Foreword: I have used fake names so as to protect my friends’ identities. Some people don’t like their business on the street. Only Tawi and Keyo are their real names. They really couldn’t care less.
Keyo hit his head. Hard! Against the side of the coffee table. Tawi, my sister said, ‘oh my goodness’, and rushed to pick him up. My other friends who were there as well, who also saw the whole thing, both said different variations of ‘oh my goodness’.
Keyo didn’t cry though. He didn’t even flinch. He just got up and started to walk away, leaving us all surprised.
Tawi asked, ‘eish Keyo, ok i hinyori?’ (you’re not hurt)
My friend Agnes* was like, ‘didn’t he just hit his head so hard?’
My friend Matthew* said, ‘Oh, he’s a boy, he doesn’t have time to be hurt and cry.’
We all turned to him, so shocked, and started talking at once and laughing so hard. I thought, “surely does boy-ness mean you don’t get hurt? Doesn’t it just socialize you not to show your hurt. But this isn’t even a boy yet. This is a baby.”
I told him,’ oh please, this boy lies down and cries every time he gets hurt. He must not be hurt because he’s not crying.’
He replied, ‘Kitt, you should cover your son, don’t mulika (embarrass) him like that.’
This was even more confusing to me, because the son he was referring to is 16 months old. Matthew was suggesting that I should start protecting my son’s ego. That I should lie (or at least withhold the truth) so as to make my son look good and indeed, manly. That crying did not look good on my son and I should not go around telling people that he cries when he’s hurt.
He’s 16 months old people! 16 MONTHS!
Is this truly how early it starts? The pressure for boys and men to suffer in silence. The lack of support for hurting boys and men. The shame that hurt boys and men have to deal with, because they are hurting so much, and they somehow should not be, or at least, not tell anyone that they are hurting.
A close friend of mine lost his father more than 10 years ago. He still hasn’t cried. His father! Who raised him (his mother left when he was 3). His only available parent died and he didn’t cry. Still hasn’t. It is as if he lost the ability to cry. As if the world had told him, ‘do not cry, no matter how much pain you are in, it is a show of femininity’ (and which boy wants to be a lowly girl?) I cried so much at his father’s funeral that my boyfriend at the time asked me, ‘did you know him?’ I had never met him. But here was my friend and he had just lost his parent. I could feel his pain. And yet, here he is, many years later- something happens and he suddenly really misses his father. I can see how hurt he is, but he shows no emotion. He brushes it off, sometimes mutters, ‘I wish I could cry like you’ (I cry a lot) and moves on with his day.
Meanwhile, manly men all over Europe are out here crying day and night and killing people in the name of love (I watch too many mafia movies).
Maybe I should go raise my son in Europe. Teach him to feel his emotions with no threat to his masculinity.