I was recently asked to do a “motivational talk” at one of my cousin’s 21st party. I reluctantly agreed to do it because I had no idea what I was going to talk about. I put it in the back of my mind as this was the easiest way to deal with it at the time, but of course as the time grew nearer for the 21st birthday party I couldn’t put it off any more.
I think it was about 2 days before the party I really started thinking what I could share with my cousin who was now venturing into a new chapter in his life. As society prescribes he now has to now “become a man…” But what does this mean? How do you become a man? What happens when you become a man?
I decided that I would ask him the question, Are you ready to man-up? In African tribes they have customs and ceremonies that boys have to go through where they have to endure terrible ordeals sometimes for days in order to prove their manhood. After these ceremonies they are left exhausted and bloodied, but they are overjoyed. The boy would be beyond glad to participate in the ritual. This would be the greatest day in his life, because that is the day he became a man!
We don’t have such kinds of rites of passage in modern western society. So, what clear markers are there for our boys on their journey to become a man? If you ask young men when the transition occurs, you will probably get a range of different answers depending on the society they live in and what outside pressure come with that. The type of answers you will probably get are: “when you get a car,” “when you graduate from college / university,”when you get a real job,” “when you lose your virginity,” when you get married,” “when you have a child.” Truth be told, the process of becoming a man, ceremony or not, does not happen in a single moment. In my opinion, the transition happens when the boy makes the decision in his own mind that he will now become a man. When this happens his view on everything changes, he becomes responsible for his own actions and society starts to respect him as a man. The boy only becomes a man once he makes up his mind that he now needs to “man-up.” This is very evident in community I live in where I see males well advanced in their years who still have not made the transition from a boy to a man. So the question begs. Boys are you ready to man-up?