The beauty of having a protege is that you can call them at some random hour and say, “Mluhya, uko sawa? I had a bit to drink this weekend, do you want to bang something for Tuesday?” Of course they can’t say no, not after you have always fed them a lot of pep talk about preparedness, seeing and grabbing an opportunity and, most importantly, showing up. And because they happen to be fantastic writers they will say, “Of course, I can bang something today.”
“Great, what about?”
“About being a man.”
“You will read it.”
“By the way, it’s my birthday tomorrow. Will you do something?”
“Or big, you are a bazu.”
“Ha, buttering me up. What are you doing for your birthday?”
“I’m leaving town.”
“With someone’s daughter?”
“Sawa. Don’t do something small. Have fun.”
Eddy Ashioya turned 28. I think he feels some type of way about that. Maybe he feels that the sky has moved lower over his head. Maybe he thinks he should have had a baby by now. Or learn how to tame monkeys. Who knows.
BY EDDIE ASHIOYA
Nobody ever asks how to be a woman. It is sort of implied. But to be a man, there are all these sets of rules you need to follow.
There is something raunchy and forbidden about the word man. Saying it feels a little aggressive, almost braggadocio. Man. An icon of invulnerability, the billboard of toughness, a Wikipedia version of aloofness. Man. A casanova. A prodigal. Even a rascal. It’s not who he is, it’s how he is perceived.
A man eats class for breakfast. He brings it even when he doesn’t have to. And I was bringing it this weekend. It was my birthday and while I was holed up in a man cave cottage up north, I got to thinking of all the old-fashioned rugged men who have been circling my life, doling out wisdom, of what it is to be a man. I relished the stereotypes that are oft lampooned in the media—rugged beard, watching world war films, dripping machismo and oozing malandro charm. This, I’m told by people much cooler than me, is the way to live.
Me, myself, I am staring down the barrel of a gun, and that gun is loaded with the responsibilities of a man, and no matter how far I run, my back remains the target. I’m a millennial so of course you know I did that very millennial thing of photographing every goddamn thing during my birthday, because it’s good for my brand. And that’s the thing that got me thinking, who, nay, what is a man?
So, if you’ll humor this youngish geezer for just a moment, I have some pretty insightful suggestions of what it is to be a man. At least from where I sit. Take it with a pinch of salt, man.
A man should never ask how to be a man because then that implies that a man doesn’t know how to be a man. A real man…would not be reading this…and was probably born before 1945.
Everyone knows your name but they call you ‘Boss’ anyway. You party at a nightclub where your bouncer’s name is Weida and his nickname is Steve. That’s why you drive only manual cars. It’s part of your self-made mythos. Cars are culture. Any man knows that. You can’t be like, okay, I drive a Juke because it has great milieage. No, if you drive a Juke, you’ve joined a tribe.
While a woman’s skin is soft like a dying lotus, a man’s skin is thick like the road to hell, or a Game of Thrones plot—he might look soft, but he’s made of sinew. The modern man should never let people know when his ego has taken a beating. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly, until it finally is.
Even during those moments when your chest tightens and someone cuts onions near your eyes? Those are just brain dookies, or ‘feelings’ as my therapist likes to call them, filling up in your chest-testicle, or ‘heart’ as it is popularly known.
A man never stares but knows how to sneak a look. You know what I’m talking about, right? When his woman is bending over and he feels that thrum that only a man can feel. A man should have several girlfriends but make sure these girlfriends never meet each other…or the wife.
He gets shit done. You service a well-oiled beard and know exactly which café joint to go to (not that one). Plus, you make a wicked guacamole-omelet combo that slaps differently, that one can hardly taste the shame you feel for watching Gilmore Girls. A good guacamole-omelet combo is a left-brain, right-brain deal. It’s the boiling water of the cooking industry.
A man should never curse. Shit. Oops.
If a man has to watch a panther, then that panther can only be Black, not pink. Mails (man nails) a man should trim those. He should be fit, if you like that sort of thing.
