MAN-MAKING BLOG

The Man-Making Blog is a practical and inspirational resource
for people interested in supporting our young males
on their journey to manhood.

June 27, 2022

Men Teaching Boys about Manhood

The Robeson County Parks and Recreation Department in Lumberton, North Carolina, has a L.I.F.E. Mentoring Program for young guys aged 9-15. The L.I.F.E. program mission is: "To holistically develop youth in our communities, in the areas of life & relational skills, education, leadership, and qualifications that lead to becoming productive citizens." L.I.F.E. stands for Leadership Influence Family Empowerment.

I do like how this free mentoring program is teaching young men some of skills the mentors think a young guy on the edge of young adulthood should learn. In addition to much more, just a few of the skills taught include things like how to balance a checkbook, properly tie a necktie, and even proper table etiquette!

In a 2012 Man-Making Blog post, I proposed a list of developmental experiences for young guys. Experiences that would grow their understanding of the world around them and certainly drive important conversations. While my list was abbreviated and a little short on the very practical skills (how to shave, change a tire, replace a toilet flapper, etc.), I described the kinds of activities would certainly inform a young man's journey toward manhood.

In the L.I.F.E. Mentoring Program, the mentors check in with the boys weekly, and meet at least once per month in-person. A really nice touch is that the young men get to "shadow" their adult mentor. So many young males I've encountered (and who are in trouble) don't have a man in the house or even in his life. Shadowing a man gives a young man a much-needed look into man's world, seeing what real men actually do, learning how they got to where they are, and then having the conversations about what it takes to become a good man.
 
"I think we can reach more than we lose."

The Robeson County District Attorney, Matt Scott, said, "It can help us reach these young people before they make bad decisions." He went on to say, "I think we can reach more than we lose." Sad testimony to what can happen to young guys without adult male guidance. I know the young guys are hungry for it and are waiting.


 In Minneapolis and in too many other of our communities we're seeing the consequences of young men gone wild. Any focused attention on our pre-adult males by caring men would certainly be helpful. I know the young guys are hungry for it and I know they are waiting.

If you want more information about the L.I.F.E. mentoring program, call 910-671-3156 or 910-301-2272. You can also email Anthony Govan at anthony.govan@co.robeson.nc.us
 


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© Copyright 2005-2022 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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March 21, 2022

Adolescent Roman Male Rites of Passage

In a recent article in the online history publication, The Past, there was a great article about the Children of the Roman Empire. It examines what life was like for young people, the children of the "gods, emperors, and ordinary mortals in ancient Rome."

Of special interest to me was reading, yet again, about how earlier civilizations have dealt with managing adolescent male energy. It helps to know the Romans also struggled with containing and channeling wild boy energy.

The article centers around an exhibition in the famous Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. The exhibits include over 30 statues, funerary objects, and even toys from around Italy and the world. These items speak to the theme of childhood (human and divine) in the Roman world some 2000 years ago.
The article offered much about the Uffizi and the Medici collection of art and statues. But there was also a lot of information about how the Romans birthed, raised, and often buried (25% mortality) their children, orphans, and the "children of the poor" and enslaved.
 
 "... a defining moment when a young man
would give up his boyhood clothing
and don the white toga of an adult."

There was brief mention of a rite of passage for an adolescent male. It was called the "Ceremony of the Toga Virilis," which would occur sometime around his 14th year. This was a defining moment when a young man would give up his boyhood clothing and don the white toga of an adult. It led to his acceptance of full Roman Citizenship and stepping into the rights and responsibilities of manhood. I find it hard to believe that a 14-year-old male could simply step into manhood with a change of clothes. I want to believe that clothing swap required training and preparation, but the article does not cover that process.

The article also speaks to the passage lessons and experiences of young women. Many of whom could be engaged at age 12 and married at 13 in relationships arranged by the father.

I liked learning about the perennial conversations, some still relevant today, about how to educate our children, the nature and quality of the education system, and what it took to produce "useful citizens in peace and war."

I guess the deep message here is how we are not alone with the age-old challenges of doing our best for our children, and helping them move toward the ever-illusive adulthood.



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February 5, 2022

Gentlemen Quarters Barbershop Academy

Derick Cagle was a sharp barber who paid attention to his surroundings. At a back-to-school event where he was cutting hair, he listened to the young men waiting their turn who were messing with each other. Teasing and taunting about their girls, sports, drug deals, being cool, and lots of other smack talk. In the middle of all that commotion, an older man got everyone's attention when he chimed in with his story about someone he'd shot and the price he has paid ever since. That mentoring moment was a huge wake up call for Derick, and the beginning of what's since become the Gentlemen Quarters Barbershop Academy.

In this story in the North Carolina News, I learned about how the GQ Barbershop Academy "organizes events for teens between the ages of 13-18 that includes free haircuts and free mentoring." It's one great tale about how fatherless and other boys connect with men from their community and get the male guidance and caring they so often need.

Here's what one single mom said about Mr. Cagle: "Passion really fuels him and he’s from the Durham community and knows exactly what takes place here,” she says. "This couples with his love for building up young men." I love these stories about what one motivated man can create if he finds the courage to step up.

"...you don't have to wait till violence hits in your family
or neighborhood to step up into action."

