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When a boy becomes a man

I am proud to have met and known a youth who has consciously chosen to become a man, a son who, in his own right, has become a father and a head of a family. I feel that becoming a man, a father, a husband and a head of the family at the age of 28 years is one of the greatest life changers for an African male. It is a precious gift to life, family and the world, in general.

In fact, without young men who know themselves, look for meaningful work to express their talent and seek women to build families with there can be no nation building. Self-knowing young men make happy husbands who make happy families that are an essential ingredient of a happy nation.

If an African man has not realised his purpose and meaning through finding a job that he loves and a woman that he wants to live and die for, life becomes pretty meaningless and empty of purpose. Yes, there is only meaning in life when you have found a good job that you have passion for and a woman that you are willing to lay down your life for. In fact, a man who has both work and somebody he loves should ask for no other blessing.

Thus being invited as a special guest to the traditional wedding of 28-year-old Wamukelwe — an award-winning chef, loved socialite and well-known young entrepreneur — was an inspiring experience that opened my eyes to the remarkable power of love and commitment.

Before I gladly accepted the invitation to attend the ukuvunyw’abakhwenyana — welcoming of the groom — function, I thought a lot and spoke to a number of African men who are in their mid-to-late 20s. I asked a searching question about the purpose of their lives and heard some remarkable stories. Every one of them confirmed what I knew: work and love for a woman is the most important thing that gives a male meaning and purpose in life. Without that a man is a danger to himself and everyone around him.

One young man cried that he was unemployed and thus nobody would take him seriously because he would not be able to provide, let alone pay lobola. A man who does not have a relatively good job that enables him to provide for his loved one carries a big hole in his heart. He knows that he cannot be the kind of man, father, husband and head of family that patriarchy defines through material possessions. This is what tears many men apart. Lack of a job or money plunges them into a personal crisis.

As I write this, I remember that, Wendy Campbell, the person that Wamu has chosen for himself to be wife, friend, partner and confidant may be the second or third relationship in his life. But in his choice of less than a handful of women that he got into a relationship with, he was always conscious of the urgent need to commit, to start a family.

But, I also think that he was, predictably, torn apart by the desire to be a player who will know as many women as he could before he settled down. But it would seem that good sense prevailed upon him. I remember him saying: “The worst thing that can happen is for me to stay single at the height of my youth.”

Many men think that the number of women you’ve slept with is what determines or defines your manhood. This is a patriarchal myth.

We are thankful that there are still relatively sober-minded and successful young men who understand that a woman can be the garden of your life. It is a deep-seated inferiority complex, insecurity and spiritual emptiness that misleads many young men to perpetrate violence against women in the name of love or being players.

In fact, there is no need whatsoever for young men to think and believe that they must physically know more than a dozen girls to prove their manhood before they settle down.

One can only judge a young man like Wamu by his choices and their consequences. But I am convinced that many people will agree that settling down at 28 years reveals a character of someone who is focused, disciplined and ready to make hard decisions in life.

Things can only work out better.

The “good life” is defined as going out with the boys: late-night drinking sessions, chasing girls, wasting money and coming home reeking of booze. This often leaves young men physically dehydrated, emotionally drained, with empty wallets and poses the danger of driving drunk.

Wamu, whose full-time career and business is in the hospitality industry as a chef and entrepreneur, is positioned at the centre of the so-called “good life”. But he has done the best he could by committing himself to his work, starting a small but growing business, creating jobs and, above all, finding a person he loves. And that is all we can expect from young men — to build a strong African nation.

Presumably, it not every weekend that friends, families and communities in the townships can gather at an event to celebrate love, family unity, marriage and a young couple that strives towards joy, happiness and personal fulfilment. Sadly, there are more funerals than weddings.

But we should spare a thought to consider the significance and impact of Wamu’s decisions. He provides an inspiration and continues to teach us that love is the most powerful force in the world to change society. In fact, family is everything.

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4 Comments

  1. Sydney Kaye Sydney Kaye 21 November 2014

    You are obsessed with “African”. Why is an ” African” man any different to any other man in the context of your essay, job, wife, family?

  2. xsanga xsanga 23 November 2014

    Sandile I appreciate your story, but why is black tribal patriarchal family units promoted as a norm. Don’t you think its time for healthy family management by women who in most cases are better manages of households. This tribal way of thinking has to change with modern times. It is not a western ideology, like Christianity, but a systemic approach to healthy family units

  3. Carel Jooste Carel Jooste 23 November 2014

    While accepting that you chose to address the heterosexual African male, surely ‘settling down’ is a desirable next level for all young people. I also support debunking patriarchal myths and thus find your applauding of this individual becoming ‘head of a family’ a little disturbing.

  4. SouthAfrican Parody SouthAfrican Parody 23 November 2014

    Any reason why you feel an element to masculinity is through marriage and having children? There are many single men who have high-powered jobs, take care of their parents and do charitable work. Does that make them any less men or “dangerous” because they do not have a woman in their lives?

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