Like most red-blooded African men, kindness is a soft power, unleashed at the most opportune times.
A man could be misinformed, uninformed, as long as it has ‘informed.’ I am from the dyed-in-the-wool school of thought that a man should try at least once to let the girlfriend order for him. I like ordering for my girlfriend but the day she ordered me one? A barely touched plate of organic greens and lemon water put a halt to that.
And…a man should always wake up earlier than the Missus even if said man has nowhere to go, or if the Missus has a 4AM meeting. A man must never be outwoken, outworked, or outshone.
A man should understand that he can be first in everything, except commenting. That’s not his job. In fact a man should never comment unless the man is well informed on the topic. But because a man is always informed, a man should be the last to comment, to point out everyone else’s glaring idiocy.
A man can tame lions, domesticate coyotes but it is (perfectly) okay if he is terrified of cockroaches. Those things are hideous and move at wicked speeds. A man has a right to fear a cockroach. But shouldn’t a man face his fears? Well, that too. But who’s to say facing your fears cannot also be about looking away? Nobody, that’s who.
Which reminds me, a man should watch (hehe) his eye contact. Very intense eye contact can feel like an intrusion, the sort of look that detectives at DCI give you. You want to achieve Aristotle’s Golden Mean—not too intense, not too subtle. Very subtle eye contact can make people look at you longer or make strangers think you are genuinely interested in their opinion about Bata ngomas, the overuse of water bottles in town, overusing water bottles while wearing Bata ngomas…
A man pees while standing up. And shakes. That is independence. Whether in the bush or in a lodge, it’s an in-the-marrow instinct. It’s silent theatre. It’s our way of connecting with nature. Freedom—just how God intended it.
He can spit in the air, watch the saliva land and tell you—exactly—what time it is. Or he can look at the sky and tell you it is raining in Naivasha, while he is Namanga. That’s what a man can do. By the way, it’s raining in Naivasha.
He can also dance. It’s not that he must. It’s that he can. Nevertheless, dancing is generally to be dodged.
Don’t be a victim. Don’t complain. Don’t unleash a salvo on Twitter. Actually, don’t be on Twitter. Unless you are funny. Are you funny? You are? The more reason to be off Twitter. And while we are at it, the modern man has never ‘pinned’ a tweet, and he never will.
A man should not have a potbelly. It doesn’t matter if he is practicing body positivity—a man’s tummy must be flat because his life isn’t. But if a man has a potbelly, then he should not be ashamed of it. A man owns his flaws, and rocks them like a designer piece. Except in the case of a forehead. There’s no coming back from that one. It’s just…weird.
A man should always sleep at the edge of the bed. It doesn’t matter if his wife has an early morning, a man will already be up by the time his wife realizes that she has snoozed the alarm five times. A man should always sleep in only two positions: with his back on the mattress, his face mano-a-mano with God, in case the Most High calls him, or on his left side, to leave his right hand free to swat away mosquitoes and protect his kingdom, but mostly just to hold his woman’s boobs. A man is allowed to have a favourite boob but never let the wife know. Tip: In my experience, the left boob is always bigger. Don’t ask me how I know. A man just knows stuff.
Stuff like, a man knows the right kind of shoes to wear. His family will detect his mood by the stump of his Chelsea boots.
He listens. Or appears to be listening because a man never really hears what anyone is saying. A man’s standard response, when asked what he is thinking about, is, “nothing”. Because that’s true. A man doesn’t think. A man does.
Appetite—he has that. That is what defines a man. A picky eater maketh not a good man. A man understands that we can be called to serve our countries at any time…and that means joining an army. Whether it is the military or the salvation army, no need to split hairs, army is army.
Besides, a man can live in a house for 35 years and still not know where the salt is kept. We just don’t do that. Plus, a man can eat anything and everything. It is a jungle out here. If a man doesn’t like a particular meal, he will develop a palette for it. Because that’s what men do. We survive. And we make the mundane look like the best thing that ever happened, because a man has taste, pun aside.
