What you need to know:
Having a circle of genuine friends is known to increase life expectancy and improve mental health
The problem with being a writer for a national newspaper is that everyone you interact with either thinks you want to write about them or will definitely write about them. I tell them, of course not, I am not that kind of guy. Me? Write about you? Come on.
Take for instance this goddess I was acquitted to some time back. She was like I know you will write about me. I am like, never, I can never write about you and spoil this holy moment. I want you all to myself. “I don’t believe you,” she says. “So I’ll keep buying the paper to see if you have written about me.”
Now part of my JD is to sell the paper—I have been called an ‘opportunist’, (I prefer the term businessman)—thus when the opportunity (ahem) presented itself, who am I to question the gods? Besides, I am writing about my experiences with her, not her experiences with me.
Now this someone’s daughter, after post-meeting asked me something—why do women love talking in bed? This put me in a spot of bother. "If you take care of everyone, who takes care of you?"
Initially, I didn't pay it much heed. But as the night wore on, and as the year, still shiny and sparkling takes its sheen off, it got me thinking. Who really takes care of the man?
Aah, where do I begin? Perhaps at the beginning? January after all is named after the Roman god Janus who had two faces, one looking to the past, and one to the future. If he could look back at man’s life, what would he make of the men who have made money their Apollo, something that seems to bring only insecurity? Now man has his money, but still, something feels amiss, like bloat on a crack-white shirt.
If you throw a stone in Nairobi, you will probably hit someone who has ‘cut off’ a ‘fake friend’, a ‘hater’, or my personal favourite, a ‘toxic person’. This could even be you. Think about it, when you hear the word “narcissist,” who comes to mind, other than everyone? Your ex, probably. Your ex's new partner. A couple of your friends, maybe.
Having become an unwitting WhatsApp status viewer this past week, the subliminal encouraging one to cut off ‘fake friends’ would be comedic if it was not so tragic. To be clear: no offence to your feelings, seeing that we have become a very touchy generation, who at the slightest discomfort threaten to throw our shiny ego-boosting toys out of the pram. That said, why are we cutting everyone off? The truth is human beings are social. We are a community. And despite your clamour for independence, we all need someone to hold the elevator door, someone on whose shoulders to stand.
In one of the most-quoted scenes of “Fight Club,” Tyler [Durden] bemoans the sunken fate of masculinity in late capitalism:
"We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars—but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off."
Tyler had the highest noble intentions, knowing full well how the road to hell is paved. In the end, he became the very Frankenstein monster of mass-cultural masculinity, sheep turned wolf, planting barbarism and demanding cult-like subservience from the men he claims to be liberating—the real Project Mayhem.
My generation's project mayhem is in our relationships—or lack thereof. That hollow empty feeling, that inescapable lurch in your stomach. Impressionable young men who have suffered the cost of obeisance, of doing what they have always been told to do, that eventually, it will happen. But it’s not happening, is it? And now the klaxon is blaring, that nirvana may never get here, and certainly not in the way they were promised. You might feel let down. You might even feel like you’ve been had. The intertwined currents of emptiness with the ache of longing. Sinking into a morass of negativity and a woe-is-me attitude, even the anger subsides after a while, splintering into ennui and wistfulness, and resignation.
We have cut off the very fabric that keeps us warm, and no one is willing to tell the emperor that he is naked. Perhaps it’s time for men to shed the social beard. The Greeks have a term for this: parea. It means a circle of friends. In Greece, the Parea is a long-lasting circle and cycle of life nourished by the people who participate in sharing their life experiences, values, and ideas. Who are your friends? Or perhaps more importantly, where are your friends?
As you get older, it takes a concerted effort to nurture and cultivate friendships. As men, even more so, because we rarely make new ones. It’s worth being there for your friends, through the zig and zags of life. It's what we hope they'll do for us. In my experience, male friendship is not rooted in conversation and spoken affection rather it's in the unspoken edicts and quiet understanding that we have each other's backs.
I reckon there are two guys I can call and they’d show up whether I need advice, a shoulder or just someone to foot the bill (I had initially underestimated this but learnt that Nairobi girls drink for a living). Is that not the understated beauty of old friendships? That we can pick it up from where we left off, no airs, no graces. I'd rather appreciate what I've got.
As we get more individualistic, and consumerism buys us over, sooner you realise that to have genuine people near you is one of life’s priceless gifts. If you are a man reading this and it describes you, you need friends. Nobody can be everything to another person. You need friends. If I am to hurl a gauntlet at you for 2023 it would be this: become a man driven to take some ownership of your fate, but without seeking out opportunities to inflict pain on others.
As we rolled in bed and I got drowned out by other pressing issues, I realised that maybe someone’s daughter is right. Maybe the only reason I allowed her to take care of me is only so I could write about it. And later, tell my friends about it. But she’ll have to buy the paper to find that out.