October 18, 2016

When Did You Become a "Man?"

Back when I was doing research for the Man-Making book, one of the questions I asked men was, "When did you, without question, become a man?"

It's really a great question for the times, in part because of the many, confusing, and often contradictory notions of modern manhood. Some men took a stab at an answer by mentioning important moments in a guy's life such as, having first sex, getting a license, getting married, becoming a parent, going to war, and so on.

But without a clear line to cross to definitively answer the manhood question, their responses most often reflected uncertainty, a little guy-shame, and some hunger for something deep inside that was missing. The most honest, and the most common, response was some version of, "I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

"I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

Over the years in this blog I've profiled many different groups that offer some form of a ritualized passage experience for their boys (and men). For all that activity, it's really just a start, as though we're just beginning to realize the importance of this work and its impact on the male psyche. You have to look hard to find communities and tribal cultures that have a long and deep history of this initiatory technology.

In a few places these rituals have survived into present time. What I love about them is that wherever they are performed, and however unusual they may appear to our modern eyes, they do provide a clear answer for the man or men involved as to when the manhood line was crossed.

"When did you, without question,
cross the line and enter man's world?"

What is your manhood story? When did you, without question, cross the line and enter man's world? If you don't have an answer, like so many other men, you might feel just a little lost on your journey toward manhood. And with so many men feeling trapped in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood, how can we ever expect our adolescent males to find the door to the men's hut without guidance?

When you have a moment, check out this National Geographic Video talking about a rite of passage event of the Dogan people in Mali. It's called the Dama, and it's importance for the men, and the whole community, is very clear.

The Door to Dogan Manhood

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

If you want to talk about how to create a rite of passage event for some of the young males in your world, give me a shout. A continuum of possibilities are waiting, experiences that vary from very brief and simple moments to something a little more involved. None of these actions are beyond you and a couple of your men friends.

How do you feel about the fact that your emerging manhood was not recognized and celebrated in your teen years? If you have a lingering hunger for that experience, perhaps it will drive you to action. It's the best way I know of to plug up those leaks in your male psyche. Trust me, you are hardwired for this work, and I know the boys are waiting.

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