Any Seven Stories From My Life [2]

masculinity

An Oblique Commentary on Masculinity

1.
The first fight I won wasn’t even a fight. A boy my age but many times my size made fun of my oversized head. I was hurt, so I swung my fist, connected with his jaw, and two teeth flew out. That December night was dry and we were at a Christian camp for kids, sitting under a tree on a carpet of brittle leaves. If his teeth hadn’t flown out after that punch, it would have been my whole set of milk teeth diving into the leaves.

 

2.
The first time I watched Mowgli in Jungle Book, I felt so bad for him I ran to my room to stem the tears that threatened to fall. How I went from that boy to one who would search for tears in moments of pain baffled me for years, because although I gained an understanding of the value of crying I just couldn’t do it. I’d convinced myself for years that it was a weak thing to do. It was a thing of pride in secondary school to withstand beating from the teachers without a hint of tears.

 

3.
In the first of the years I spent at home between finishing secondary school and going to the university, I obsessed over becoming physically fit. I did push ups, headstands, and even found a heavy iron bar in the old garage behind the house that I used to work my biceps. That was the same period when my siblings and I would, after a day playing soccer, lie on the floor of our room, and listen to Don Moen or Jim Reeves sing out of mother’s old cassette player. Of course the fitness fad didn’t last. I soon returned to my routine of playing soccer in the afternoons, watching movies in the evenings, and reading books and listening to music at night.

 

4.
I can’t ride a bike, swim, or lick my elbow.
I used to play table tennis, soccer, and lift buckets of water every morning up the hill in Nkwelle.
I now walk through Mushin on my way home, climb the stairs, and dream about driving everywhere but Lagos.

 

5.
While serving in Anambra, I had migraine episodes that would often last for a week or more. One evening, in the middle of one of such attacks, some students—boys—were shouting in front of the lodge. A corps member asked them to leave, but they refused. Their noise intensified, each sound amplified to pain in the sound chamber: my throbbing head. I went outside and shouted at them, but they just scattered and regrouped like marching ants in contact with a small pool of water. I saw a cutlass beside the door and flung it at one of them. They did not return.

 

6.
Going to the Gym is described in a New Yorker piece about Max Grief’s Against Everything, as buying into a “soul-destroying managerialism that has disguised itself as a means of enhancing “life.”” This, not laziness or apathy towards my body, will now become my reason for refusing to enter a gym. But my back hurts too much.

 

7.
After a month of trying to get a medical report that should have taken three days, the man in charge of reports at the university clinic finally brought out the two-paragraph letter I needed. When I pointed out a mistake in the letter, he shrugged and asked that I return the following week to pick it up.

“Are you sure I’ll get this then?” I asked.
“You know what,” he replied, “I can’t say. You just have to keep coming back.”
I wanted to knock him out. I needed the report to prevent losing a year of school. “What do you mean by that? Isn’t this your fault?”
He was elderly. His face looked like I really did strike him by questioning him.
“Don’t shout at me young man.”

Then I started to shout. The nurses tried to calm me down, and one of the doctors joined them too. They asked me to explain what was happening. I sat down and started to shake, for I knew to explain would be to start crying. I’d lost a lot in the preceding months, and the man was part of a series of human and non-human circumstances I couldn’t control. I eventually narrated the story, and got a corrected letter in fifteen minutes. And although tears did not come out of my eyes, I’m sure I cried that afternoon.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2016

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/shoe-sit-costume-tailored-suit-512133/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Fading Glory

fading glory

Standards of beauty change from time to time and country to country, but when I was a young man, much younger than I am today, I was considered good-looking for my time and place.

I remember the heads of female employees turning as I walked the length of the office to my destination. On more than one occasion, women driving by whistled and catcalled as I walked on busy city streets. All these things I found very amusing and gratifying on some level.

Because I have been objectified—I have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention, been hit on by both men and women and made to feel very uncomfortable—I understand and sympathize with women when this happens to them. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Growing up, I never considered myself good-looking; instead, I was self-conscious about my looks. As I grew older and had more success with girls and women, I began to gain confidence. This boost led to success in other areas in my life—man’s greatest adrenaline rush is a beautiful woman. Many doors opened for me because of my good looks. I have always attributed it all to good luck. It is a matter of good luck, I suppose, to be blessed with the beauty gene.

