Posted in Blog

“Mama Can’t Raise No Man”

“Life in general is a test. And raising a son especially a black son in an area [environment] with hardly any tangible prospects or prominent male figures to look up to as role models is a test within itself. Not to mention the fact that the same area [environment] is known for low income, crime, police rivalry, inequality, broken homes, drugs, violence, and prostitution. The list goes on and will leave a young man with many unanswered questions about justice.” (from “Mama Can’t Raise No Man” by Robyn Travis)

 

I’ve recently begun volunteering and today I met the most amazing man.

We got into a great conversation about manhood and what it means to be a man, which is poignant considering I’ve just finished reading Mama Can’t Raise No Man by Robyn Travis, focusing very much on what it means to be a man and how a boy can learn to become a man.

Mama Can't Raise No Man
(Image source)

The guy I met today told me that he’d never had a father figure in his life and had struggled to find one. His primary role model was his mother and so he felt that any man he encountered later in his life looked at him as an effeminate man, not man enough. He eventually met his father later on in life, who was derogatory about his son’s man-status, or lack-thereof (he repeatedly referred to him a sissy); thankfully he stood up for himself even though he was hurting inside; he knew that him having not learnt how to be a man wasn’t his fault because the person who was supposed to be responsible for doing this had walked out on him during his formative years. This story is very much like Duane’s in Mama Can’t Raise No Man, whose father walked out on him when he was still a baby; his father refuses to take any responsibility for missing out on Duane’s childhood and failing to provide him with the teaching he needed to become a man. In fact, his father argues that his mother should’ve been the one to teach him everything he needed to become the man his father expects him to be… doesn’t really make sense does it? How can he be what his father wanted him to be without the influence of that father? I also recently wrote about absent fathers, failing to take responsibility for their roles to play in parenting sons a couple of weeks ago.

After reading this novel, although I thought so before, I really realised how hard it is to be a man in our society. My mother didn’t necessarily teach me how to be a woman, however I had many role models around me in the women who were part of our lives, to help me become the woman I am today. Although single mothers are amazing in everything that they do, they cannot entirely give their boys everything they require to be a man. As I was growing up and had questions about life in general or things I was seeing and hearing, I had women around me to ask who could offer the relevant perspective I needed for my enquiries. Speaking of which, over the weekend I checked out a recent BBCThree documentary called Finding Dad, which tells the story of Mim Shaikh who hasn’t seen his father since he was a baby (this is a great documentary by the way and a highly recommend it). He was raised by women – his mother up until a young age and then his maternal grandmother who took over when her daughter became too sick to look after Mim – and the people who hold the answers to who his father is, and shape him as a man, are women.

It is very clear that not having his father around, leaving so many unanswered questions, has a profound affect on Mim’s mental health; although he is highly functioning with a successful career, he feels that there is a giant piece of him missing from his identity causing a great unrest within him, which is also why we must take men’s mental health so seriously. Who can young boys talk to when they don’t have men around them to confide in? Who can we blame when they go out seeking role models in the wrong people? When I used to teach, I was extremely protective of my boys and would always ensure that I was available to them, but I was also very much aware that I was a woman to them and could never be the complete answer that they needed.

The man I met today said that as a young boy he sought a role model in the wrong type of man, which nearly killed him as he was lead down a dangerous path.

Who is ensuring that this history doesn’t repeat itself in younger generations?

XOXO

 

Posted in Blog

“Show Up For Him”

Prancing Elites

(Image source: Twitter)

I’ve been watching The Prancing Elites Project on All4. It’s my latest obsession; I watched the entire first season while dying on the sofa last night (I currently have the flu. Boo).

In Season 2 Episode 5, Kentrell finds out that his father has been diagnosed with cancer. His father walked out on him and his mum when Kentrell was just 8 years old and hasn’t shown much of an interest in his son since. Kentrell finds it infuriating that his father now wants him to show up for him when he never showed up for his son; he never went to Kentrell’s graduation from high school or dancing academy. As Kentrell is airing these frustrations to his mum, she says to him:

maybe you should be the bigger person and show up for him

Now, as much as I get that this was said with the best intentions, I’m constantly stressing about why children are expected to “show up” for their parents; why are we the ones who are expected to be the adults in familial relationships? Why are we the ones who have to show our parents how to behave?

I haven’t heard from my mother since I told her not to talk to me until she decides that she wants to be a proper mother for me, which was earlier this year, and considering that she’s now in her sixties and her health isn’t great anyway, I often wonder what I will do in the situation where her health deteriorates, or when she eventually passes away. What will I do? I don’t see us reconciling ever again (and that’s not me being pessimistic, that’s me being realistic that she can never give me what I need as her daughter and I deserve better than what she has to offer). I honestly do not know what I will do when the situation arises, but I no longer let this concern keep me up at night.

I don’t know what Kentrell is going to do yet about his father. If I was in his shoes, I’d probably tell him to fuck off and carry on living the life I’ve been living  without him.

 

UPDATE: 

A few episodes later, Kentrell meets up with his father. It’s actually quite a distressing scene: his father at first, refuses to acknowledge his wrongs and plays the victim. Yes he has cancer, however he blames his children for the fact that he has to go through it alone and refuses to accept responsibility. I think he even wails that none of his ten(?) children want anything to do with him and blames THEM for that and not himself. At one point, he even walks out when his son questions him about his past violence. To be fair, he does come back, but then again instead of being willing to answer his son’s questions, he asks for the past to be left in the past and once he receives that confirmation, he THEN says sorry. This leaving shit in the past and requesting forgiveness really irks me because I feel like this is the kind of psychologically manipulative shit that parents like this pull when they want to continue to play the victim.

Another member of the dance group, Jerel also happens to be going through a similar problematic reconciliation with his estranged father. After Jerel came out as gay as an adolescent, his father abused him both psychologically and physically – even threatening to kill him for being gay and holding a gun to his head. After many years of not speaking, his father reaches out to him and Jerel decides that they should meet up to talk things through. Unfortunately, his father stands him up and Jerel calls his mum in tears who then rushes to console him. I stan his mum forever because as she comforts him, she reminds him that HE is the child and is not responsible for showing up for his father. I wish that more parents were as aware of the roles of parent and child as Jerel’s mum clearly is.

 

XOXO