Manhood and me.

photo cred: Shikeith Cathey

A lot has changed since I was a young blood. I had my first girlfriend when I was in fourth grade. Her name was Ashley (shoutouts to you if you reading this fam). I was a charismatic young boy, and I managed to woo one of the “baddest girls in the class” because I could tell some decent jokes.

This was my first taste of “manhood.”

We never kissed. I didn’t even know kissing was a thing at that time in my life. All we did was talk on the phone after school from 3:30pm — to when my mom would yell “cuélgame ese mardito teléfono coño.’’

I was a pretty innocent boy, but as time unraveled itself I was exposed to different ideas of what a man should be and act like.

I grew up with my mother and sister mainly. My mother was sweet and understanding. She always provided me with tender love and care, no matter how many times I rejected those abrazotes and besitos. My sister was mature and tough, never afraid, pushing me past my phases of insecurity to achieve higher feats. My absent father was still somewhat present — unemotional, motivational, manly man type.

As I grew more aware of the absence of my father, I compensated for this by surrounding myself with other young men my age. Being in these spaces in my new high school was uncomfortable. The spaces hosted by these young men (including myself) were full of misogyny, macho culture, egotism, male competition, female objectification, colorist tendencies towards women, and high levels of homophobic attitudes.

Although these discussions and thoughts were grotesque, they were normalized within this male sphere. Much like basketball, discussing women was a social activity, a competition between a group of people jockeying with each other to boast about who came home with the better fish, and of course, I didn’t want to be a loser.

High school became a sea of fish for me, and I wanted to go home with the biggest catch. Scoring girls left and right was cool. I did not necessarily discuss my conquests with fellow males outside of my immediate cohort, but the feeling of knowing I had fish at bay enthralled me, while others spoke proudly to others of their own conquests.

It was a four year competition that went on 24/7. Much like A-Rod or Lebron have their off games, so did I. I felt great when I had girls hanging on my every word. The appeal they had towards me ultimately became the composition of my self-confidence. If I had no one that I was talking to, or engaging with, my confidence would hit an all time low.

My self-consciousness would eat me alive.

  • Let me go get a haircut.
  • Maybe I should start wearing button downs.
  • I gotta stop eating these fries.
  • “Yo bro, let’s sign up for a gym membership together.”
Damn, am I that lame?

My ego was comprised of women’s opinions, thoughts, ideas and desires towards me. This held true, regardless of my relationship status. Whether I was single or committed, without attention from women, I was a zero in my own eyes.

This mindset kept me either mentally or physically unfaithful in almost all of my relationships. It was really a “its not you, its me” situation.

This ego is hard to disrupt. If your spirit and energy for life are merely composed of what those around you gauge you as, who are you? Who am I?

This self-destructive narcissistic attitude, in turn, also causes in women similar struggles and emotions.

Our lack of self-worth as men causes us to over compensate and act hollywood, which in return causes women to jump through hoops to impress or seek some sort of attention from men. Also the whole, neither men nor women are satisfied with seeking our own attention.

We pay no attention to ourselves.

We become the standard of who one should seek attention from, because we act as if we didn’t need affirmation from anyone in order to love ourselves. This makes men like Kanye attractive. The heir of arrogance (peep the double entendre) as you walk down the street, pretending that we care less about what others have to say — we want attention from these people, while we know in fact they want attention from us.

Manhood should have nothing to do with your sexual orientation. If you declare yourself as man, that you shall be — say no more, you do you.

Manhood — rather than being about how many shorties you’ve been with, how many bodies you’ve got, or how many people you can make your bitch (gender inclusive).

Manhood should be about empowerment. Today, men will and do hold much social power and pull. We are what the apex predators are to the jungle — the top of the food chain. Rather than eat and remain at the top as animals do, we are much more than this. We can indeed recalibrate this food chain, and turn it into a soul train (shout out to my 70's, 80's, and 90's babies).

What is manhood fam? I don’t know! But I got some ideas doe.

Care for your homies.

Be secure in your sexuality. Be secure in yourself — cue Frank Ocean’s momma's on “Be Yourself” track off BLOND.

Your orientation does not inherently align with your actions or behavior. And as a side note: being secure in your sexuality doesn’t mean accepting your heteroness as a safety to avoid gayness — it means understanding yourself and accepting what you are comfortable with, while keeping others of different orientations on the same spectrum and wavelength of humanity.

Respect your power. Many people out there don’t have the voice that we do, so be an ally and support others when and if they need it. That means taking a stand for people other than yourself, and distributing reality checks to people that think it’s okay to condescend to someone else through their use of power. Keep that third eye woke — RIP CAPITAL STEEZ

Most importantly, defend men, the kind that you’re currently working on not being — the arrogant, female obsessed, overbearing macho man you once thought you had to be, and let them know it’s okay to be who they want to be, ‘cause it’s all good.

Life is a lot flyer when you embrace who people are rather than shit on them for not being who you think they’re supposed to be.

I can vouch to this. Everyone is very fly on the low, and I say on the low because we always have to keep ourselves on the low, to preserve ourselves, and unfortunately our sanity.

I hope one day I can be me, fearlessly, relentlessly, and unapologetically. Until then I will make progression and take baby steps to be the whole, unaltered me. I hope you do too. It ain’t easy, and that’s okay, but keep pushing to be the real you, in every place and moment you step into.