Learning to be Men

Teig Sadhana, 22, London

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Be a man?

Show me what that means.

Cause from what I see, it seems you don’t know.

From what I see, your identity isn’t given room to grow beyond the shelves lined with hand-cream for men.

So tell me. How can I be?

When what I see is fallacy – skewed interpretations coming off like misanthropy.

Young boys with wired jaws terrified of intimacy, selling what they get for some schoolyard sense of legacy.

Is this what you mean?

To be man is to be strong.

And to be strong is to intimidate.

Let your opinions ring the loudest and your dick become your mandate.

Hold on tight to your convictions and when they’re wrong, just renegotiate. But always on your terms, yeah?

Are you lonely in your world built up of male responsibility?

Do damsels in distress keep your mind off your fragility?

If you push it down for long enough, you think you’ll lose the ability to feel?

Be. A. Man.

But I can see you’re still confused.

I can see the way your ego’s always easily been bruised.

I can hear your silence screaming from the brand-name on your shoes.

But what do you think?

Are you proud to be a man?

You should be.

We all should.

But we’ve a long way to go.

See, I’ve spent my whole life, to this day, asking questions. I think all men do.

Not always conventionally, but essentially we do.

It seems to me, that what it means to be a man is to be constantly re-evaluating where you stand.

And yet, we are taught early on, as young boys, to be unyielding.

Get up.

You’re alright.

Don’t cry.

That didn’t hurt.

We are pulled from the skin we leave on the pavement to the feet beneath our bleeding knees and taught to stand. Stand with our backs straight while the weight of the machinery forms crooks in our necks.

It seems we use ‘man’ as a synonym for resilience – a balance of perseverance and integrity. To be man is to think practically and act decisively.

But where does this come from?

When does this begin?

When I was born into the arms of my mother, I was not man. When I wailed for milk in the night and she held me deep in her chest – a helpless ball of new life, I was not man. And when my brothers and I would pull masks across our faces and fight the crime that stalked the hallway, we were not men. We were children. We were free.

Free to strap a cape around our fragile necks and leap across the upholstered skyline of our living room. But Batman never cries. Even when his mummy dies, his grief must be put to use.

And so as children, we are taught to be alone.

We learn to keep our fears tied down ‘till we know that we're alone. 

We grow up feeling distanced from our families at home.

We lie to one another ‘bout the brittleness of bone.

All in search of ‘manhood’ and a meaning we can own.

But we can’t. Can we?

Not if we’re alone.

So, lets be men.

And teach boys what that means.

Speak up about the fact you feel you’re tearing at the seams.

Call out in the night when can’t get through your dreams.

Be weak when you need to, even when it seems dangerous.

Especially then.

Be brave enough to see how we’ve been pacing round this pen.

Be strong enough to bend the bars, to breathe the air.

And then...

Be man enough to realise we’re still learning to be men.

Teig is a member of our Young Leaders programme. The Almeida Young Leaders is a scheme giving young people with something vital to say, the tools and platform to do so. Each young leader has been mentored by a writer and director to develop their ideas, structuring a speech and skills in public speaking.