HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 6, 2014 – 12:00am
The making of a boy into a man is a life-long task. I am not even sure I am using the right term when I say “making.” What I am referring to is a boy’s journey from boyhood to a state of self-recognition — an arrival of sorts, to that feeling of confidence in his self-identity as a male in society.
It is difficult for a man to say he is “complete,” whatever the word means or implies. There is always something more to do, to learn, to surrender, to acquire in the pursuit of manhood, or personhood, till the end of one’s life. One’s cup is never filled completely and although some may find the contents sufficient or even overflowing from time to time, it is not permanent.
With the following list, I am sharing my thoughts directly from my experience as a male person. This is not an attempt to dictate what all men must do, be or have in order to become “certified” men. I do not mean to be dogmatic and I am not excluding gay men. I believe much of what I will share is common to all males, but what I am sharing today is what I have personally been through.
1. A man must learn to delay gratification. It is important to learn sacrifice, patience and suffering to be able to savor and appreciate all good things that come his way. Hardship builds character.
2. A man must be respectful of women. No ifs, and/or buts here. We must see women as different but equal in all ways.
3. For a boy to become a man, he must “break his mother’s heart.” I first heard this metaphoric phrase from an eminent psychologist and I immediately felt the truth in it. While we will always love our mothers, somewhere along the way of growing up, a boy will most likely feel the urge to do something that will shock and upset his mother. Call it a stage he must go through on his road to independence. This assertiveness is a way of “coming into his own” as a man who has stopped being a “mama’s boy.” It is the boy discovering his manhood and power-flexing.
4. A man must accept and understand his own sexuality, his own unique needs, tastes and preferences. I have learned that this arena covers a wide latitude when it comes to individual self-expression. It does not mean he must engage in sex every time it moves him. Rather, he must have great control over it. While sex is a drive, it must be engaged in with mutual consent always.
It is interesting to note one difference between men and women when talking about past relationships: Men tend to pad the number of partners they have had while woman downplay it.
5. I recommend that boys be circumcised, not at birth but somewhere near puberty. In these days of modern parenting when kids are being raised with hardly any rituals and rites of passage, the simple act of circumcision is a clear signal to a boy that he has gone some ways forward to manhood and that is important.
During tribal times, a boy was physically separated from his mother, and he and other boys his age were made to undergo physical pain and mutilation before they were deemed worthy to be called men and warriors. Today, when as parents, we are confused and unsure about how our kids should be treated and raised, it is not surprising how many kids have taken it upon themselves to distinguish themselves from their parents. Many have gone “tribal” with body piercing and tattoos (forms of self-mutilation) and pursuing their own fashion, lifestyle and music. It is their way of saying, “I am no longer the child you know. I am now grown up and different from you.”
Circumcision, getting a driver’s license, earning certain privileges are rituals young men go through at certain stages that help make them feel surer of themselves as they find their place in the world.
6. A man must have his heart broken at least once. It is such a great opportunity to learn to take the pain, stand up and move on. I’ve always believed that this is “almost necessary” to become a person of substance.
7. A man will never ever completely understand women. This being the case, it is important to resolve to develop patience as a lifelong student in the study of and appreciation of the opposite sex. This attitude will improve one’s capacity to acquire emotional intelligence — a necessity if he is to live harmoniously in a world where women hold up half the sky.
8. A man must learn to be responsible in all ways. He must learn to back his own words, answer for his actions, and when necessary, suffer for what he believes in. No hiding. No passing the buck. He must be the pillar of strength, not someone who hides behind one. Especially in this age of social media, anonymity is not a real man’s way. He must have the courage to speak for himself and as himself.
9. A man must learn tenderness. While it is important to be tough and all that, it is as crucial that he can also open himself to vulnerability, in order to become a great father, lover, brother, son. To borrow a phrase from Billy Joel, he must know when to “leave a tender moment alone,” and when to engage it.
10. A man must develop his own means to take care of himself and support his loved ones. He must contribute and be productive, even if not in monetary ways. It is possible that his partner may earn more, but a man will not lose his self-worth if he builds the capacity to be strong and keep things on an even keel. There are many househusbands who are not bothered about assuming traditional women roles at home. They are often as nurturing and reliable as housewives.
11. It is important that a man is morally grounded and believes in a greater power higher than himself. Most men, at a certain point, will likely start and have a continuous conversation with his God about the very mystery of life.
12. There are five areas in man’s life that he must pay attention to: money, career, relationships, his bodily intake and his spiritual side. The last one includes his reflective nature and also his aesthetic sense. Most of the time, we do not have a handle on one of the above, which would be tolerable. But to fail in two or three could make life quite dysfunctional and unbearable.