“He finally came into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain…” said Mama said to her daughter-in-law (and friend) Ruth in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” This is one of the true American plays and its primary theme is to share with others that African-American families belong. These families have the same hope, dreams and aspirations as all other families and deserve the same opportunities. This is one of the final lines of the play, but it is key as Walter, the oldest child of Mama and is Ruth’s husband, finally realizes that he should not be bought off. His family has every right to be in a neighborhood as white families and will honor that right by being a good neighbor just as is expected of others.
“Becoming a man is a lifelong journey” I heard recently in a movie. We never stop learning and we never cease to have opportunities to do what is required of us. The same could be said for all adults, but I think women are growing up much faster than men do. It is my observation women always have as a rule, but the age disparity seems greater now. I recall the line from “Casablanca” which was filmed in 1939 where the young lady looking to escape with her husband from Casablanca by sleeping with the Prefect tells Rick that in some ways, she is so much older than her young husband. There are some psychologists who note that boys are not finally maturing until around age 29. Girls may be maturing later, as well, but they are definitely exposed to far more worldly things at a young age.
Some speculate the later maturing for boys is due to the less socialization outside of a group setting. What I mean by that is guys hang out in groups, but the one-on-one dating interactions with females seem to be fewer in number. A mom explained this to me about her teenage son saying it is like group dating now, where groups of people go do things. Females may be present, but they are more friends than dates. Another reason is the greater amount of communication by technological device rather than by voice or in person. Like anything, the more you practice the better you will be at it. The converse is also true.
Yet, even with the social delays, the opportunities for making life event decisions seem fewer, at least in first world countries like the US. We parents are likely to blame, rather than letting kids fail, we make sure they don’t. As a parent, I have been guilty of this as well. However, the older we have gotten, we know that failure is a much better teacher than success ever could be. So, it behooves us to give opportunities to our kids, but let them succeed or fail on their own, which is hard to do.
I have shared with my boys that being macho or aggressive has very little to do with being a man. It is all about accountability and responsibility. Doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. And, then doing it again the next day. It means when you do screw up (and you will), you should say it is my fault. I am responsible for this mistake and will try to learn from it. It means trying to do the right thing, even if it is unpopular. It means your name is your most important asset.
Sometimes, like in Walter’s case, the life event may occur late. He was a grown man and the head of household with a wife, son, mother and sister. Yet, in his mother’s eyes, he did not grow up fully until the moment he declined to take the bribe not to move into the white neighborhood. Like life, becoming an adult or man is a journey. I see that in my growing boys who are becoming men. There are times when they make huge strides toward manhood. Then there are times when the adolescent brain takes hold and let’s the young man do something terribly foolish. I know I had those moments, where I look back now at some of the things I did and “say that was an incredibly stupid thing to do.”
The older we get, we still make mistakes and always will. I guess that is why the line above in the title resonates – it is a journey. We are imperfect. We still have that little boy in us that cries out from time to time. Yet, we keep him in a corner for the most part, as we know we cannot afford to let him play too much. Unfortunately, some men never fully realize that and are just grown up boys with more money and bigger toys. Yes, they may be more responsible, but they are also still foolish.
So, as an old fart, let me just conclude with the following comments. I have made many mistakes in my life and will likely make a few more. I hope to have learned from the earlier ones and won’t be inclined to do those again. If I make mistakes, I need to own them. It is not someone’s else fault – it is mine. I know what is expected of me and I try to do it again and again. I know that I am accountable when I say I will do things or people have come to expect me to do things. I also know that helping others is a gift to them and to me. And, as I have noted in an earlier post quoting Rob Roy, “your honor is a gift you give yourself.” My name is the most important asset I have. So, is yours to you. Please treat it that way. It will make our journey better.