husband…insert smiley here!}

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