I was thinking about what it is to be a man yesterday, and I decided to compile a story detailing all my dad and grandpa taught me on the topic. It is written as a dialogue between myself, as a boy, and my grandpa. He was a wise man indeed. Honest and caring and cheeky as hell. But he always gave the best advice. Advice, I always believe, is a dangerous thing to give. Yet he always did it with an air of caution. He never delegated advice, he always structured it so that it would benefit you no matter who you were or what your goals were. So this is a paraphrased dialogue with wisdom from both the father figures in my life.
I remember having a chat with my grandpa about becoming a man. I’m sure many guys have had a similar sort of chat with their respective father or grandfather figures in their lives. Being a man is a very important thing for a young boy. It has a presence about it. As a young boy, I remember looking up to the men in my family and longing for the day that I would also hold that coveted title. And coveted it was…
“Not every boy grows up to be a man,” he would say, “some boys remain boys. There is more to being a man than ball hair and a beard.” My grandpa always had a nice way of putting things, especially when there were no women around. He maintained very tactful when women were around, because that was part of being a man; respecting women. “There are two parts of being a man, Kyle. One is universal. There are somethings you do and do not do. The other is about growth, but we will get to that later.” My grandpa was like a super hero to me, and upon growing up some, I realised that his super powers were not the figment of a boys over active imagination. Every one spoke of him the way I remember him. Honest, caring, stubborn (in a good way, and where it mattered) and charming.
“A man treats a woman well. She is not his slave, or there to do his bidding. It is a contract, a partnership. A woman is there to be strong where a man is weak and a man is there to be strong where a woman is weak.” He had a very serious look on his face that lightened up when he said with a wink, “But beware of a woman, she can blind a man with beauty.”
“A man should protect those that are weaker than him. Not to show power or to show dominance, but to show respect and honour. Strength should be used to move things forward, not break them down.” He really should have written a book. “He should conduct himself as a gentleman always. Because a gentleman is what a man is. Even if no one is looking.” He smiled then, and I knew that he was going to try and trick me; “If you could steal a million rand from someone and know that you would never ever get caught, would you?” A trick question, the worst kind! I remember racking my brain to come up with a clever answer and all I could muster was, “No, yes. wait.” My grandpa laughed his burly laugh and said, “The right answer is ‘it depends’. A man should never steal from another man, but if that man is using money for evil deed, and you are never going to get caught, no harm in buying your wife a boat.” I was never really sure if he was serious there or not.
“A man keeps himself and his surroundings neat and tidy. Not just because it is presentable, but because it is a hell of a lot easier to find things.” He chuckled again. I loved the way he made so much sense.
“Kyle, there are things that a gentleman has to do in order to be a gentleman. But you need to decide what kind of man you are going to be. Sit and think about all the amazing people you have met and seen. Imagine the qualities that make them great. Be honest, flying and laser eyes are great qualities, but a little unrealistic. Then come up with a picture of the man you want to grow up to be.” This was all I needed to hear, my imagination began running wild, but my grandpa managed to say the only thing that could lasso my attention, “And do you want to know the secret of how to grow up to be that man?”
I knew this would be good. This was quality, genuine wisdom I was being given. So I started listening, hard. You know when you are listening so closely that you almost can’t hear anything? Like that.
“To become the man you want to be is simple. Be that man.”