By Aaron Aroriza:
I laughed and laughed until tears formed in my eyes. It all began when our arrogant, overbearing German instructor with a misplaced air of superiority told a joke that no one laughed at. It's a common joke and it's very funny but he missed the punch line yet hopelessly waited for everyone to laugh. Only I, in an audience of more than thirty people laughed.
Not at his joke – no, that joke could never get even the most mirthful clown laughing – but at the fact that someone who thought was more superior, more intelligent and more refined than all the Africans he was instructing and rubbed it in every once in awhile, couldn't intelligibly recite even an over-told racist joke! So I laughed at him, not at the joke and then the other people in the small conference room joined in the laughter – perhaps laughing at me for having laughed aimlessly. This made me laugh even more – laughing at these people who were clueless-ly laughing at me – boy did they look funny.
My tears were a result of amusement and happiness. Society has no problem with that. Had my tears been a result of sadness – an act we all know as crying, all the people in the conference room would have had a big problem with the man that I am. And that's what I've never been able to understand. Why is it such a shame when men shed tears of sadness?
Why should men be expected to wear a mask of emotional blankness when they are in grief and pain? I thought a real man wouldn't be afraid to show his inner self. I thought a real man wouldn't show an exterior that is contrary to his interior. I thought that's what real meant – not concealing anything!
So “real men don't shed tears” huh? Why do I always get the feeling that phrase was coined by a very wise woman who wanted to keep men unhappy? A woman who wanted to get back at men for all the nicer things in the world they had denied her!
But the men too must have welcomed this. I always picture caveman telling his wife, “Look woman, I can't cook, the smoke will make my eyes tear, I can't cut those onions because they will make me cry and I will be the laughing stock of other real men”. And then I picture the woman deciding from there on that a real man – her husband should never step in the kitchen. Ah, a silver lining in this very dark sky of emotions!
That silver lining is being darkened real fast – darkened by the same wise women with their emancipation and gender equality campaign. Now a real man, among other things, is one who can go to the kitchen and fix breakfast for his lovely wife and children. You see, technology has eliminated smoke from the kitchen. But shouldn't that gender equality come with things like men also being entitled to expression of all human emotions without being a subject of ridicule?
But oh no, you won't catch any man fighting for the right to cry like a woman. That would be so unmanly. Society has ensured we all believe that.
Even small boys know crying is for girls. Society biases us against our emotions right from childhood. We just have to let the emotions boil on the inside and channel them into more useful things like war and violence.
Ruth, my primary four teacher, always reminds me of the time I hurled stones at her. She still has a scar on her left leg as a reminder of what little rascals can do with suppressed anger. My friends and I had endured a long sad weekend after a friend of ours from another school had drowned during our 'illegal swimming expedition' in river Rwizi. All four of us were unusually quiet that Monday morning but when Teacher Ruth found the class making noise, she picked on her usual suspects, the four rascals. We lined up for our dosage of lashes. The first two guys took their dosage with humility. When it was my turn, I snapped as the second whip came mercilessly lashing down on me.
I was in emotional pain for having lost a friend, I was feeling guilty, I was grieving and now physical pain was being inflicted on me by a person who was wrongly accusing me. Perfect ingredients for a relieving cry! But even at that age, I already knew crying was only for girls. So I let these emotions boil inside of me without letting the resulting hot steam evaporate as screams and tears. I snapped, stood up, walked out of class, picked a few stones and let my emotions manifest in a better way than crying.
I still remember Teacher Ruth jumping up and shrieking in pain. I have just chosen not to remember what happened to me afterwards but she always reminds me whenever she sees me – always reminding me that every stupid action or even reaction has dire consequences.
I think I've been able to live up to society's twisted expectation of me as a real man. I haven't even for once let my real, natural emotions lead me into a natural, real, relieving cry. I'm a real artificial man – artificially made from the societal factory of biases.
But maybe the perfect ingredients that presented themselves back then have never appeared again. I've always promised myself that if I ever feel the genuine need to cry I will do so without shame or any second thought and just before you dismiss me as a weak man, remember that Jesus, the greatest man to have walked this earth, wept. It didn't stop him from saving the world and making his mark!
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