The Young and Disenchanted

“I can talk to him ‘cos he understands/Everything I go through and everything I am” – My Boys, Part III (The African Edition)

Posted on: 6 July, 2009

I’ve written before on this blog about the group of Bolivian/Jewish/Asian/Texan guys with whom I have spent most of my time at college so far. That was six months ago. Looking back, I realise that I saw far less of them than I wanted to, for a mix of reasons, the main one being a particular extra-curricular activity that pretty much took over my life.

I was the cultural chair (read: cook) of my university’s African Student Association, meaning that a good proportion of my time was dedicated to feeding and arguing with a group of people of African descent. Monday nights I would roll up to our meeting place with armfuls of food and drink, curse out “these damn Africans who always expect to be fed like I’m their mother” and proceed to spend the next 4 hours joking with, getting mad at and making up again with my African peoples, in particular the men. I hate to admit that my life got too full to sustain as a rich a friendship as I wanted with my various groups of friends, but I realise that my increasing cultural and political awareness as an African made me gravitate towards people who shared my experiences and that I didn’t have to explain myself to. I could speak pidgin to them, or make some crack about Ghanaians and I knew they would get it. I didn’t have to apologise or feel awkward about the fact that I’m not an American, and that certain cultural contexts that are unique to the USA are lost on me. I don’t want to get too bogged down in the couldawouldashoulda of the first half of this year, so instead I’ll focus on why I decided to write this entry on the black men in my life.

A week ago, as I caught the 2 train back uptown after work, I noticed a young black dude get on the train at the same stop as me. He was pushing a stroller with one little girl in it, and holding the hand of another. I couldn’t help but smile at the adorableness of this man and his toddler-age daughters. He looked kinda harassed (the older girl was rocking a shirt that said “Big Sister AKA The Diva” so I guess the kids could have been a handful that day) but, damn. Something about the way he held onto their hands so tightly and made sure they didn’t get pushed around by the adults getting on and off the train touched me. It was right after Father’s Day too, and so it got me to thinking about my own father. My dad is kind of a G (as my friend A. would say, a Dominican-looking G). My first memory of him is of his being super tall, and having a big, big afro. Now I’m almost the same height as him and he gets his hair cut every week like clockwork, but he still seems like the coolest man ever to me. He loves Dr Dre, so much so that he bought the first Snoop Dogg album and let me and my sisters bump to it (I was about 5 at the time), but he’ll listen to Meatloaf too. The soccer team he supports? – “anyone but Man Utd,” and he always cheers for Arsenal (my team). He has the most amazing memory and I refuse to play Scrabble against him because the one time I challenged him, he whooped my arse something fierce. He rarely ever yells, and as long as you explain your motives for doing something he’s more than willing to listen and be supportive. He’s not always perfect, of course. There’ve been plenty of times where he’s made me incredibly mad and upset. But he doesn’t bear grudges, and he’s so gentle I feel dumb staying angry at him.

I read somewhere that a woman’s relationship with her father determines the way she relates with other men in her life. I guess the fact that I see my dad as my boy more than anything else is why my friendships with men are so important to me. I’m proud of him because he is a successful African man who’s worked extremely hard for everything he’s achieved in life, and who is remarkably grounded and humble. I’m thankful that I have such a bomb-ass dad. And I’m thankful that when he’s not around, I have a motley crew of other wonderful black men around me who understand where I’m coming from like he does, who keep me focused and challenge me to be better at all times.

I’m grateful for RationalChaos, my partner-in-ignorance, who always has something to say (usually something politically incorrect) to make me feel better. I’m grateful for my favourite DJ, who’s also an amazing listener. I’m grateful for the one I recently discovered is pretty much the same person as I am; just he’s from Jamaica and a dude – seriously, the extent to which we can finish each other’s sentences is disturbing. I’m grateful for the ones who have opened up new intellectual worlds for me, and with whom I have intense debates that expand my horizons and keep me asking questions. I’m even grateful for the one who broke my heart, because somehow we still manage to connect to one another and lose ourselves in our present, not linger over our past. Again, these men aren’t perfect. Sometimes they take the fact that I like cooking for granted, like I’m obliged to feed their asses. Sometimes they’re not honest with me, and I have to be the one who’s stronger than them, the issue-resolver and tension-ender. Sometimes they refer to me as “thuggish and unladylike” because I don’t like holding hands and shit. It’s okay though – I’ll happily take the good with the bad. From the bad ones I’ve learned when to know enough is enough, to know when someone is taking advantage of me and what level of bullshit I’m willing to tolerate before I request that they “call Tyrone.” With the good ones, I’ve been blessed with beautiful friendships I hope will last a lifetime – or at least as long as I keep cooking and they keep mixing tropical rum drinks. My brothers, I’m here for you, forever true.

P.S. The title’s from Angie Stone’s “Brotha.” Dang, I wonder where Angie’s at…


3 Responses to "“I can talk to him ‘cos he understands/Everything I go through and everything I am” – My Boys, Part III (The African Edition)"

Mena…is this u…i’m short of words to express how impressed i am. This is really good and i love your writing style. You should definitely get published. Definitely a fan!

really nice one. i prefer ma calculator to ma books but i could really sit n read ur stuff. but i ‘m mad u didnt pay tribute to d one who’s always waiting with his own plate for ur food,it really tastes like mums

from your partner in ignorance, Love you lots. I do have a lot of ignorant things to say but i gotta say you are a person to count on. You got my back and I got your back. Mafia style

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