What you need to know:
- Men love gossip. Men love to gossip. I am preaching from Mount Sinai here and I’ve said it before that all men are alike, but all men like gossip in their own way. I know this because a) I’m a man and b) I’m a man who lives for gossip.
- Were it not for my blessed editor, I would ask you to put your dancing shoes on because I would sing like a canary. Gossip, really, is the purest form of literature.
Last week, I had some chums. I had money—the kind where my friends only addressed me as Chairman or Kiongozi or Mzee. I was like a junior government official who receives money to ‘buy’ the stamp that will finally approve your documents—although shida ni DCI. Anyway, deal flani iliivana.
I am a sensitive man; I believe in wealth redistribution so I made my way downtown to Kenya’s red-light district where I was to get a gift from my friends.
When I say “from”, what I really mean is I bought the gift, then told my friends what they had got me. It is just easier that way. When you know what you really want, why risk it?
With the lights a hazy red and blue and purple, and terribly balanced music on the stereo but fine-fine (fine!) 20-something-year-old girls waltzing their hips, my friends got a bit confessional.
Maybe it was the alcohol or the environment, but I learned more about them that day than I have all this year. There is just something about half-nude girls that inspires naked truths. Besides, hips don’t lie, do they?
As I am sure I am not the first (and definitely not the last to note) it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in pursuit of soul fulfilment must be in want of a gossip partner.
Men love gossip. Men love to gossip. I am preaching from Mount Sinai here and I’ve said it before that all men are alike, but all men like gossip in their own way. I know this because a) I’m a man and b) I’m a man who lives for gossip.
Were it not for my blessed editor, I would ask you to put your dancing shoes on because I would sing like a canary. Gossip, really, is the purest form of literature.
Do you know how I came to this scientific conclusion? Because more men have podcasts than women. And, get this, more men listen to podcasts than women.
Podcasts are essentially where men engage in intellectual masturbation. There seem to be more podcasts now than there are stars in the sky. And they create them like an investment banker—without permission.
I say this a) as a man who listens to podcasts and b) as a man with two (two!) podcasts. You would think I am ashamed but I wear it like a badge of honour. What is it that Patrick Henry guy said? “Give me gossip, or give me death!”
If you give any average man in the street a truth serum, this is what they will tell you, “Tell me everything!” Men—and not women—are in fact an unstoppable fountain of gossip, splashing scandals all over.
They don’t go into excruciating detail, but they are petty. Oh, men are petty. “Unakumbuka that chic, the one with a forehead like a Passo, yes, si she’s preggo for mdosi. Naivasha things my guy. Si ni me nakushow….”
A man probably knows where Anne Frank is, or what they buried in the Tomb of Qin or, whisper it quietly, where the president is going to next—and for how many days (months?)
Here is the problem, writ large against manhood: Men are in fact designed to cloak everything under the satin underwear of jokes. Men despise vulnerability.
They would rather eat worms. Thus, they speak of their pain in between the lines, a decades-long cage match with silence and shame.
If you are not listening, you will never hear it. It’s in the offhand remarks, the slip of the tongue, the “kwani haujui jokes?”
It only becomes a no laughing matter when you hear nani offed himself. A lot of men are lonely.
I look back on my early to mid-20s when I had my first existential crisis, and damn, were it not for the men around me at that time, I probably wouldn’t have two podcasts because I wouldn’t be here anyway.
It was bad. It was men who talked to me, or more pertinent, listened to me. And boy, did I have things to say. They were stupid things yes, but at that time, did I know any better?
I was in pain and all I wanted to do was let it out. These men held me. They hugged me with their words. In the end, it’s always the shadow which embraces the fading light.
I’ll carry those memories for life. Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over until you know every touch and corner, but still, you’ll find an edge to cut you.
The things we desire as men—someone to talk to, someone to talk with—are the things that seemingly make us look weak. All our longings come out as a kind of disdain for what we long for.
It’s why I don’t miss a date with my boyfriends (not in that way, and note that space between boy and friends); because sometimes we just need someone to listen.
You can see it in the vacant expressions and the intangible reflections we see in each other’s eyes, reflections of nothing but appearances, in a city dedicated to seeming.
Of course, it is exhausting, having to show your real face in a universe which was only meant for wearing masks.
Recently, I bumped into a book. Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City. It is a beautiful book, find it. Read it. In it she writes, “What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry. Like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast.”
Vulnerability is the pus of need, shame and longing. The staggering statistics prove it—more men kill themselves (three to one). Suicide, really, is a crime of loneliness, collapsing into a well of emptiness.
It is not necessarily physical—I have been intimate with people I wasn’t close to—but rather an absence of connection, closeness, kinship—a yearning for intimacy, but falling short.
I dare say most men who call each other “real friends” are mere strangers to each other. Ashamed to speak what abides deep in their soul, ignorant that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
Shame is a mask that eats into the face. Call a man today, and after the usual gossip “Umesikia nani amepata job KRA juu ya nani” — get down to the bone and ask them, “Bro, but how are you really doing?”