Speaking of, a man must date up and marry even further up. Why? A man does not need to explain himself. A man will not explain himself.
When a man gets a cold, the president should be on standby to institute a state of emergency. A man can be bitten by a venomous snake, grazed by a grizzly bear or thrown in a furnace like Daniel, Meshack and that other one whose name I keep forgetting, but flu is where it’s at. Flu is a man’s Achilles heel. Samson had hair, Solomon had women, the modern man has the flu.
A man should never say ‘I don’t know’. Remember a man can be misinformed or ill-informed. He has to know something. Except when asked, “Who is Susan?’ or “Where is the saltshaker?” which to us sounds the same. Then here the standard response is, “I don’t know.”
If a man is forced to cook but doesn’t want to cook, the man will intentionally confuse white pepper with salt. The man will feign excitement and leave the kitchen a hot mess. Then the man will be banned from ever stepping foot in the kitchen. The man has played the long game, and his stocked library collection of Sun Tzu’s Art of War is finally paying dividends.
Does the modern man enjoy being a little spoon? What do you think? Does the sun shine at night? The answer, as we all now know, is no. This study has been corroborated by a Scientist. Sometimes, my friends call me ‘Scientist.’
A man believes that the greatest movie ever filmed was The Joker. Because life is a sad comedy and the fiend is sometimes the hero, and we’re all just clowns hiding under life’s masks. He tests his friends by the number of times they have watched the Joker, there is no correct answer but the wrong answer is anything less than 10. The Godfather comes a close second simply because the salacious outfits were way ahead of their time. Fight Club is not too bad either. Men, all of them.
If ever a man is feeling weary, he must remember that life is for the tough. A man does not need motivation, a man needs discipline. And a healthy credit score. That means a man should pay his debts, unless he has a friend at KRA, then that friend should always remind him to pay his debts or they will come for him.
A man is not passive-aggressive. He does not put quotes on WhatsApp statuses to aim subtle digs. He swallows it, or looks for the person and talks it out. Or he ghosts. Either way, a man should dance with his demons, take a long hard look in the mirror and avoid the temptation to take a bathroom selfie. It never turns out good. Especially if you have a potbelly.
A man is indifferent to candles. And cushions. Meh.
Sunglasses? What are those? A man should not wear anything other than doctor-prescribed goggles. Anything else is pretentious. A man should penetrate people with his steely gaze, until they cower in submission or avert their gazes. His invisible grip should enable him to close deals, or simply get forgiven for being out past curfew hours…whether it’s from the government, or the Government (the missus).
A man will not try to extend writing this piece just so he can meet the editorial guidelines. No. A man will pretend that his editor, who is also his boss, has watched The Joker and realized that it is very dangerous to undermine the underdog. A man is not threatening his editor. A man is just saying.
The modern man only stocks regular drinks like Coke or whiskey. If you strut into his patio, screaming for soda water, he’ll show you the door.
A man should support Arsenal at least once in his lifetime so that he learns how to experience hope, fear and death in one breath.
The modern man makes it his life’s purpose to use the proper name for things. For instance, he’ll say ‘Naivasha’, not ‘’Vasha’, or ‘Biashara’ not ‘Shara’ like some off-color gauche simpleton.
A man reads sophisticated tomes, like Philip Roth, Ogden Nash. He sprinkles this in his conversations, shaking the foundations of his friendship. A man who has read Ogden Nash understands that the day your descendants outnumber your friends; a man knows he is old.
From time to time, a man plays the odd sport. Sudoku. Chess. Never Super Mario. Logic-based games like chess have been known to increase memory, keep you younger, and give you stronger erections. Okay, I made up that last part but you get the point.
A man should know that there is only one way to buy your woman the perfect dress size: 1. Don’t.
A man also knows that teenage girls want an ear, not advice. The same goes for their mothers.
A man does not write lists of what a man is or what a man is not. A man just is. Not the man. Just a man. Even if you are wearing a tutu.
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