But beauty can be a double-edged sword. Plain women are jealous of beautiful women and don’t trust their men around them. In the same way, men often feel insecure in the presence of a good-looking man.

Recently, a younger man worked at the same dealership with me. Every time I saw him, I felt uncomfortable and didn’t really know why. He was extremely handsome and moved with grace, literally dancing around the dealership. I got jealous every time he attended to an attractive customer or even one of our young female associates. I knew it was foolish to feel this way, as if I was in competition with him, even though I am much older and in a fulfilling relationship. When he quit and moved to Miami, I was very happy to see him go.

There is a downside to beauty. To be consumed by it, to waste away like Narcissus from Greek Mythology, is a mistake. Beauty fades and as I age, I sometimes feel like the invisible man. However, the words of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez are poignant, “Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” To reincarnate beauty, it must be tempered by grace, compassion, and love for others.

 

© Benn Bell 2015

Benn blogs at Ghost Dog
He wrote this piece as a rejoinder to my post, Beauty A First Class Ticket.

 

Photo credit: Pezibear/ http://pixabay.com/en/journal-leaves-brown-road-kahl-636462/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Grief: When Words are not Enough

grief

I am a strong woman and I let my tears fall as often as they like. However, when I pull up in front of his house, I repair my eye make-up and then smile twice to drive sadness away. Tears are not welcome here, I remind myself as I get out of the car.

I let myself in and grief meets me in the hallway. The post lies in a scattered pile on the doormat. Blue envelopes, white envelopes, shiny envelopes, and magazines and periodicals, he does not read. I sort them in three groups: the urgent I place on the console table, the trivial I put in the drawer underneath, where he keeps his car keys, and the rest, the magazines, periodicals, and shiny envelopes, I dump in the dustbin, in the kitchen.

Here, grief is loud coaxing me to chide. I clear dirty plates, a half-empty sardine tin, and stale bread in the semi-darkness.

In the living room, the curtains say no to the sun. The light from ESPN’s classic football on TV illuminates his form. Grief is quiet inviting me to converse. Grief is still but I am not one to fill the silence as if I am a child colouring with impatient hands that cannot stay within the lines. It has been two days since he heard the news.

When pain overwhelmed my reasoning, my sister sat beside me, squeezed my shoulders, and remained quiet. When disappointment visited me on a Monday morning, my cousin sat beside me, a box of tissues separating us. She hunched her shoulders in sync with mine, let me cry, and kept quiet. When I exhaled the last bit of hope in my heart, a friend sat beside me, numb we stared at CNN, and then he kept silent vigil as I channel surfed.

So, I sit on the settee, careful to maintain distance. I sit until my nose attunes to the smell of day-old perspiration and until I can breathe in the stuffy air circulating in the room. Grief is hypnotic calling me to sleep. I sit until I awake. His head lies heavy on my lap. My skirt is damp and the soft sounds are not from the TV. They are from a man beaten by life, his hopes shred by the finality of death.

“My father, my father, oh my father.”

Grief feels like roulette. Sometimes touch is enough. Sometimes presence is enough. I know he knows that if we pull open the curtains, sunlight will burst through and in the night, the moon will give us light. But right now, words are unnecessary. This is the first time I have observed a man cry.

I have only ever seen two men cry. The first time must have lasted less than five minutes. Ten years passed before I saw another man cry. Perhaps it is because this occurrence is rare that each time I glimpsed a man’s vulnerability, I loved him more.

If we show our weakness, we may lose the ground we have secured and the advantages it conferred, but if we don’t show that we are weak sometimes, we may lose much more. We may lose the opportunity for others to love us for our humanity.

I wonder, at what age does a boy “man up” and decide to stop crying?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Pixabay

Original image URL: http://pixabay.com/en/candles-tealights-soft-209157/

http://pixabay.com/en/clapping-hands-shadow-poor-light-189171/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.