One of the most difficult things in life is teaching yourself how to be a man. Growing up, I never imagined how the absence of my father would affect my adulthood. This is not a sad cliche tale about a child growing up hating his absent father, because I don’t actually know him. I mean, I know who he is, but I don’t actually know him, ya dig?.. My feelings toward my father varies from enormous curiosity to indifference.
Raising the child by herself, the single mother becomes determined to be both a mother and a father to the child. She has the natural caring love of a mother but she must now attempt to adopt the strict, disciplined, and difficult love of a father. She tries – I imagine – she tries her hardest. Shortly she must face the fact that a woman can not teach a boy how to be a man. The masculine energy dwelling in the boy impulsively drives him to desire his own freedom, to feel and experience the world in his own way, and to be his own man (whatever that means to him). But the mother, sensing he is not prepared for the world, becomes unbearably protective; suffocating her son with her love. The more she suffocates him, the more the son desires to be free. The mother (unfortunately) sees this as a sign of rebellion and a betrayal of her love. The wise mother senses she is incapable of teacher her son “manly attributes”. She begins to believe she must find a man to assist in her son’s development before it is too late. Here lies another problem, the teacher never really chooses the student; it is the student that chooses who he wants his teacher to be. Of all my mentors, none ever came to me, wanting me to be their mentee. I humbly came to them -seeking knowledge – seeking to be a student. The problem is, the mother can not choose a father-figure for her son; her son must choose for himself. And this leads us to perhaps a more intricate problem; Due to the betrayal of his father, the boy can’t or hasn’t learned how to trust a man. The presence of another man in his mother’s life is simply a threat, a very real and alarming threat. He (the son) will most likely (most likely, but not definitely) develop an unhealthy hatred for whichever man his mother chooses; Justifying his hatred with whichever excuse he desires. This collision can cause a various of results – results that are too intricate to discuss in this little piece. One inevitable result is clear though. The boy moves out of his mother’s house and finds himself alone and unprepared for “the real world”(his mother was right). He must now teach himself how to take responsibility for his own actions, learn how to love a woman, and learn how to trust a man(among other things). This leads the boy to make very grave and costly mistakes. When it comes to the existential question “how to be a man”.. Don’t ask me.. Because I don’t fucking know.
I’m figuring it out though.
“I want to be a honest man, and a good writer” – James Baldwin
When I first encountered Americans, I would introduce myself as Tobi (for some reason, Americans find it really difficult to pronounce Olu-wa-tobi) and I would usually get the same reaction: “oh shit dude you’re named after the slave from Roots, your parents must really hate you”. At that time, still getting accustomed to American culture, I had no clue what the fuck Roots was so my ignorance was obvious in my reaction, which was a blank fucking stare. The more I encountered people and introduced myself, their reaction to my name became the norm but my irritation only grew. Finally, I decided to ask someone what Roots was and I found out it was a miniseries or a movie about a slave who got his leg cut off – or something. My tie to this mini-series, movie, or whatever the fuck, was a famous scene were the protagonist is being tortured and forced to change his name; although he refuses to surrender his identity and puts up a fight. This scene profoundly touched on ways African Americans were forced to surrender their African identity and transformed into a slave. For some odd reason, some people find this disturbing scene to be very hilarious. After I got hip (Hip: DMV term meaning to know) I realized everyone I met that tied my name to this scene were immensely ignorant(which wasn’t their fault really). Every time I met the same irritating reaction to my name, I would think to myself “I wonder what the fuck Jamal or Laquiesha means”.
This subtly exposes the ties that have been cut between the African American and his homeland of Africa. To not realize Tobi is an African name and has nothing to do with slavery is almost… Absurd.
There is an African identity without slavery.
Anyways, my name, Oluwatobi, can be interpreted in many ways: God is big, God is omnipotent, God is absolute. I am glad Yoruba people thought it wise to give their children meaningful names. After years of experiencing the same reaction (and still do till today) I still think the people that believe my name is tied to the miniseries/movie are dumbfucks and giant ignoramuses, but it’s easier to forgive them now and just laugh at them. I have never watched Roots before and I don’t plan on ever watching it (although I would like to read the book). It is the only movie that I hate and I’ve never seen before. I mean, mathematically speaking here, the miniseries/movie came out in 2001, I am 21yrs old, I would have to be 15 for my parents to even consider naming me after a slave movie. So even if you’re ignorant to African culture, I am sure you can do basic math. Anyways (deep breath) before I make this angry rant too extensive, to all you dumbfucks out there, I pity you and I forgive you.
Unreliable, unreliable, unreliable… except when they’re reliable. As a person who never had much friends growing up, I almost meticulously select who I want to be friends with. Which means I put much thought into it before I pick, select, throw my pokeball and choose you. I’ve always had this model or idea of what a good friend is and attempt to achieve that standard. Meaning if you’re my friend, half of what I own is yours, you need something and it’s within my power? It’s yours, my undying loyalty is yours. At first, I put my friends under this same standard, expecting the same thing from them that I expect from myself as a “good friend”. Sometimes I think some people are not my friend, I’m just their friend(there’s a difference) . And I’m starting to think maybe that’s ok. I think it is highly disingenuous to be friends with someone because you want things from them. I came to the conclusion that I want to be friends with people so I can impact their lives the best ways I can (they can impact my life too but I wanna be the impactful one gotdamn it). This standard of friendship I placed my friends quickly came tumbling down. I remember one day, I was so bored I called at least 25 people on my phone (some of them weren’t even my fuckin friends) and I still spent that evening alone. Your friends will fail you (unreliable fucks) but at the end of day, are you a good friend? Are you reliable? Are you dependable? If you are, then you’ve done your job as a good friend. I guess the culminating message of this little piece is to stop expecting things from your friends, and just be a good friend. If you are friends with someone and expect things in return, then you must have ulterior motives.
What do you guys think?
I just wanna shoutout all the good friends out there, you are highly appreciated; especially my friends (of course I’m not talking about you guys, y’all are perfect human beings, don’t take this piece personally lol) I love you guys.