Cagle has personal reasons to be in the mentoring game. His nephew was killed just prior to his 21st birthday. That and other violence in his community, often close to home, was the call to action he heard. But you don't have to wait till violence hits in your family or neighborhood to step up into action.

Derick's instructor at Harris Barber College was a man named Tobias McLean. Mr. McLean turned out to be a powerful mentor in Derick's life. One of the important lessons he got from this man was, “You can’t be in this community and not be part of this community.” Derick Cagle, is cutting hair, but is also in the business of helping young guys and maybe saving lives too. He's a gift to his community and one of my heroes.

To learn more about the GQ Barbershop Academy, check out their website, or give them a shout at 919-816-2335.

If you know of other men like Derick, let me know. I'd like to share those stories. It's clear the world needs men like him as role models, and the boys need those men now more than ever.



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December 15, 2021

Adolescent Boys, Girls, and Puberty

If you search the Man-Making Blog archive for "testosterone," you'll find lots of posts describing the impact of this powerful chemical on the physiology and psychology of our young males. Simply put, it radically alters adolescent males in profound ways, some of which, if not managed, will cause enormous suffering for them, their families, and our communities. As an old proverb, attributed to African tribal culture implies, if we don't intentionally enfold boys into the life of the community, they will burn the village down just to feel the heat. That's a huge topic, but not quite what this post is about.

. . . what happens to adolescent girls at puberty. . .

This post is about what happens to adolescent girls at puberty, and how their bodily chemistry radically changes them and their lives. It's about the excitement, fears, shame, and confusion that accompanies this transition. It's also about how too many of our young men are ignorant about the nuances of this powerful and transformational experience for the young women in their lives.

NY Times Puberty


A recent New York Times Op-Docs piece about adolescent girls and puberty led with a thirteen-minute video. In that clip, five brave young women, ages 14 to 17, described the onset of puberty, menstruation, and the impact on them physically and socially. I'm thrilled to know we've arrived at a time when this information can be so freely shared in such a public forum. I honor the young women for their vulnerability, and deeply personal honesty about their coming-of-age experience. Thank you!

. . . where did you find helpful, intimate, and informed
guidance for this transition in your life?

This is the kind of video all adolescent girls should see to help prepare them for the experience, and to de-shame and normalize what happens to them. I think this or a similar video is something our young men should see and discuss with caring, informed and trusted adults in their world. Not "the class on sexuality," but a setting that allows for the vulnerability and intimacy the topic deserves.

As an adult looking back to this time in your life, perhaps without the benefit of YouTube and other online resources kids have today, where did you find helpful, intimate, and informed guidance for this transition in your life?

I'm also waiting for the adolescent male version of this video!



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November 30, 2021

Teens – No Driver’s License and No Car! Maybe Ever!

Getting my driver’s license was one of my early teenage rites of passage. I couldn't wait for so many reasons and it was a big day when it finally happened. As is natural in most passage experiences, there were real trials on the path to getting my license. First, I had to study the arcane details that make up the “rules of the road” to get my permit. And then came the many tests of my ability such as staying in a lane, observing pedestrians, making full stops, obeying the speed limit, and the dreaded parallel parking. But it was all worth it to get the license and become a legal driver.

For me, it was not just that I could be in charge of 2000 pounds of steel and fly down the road, but much more. Driving meant escape from the pressure cooker of our small family house and all its tensions. It meant I had status among my non-driving pals and could easily pull them together for common adventures. I could often drive to school, rising above the demeaning wait and riding on the school bus. It meant I had a new and private space for hanging out with girls and that new world of emerging sexuality. Very simply stated, a driver’s license made my world much bigger geographically and opened countless doors of discovery.

...it was a golden chariot to me.

I quickly grew attached to all the excitement and possibilities of having access to a car, and it wasn’t long before I wanted my own. My first car was a beat up, black, 57 Volkswagen. The seats were badly worn, it often smelled like gas, the windshield wipers were hardly functional, it had dings and rust on the body, and it barely had enough heat in the winter to keep the windows defrosted much less provide any comfort. But it was a golden chariot to me. That’s why I was surprised to learn that for many young people, getting a driver’s license today, much less a car is NOT the exciting rite of passage it was for me.

. . . getting a driver’s license today is NOT
the exciting rite of passage it was for me.

In 2019, StudentMoveTO, a research partnership of ten colleges and universities in Canada, surveyed 18,500 students at ten post-secondary institutions across the Toronto and Hamilton area. They discovered More than twenty-two per cent of survey respondents said they didn’t have a driver’s license. The group’s research also found that sixty-five per cent of students who did have a driver’s license didn’t own a car, and of those, just fifteen per cent indicated they would buy a car in the future. So much for golden chariots!

Some of the reasons given for avoiding car ownership and driving included good access to public transit services (83 per cent), all the costs associated with driving and owning a car (66 per cent), and the negative impacts of driving on the environment (50 per cent).

When you realize that with a few taps on your smartphone you can call up Uber and Lyft and quickly go where every you like without paying car insurance, parking, maintenance, and car repairs, it does make sense. Not to mention the availability of electric scooters and bikes appearing everywhere in major cities.

You can read more about this topic in a recent article in the Toronto Star or on the website of StudentMoveTO.

I do get the world is changing, and less driving for all of us is really a good thing. But sitting here in this moment, I do miss my golden chariot, and all the trials and joys that came with it.

Do you remember your first "golden chariot?



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