Men don’t cry and other lies

From a young age, we’re taught the duties of a man and those of a woman especially at home. Primarily, men are cited as providers. Rise up early and go to work before the children are awake, come home late in the evening and bring flour and half a kilo of meat with you. In some upcountry setting, the man would leave home on Sunday evening, travel to Nairobi for work and wouldn’t be seen again until Friday evening.  A man wasn’t meant to be seen at home. But his presence had to be felt, through his ability to provide.

The other day I drove people to job interviews in Westlands. There were more ladies heading for that interview than gentlemen, and the job didn’t involve cooking and cleaning around the offices.

Most of the people I drove there spent the entire ride staring vacantly out the window, in contemplative silence. Maybe pondering on the questions they would be asked. Or maybe wondering if they should just kill their employment dreams and pursue their dreams of being the largest avocado provider in Africa. I can’t know for sure.

But one of them was keen to talk. He introduced himself as Luseti. “Hi, I am Luseti and sometimes I think I have daddy issues,” he said. “And you? What’s your name?” I told him my name. I would’ve shaken his hand, but I needed to use those three seconds to start the car and time doesn’t grow on trees.  “Do you have daddy issues?” He asked after I told him my name and I told him I don’t think so.

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I probably have some deep set daddy issues, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. He didn’t mention his daddy issues in passing neither. “I think almost everybody out there has daddy issues, but we don’t really talk about them. Men mostly never had an emotional connection with their fathers because fathers were pillars of security and strength rather than where you take your silly little emotional problems. And you can’t blame our fathers.

Their fathers had fought in the Second World War, or in the MauMau – their fathers lived through wars and hardships and consequently weren’t exactly soft inside. Those men couldn’t be expected to raise emotionally aware children. So they raised “tough” children, our parents. And they in turn, raised us.”

“Do you know why more men commit suicide than women?” he asked and waited for me to answer. At first I thought it a rhetorical question but in the subsequent silence, I found him staring at me, waiting for a reply.

“No. I didn’t even know more men commit suicide than women.”

Ostensibly, men don’t talk about their feelings because that is such an unmanly thing to do. Goes in the vein of, ‘men don’t cry.’

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“Growing up, our mothers were the disciplinarians. Mostly they would talk your ears off if you made a mistake, and our fathers would stay silent. So through observation, we learned that men don’t talk too much, unless they are talking to their male friends.”

He talked for the 30-minute ride to his job interview and I figured that maybe he was just nervous.

“Now we have grown up to find a world where we are the men, but we are not the sole providers. I have held a couple of jobs over the past six years and I have never had a male boss. There are almost as many women providing for their families, as men. In such a world, a man who is not providing, is hit with an overwhelming sense of uselessness, for what is he, if not a provider? What is his purpose?

“Which leads to the next problem. Men don’t talk about their feelings. They drink about them, they spend unhealthy amounts of time brooding over them, but they won’t open their hearts. Same way a man would rather get lost than ask for directions.”

He mentioned a lady friend of his who says that older men, most of them married, end up calling her at strange hours, drunk, crying, telling her of their problems. Things they cannot tell their wives because they are men and they are supposed to have things figured out.

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Next thing you know; the man has committed suicide. In most countries, more men commit suicide than women.

Sure the world has changed. I hope they aren’t still telling children in schools that men are the providers and women are the keepers of homes. I hope they aren’t still telling boys that men don’t cry.

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