Tony Sharp of Who Let The Dads Out? says that what he’s learned about being a man, is that you never stop learning how to be a man.
—This is article #22 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Being self-employed I quite often work from home, and recently I’ve ‘fallen victim’ to that childhood prank of someone knocking on your front door and then running away.
Having got over the “this only happens to ‘old’ people” crisis, I found myself reminiscing about my own childhood and teenage rites of passage: from running away from home (for about an hour), through myriad fashion disasters and acne, to fumbled conversations with girls at parties. Growing towards manhood is a veritable minefield. But if we can make it through our teenage years and emerge into our 20’s as well-balanced adult men, comfortable in our own skin, and compassionate towards others, then have we made it? Have we arrived as men?
A couple of years back I came across a humorous newspaper article that ‘established’ that men finally grow up at the ripe age of 43, 11 years after women do apparently, and cites the various ways that men continue to demonstrate their childishness through their 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s. I often use this article as an ice-breaker when I’m speaking on fatherhood, and as, ironically, I’m often talking on this subject mostly to women, I’m sure you can imagine that the article goes down well. So is 43 the magic number, the age of enlightenment when we finally arrive as men?
Everything I know about being a man
And here am I at the tender age of 51, happily married and having packed my daughter off to University, can I confidently say that I’ve made it, that I’ve learnt all there is to know about being a man?
I think not. Right now I’m learning how to be in a 1:1 relationship with my wife all over again. And the chances are that in years to come, I’ll have to learn how to grow old and lose many things that have been the joys of my life – sporting prowess, physical strength, sexual appetite, people I’ve loved, and more. I’ve concluded that it’s going to take me until my dying day to learn to be a man.
Have I stumbled on a profound truth here? Part of what society teaches us, be it deliberate or not, is that manhood is something we arrive at through our teenage years. But critical though our childhood is in shaping our manhood, we’re not fully defined, for good or for ill, as we enter our third decade. I’m hugely grateful for all the ways I could learn to be a man through my infancy and childhood – from friends and peers, from role models, from the Bible and other books, from TV, film, social media and the internet, and from family. I’m especially grateful for what my father (warts and all) taught me, as I’m convinced there is something socially and spiritually significant in the relationship between fathers and their children that we must protect in the UK today.
So I have resolved to go on learning how to be a man. And even though my father died 4 years ago, I will still draw on his example, which is part of the legacy he’s left.
—Picture credit: Flickr/Dave Catchpole
Tony Sharp is, amongst other things, the National Coordinator of the Who Let The Dads Out? movement.
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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