Writes of Passage: The Game is Afoot!

May 24, 2013 by

ZaireRelayWhat does it mean to be a man?

How does one transition from being a boy to becoming a man?

Is achieving manhood simply a function of time? A state of mind? A way of life, or perhaps simply a level of maturity?

Is it something which is taught and learned or more of an innate quality which some have while others…not so much?

Who can really say what the answer to any of that is, certainly not I, but I do know this – every boy must accomplish something that proves, even if only to themselves, that they have arrived as a man in this world – a force to be reckoned with. For instance the Maasai boys hunt lions in Africa and the boys of  Southern California used to stay overnight at Neverland Ranch, but often the best litmus test for manhood readiness is found in attempts to surpass someone you identify as being THE man; because as the saying goes, to be the man you’ve got to beat the man.

For many, this means taking on their dad in some way, shape or form.

Due to circumstances beyond my control I never had the opportunity to measure myself against my biological father, but I was fortunate enough to have something of a surrogate dad for a period of time. Richard Washington, the father of my best friend Ricardo managed to ‘retire undefeated’ when he passed away several years ago, as neither Ricardo or I were ever able to overcome him on the chess board.

Rest assured that Richard was more than just a cerebral chess player, and like George Costanza’s father on Festivus Eve, during occasional family ‘feats of strength’ times he also could not be beaten in a wrestling match and would win at all costs – when we got big enough to challenge him physically to more of a fair fight he eventually had to resort to gonad threatening; the man simply wasn’t gonna let you beat him.

I learned a lot from Richard Washington.

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say “You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys.” ~Harmon Killebrew

Now I understand why he fought so hard to preserve his place at the top of the proverbial food chain, there’s no sense of accomplishment if you don’t have to work hard for your victory. To beat him, you had to be worthy and you had to come prepared for anything; very much like the requirements for finding success in life itself.

These days I have sons of my own who are coming and have come of age. In particular my youngest son Zaire just turned 18 this week and is a real beast on the track field, he came in 1st place in the 200 meters and second place in the 100 at his last track meet of the season the other day and his 4×100 relay team made the sectionals, so now he thinks he has what it takes to put his father in the rear view mirror out there in a foot race.

Not so fast, I say. Lace up your shoes and watch your gonads, cause it aint gon’ be easy son.

It’s a strange and wonderful position to be in for this author, the competitive side of me doesn’t want to ever lose at anything or to anyone, while the proud father in me can’t wait to see his son slay the dragon and announce to the world and himself that he is now the man.

So tomorrow, we run. May the best man win!

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  1. Margarita Lewis

    Great piece Amir!! Thanks for taking the time to share your personal experiences in an effort to drive home that age old question I (and I imagine other single moms) have “Will I be able to give my son the upbringing he needs to be a man?” I see from your piece we really must make sure if the biological dad is not or should not be around, we make sure our boys have the right surrogate males around to give them the added male POV we, as women, have to admit we just can’t provide.

    Looking forward to seeing the results of the ‘battle’ – will Zaire slay the Dragon and proudly announce “he is now the man!”? 🙂

  2. Bilala Khan

    I want to be there! Where and When? I’m one of the Female Forces in this Manhood Rite. MamaBilala.

  3. ::two thumbs up::

  4. Very well written, I enjoyed this article. Now the world is waiting. Did the boy become a man or does he have another year to try try again? 🙂

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