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* When does a boy become a man?

January 5, 2016

This was a big question for me growing up. Now that I’ve been one for a yes you canwhile, not so much. But I remember a discussion I had one day now some time ago when this came up. There were 4 of us men present, 1 who had worked in Papua New Guinea (PNG), 1 from here in the US, myself who had grown up and then worked in Madagascar and finally an Ethiopian-American. So in response to the question of when a boy became a man, the person who’d worked in PNG said in that country it happened about the time hair started showing up under one’s arm. Our friend from the US postulated it probably started at 16, when someone got their driver’s license and then progressed through additional rights which accrued when one turned 18 and finally was official at age 21. Then our friend from Ethiopia joined in, saying that in his country, one didn’t become a man until age 40. “Not till 40?” we replied, how does that work? “It’s just the way it is,” he said.

Reflecting on this, I’ve since embraced the Ethiopian perspective. Why? boy to manBecause it allows me to take all those stupid things I did before age 40 and lump them into the “I was still not a man at that point” category. Dumb things I did as a husband, new and then not so much, “Still not a man!” Mistakes I made as a dad? “Still not a man!” And now, as I work to raise my “boys to men,” if things don’t always progress as planned, it’s also “Still not a man.”

A little more seriously, I’ve found becoming a man to be a very complex thing, something that takes some getting used to, that I’ve had to work on over time. And raising “boys to men” (our 2 sons), even more complicated. So I now embrace the Ethiopian concept of what’s involved in becoming a man!

With more than a little relief.

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