Making the transition from precocious teen to card-carrying alpha male is trickier than one might think.
IN the North Australian Gulf of Carpentaria, the Mardudjara Aborigine boys used to be circumcised and made to eat their own foreskin when they turn 15.
It is believed that by doing so, they would have eaten “their boyhood” and it would grow inside them and make them strong, signalling the end of their adolescence and the beginning of manhood.
Revolted as I was, I couldn’t help but envy those boys on how simple it was for them to, technically, become men.
Growing up, I remember watching the men at my church and being excited at the prospects of someday being as “manly” as them.
Men wore neckties, drank coffee and worked on important jobs and talked about smart things with other men.
Men were family pillars, loving to their wives and strict with their progeny, and would confidently take control of the situation if a kid accidentally swam to the deep end of the pool.
I’m 23 now and by all physiological means, I am now a man but I can’t help wondering if something went wrong during my coming of age.
For me, manhood doesn’t seem any different from being an old kid. Just with bigger and more expensive toys.
A New York Times article “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” seems to confirm my problem, in that experts believe people my age are taking a longer time to reach adulthood competency than their baby boomer parents.
I never had a father figure to compare myself to but this notion hits home, when I consider that by the time she was my age, my mother was living on her own, paying for her own studies and was financially supporting my grandparents.
Me? I once got 61 “likes” on a Facebook status.
Foolish as it sounds to judge one’s manliness by ticks on a check list, I can’t picture a true man who hasn’t experienced some form of personal growth or accomplishment.
Do I need to accumulate a list of sexual conquests, bar brawls and bench presses?
Hunt for my food in the wild and let out fearsome roars of accomplishment. Or will procuring landed property, a trophy wife and a master’s degree do the trick?
I wonder if other guys my age are also finding it a confusing time to be a man.
Traditional gender roles have changed over the years, paving the way for a breed of women who are arguably better than us.
According to the Department of Statistics, women now make up 47% of our workforce and 75% of public university enrolments.
Calling women the weaker sex is also false, considering Malaysian women tend to live four years longer than men, while we lead in diagnoses for cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, according to the World Health Organisation.
But happy as I am that the balance between men and women is more equal now, I selfishly can’t help but feel this is yet another nail in the coffin for masculinity.
But perhaps it deserves to die.
Perhaps we, so-called men, have become too comfortable with our preconceived role in society that we have become oblivious to the changed rules.
Perhaps boys are so confident that they grow up to be men and forgot what truly goes into actually being a man.
And perhaps, we are losing our relevance to our female counterparts who are evolving way faster than us – or maybe, just me.
Actually, I don’t think it’s just me. Though I’ve not heard any guy express insecurities about declining manliness.
I think it’s interesting that an anthropologist found that the G.I. Joe Sgt Savage action figure has grown three times more muscular since 1982.
I also found it interesting that searching “how to be a man” on Google would give you 3.78 billion results, which is a billion more than if you searched for “how to be a woman”.
> Nicholas Cheng thinks that men must be swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire and mysterious as the dark side of the moon.