Mantalk: The milestones that matter in a man’s life

Man milestones

There are several milestones in a man's life. Not all matter. 

Photo credit: Pexels

What you need to know:

  • I met a girl. And not just any girl. A girl with the whole world behind her—a behind that could lead to a Damascene conversion, one that deserves its own personality trait. But turns out nyash can get you to the table, but it won’t keep you at the table.

I have always been a late bloomer. I come late. This is a great thing if you are in bed with a woman, but a terrible thing at the workplace. Anyway, I broke my voice in Form One, but thankfully that was cancelled out by me being a rather funny fellow, claiming I had Nigerian roots, and was descended from the Hausa tribe, with my great grandfather moving to Kenya in the early 1900s. I couldn’t prove I was, but, crucially, they couldn’t prove I wasn’t.

That’s not all. My moustache and goatee started growing in Form Two, and by then I knew girls liked their men, men. If you didn’t have a beard or showed no visible signs of growing one, they would practise what Jesus recommended, looking the other way. But because God cannot tempt you beyond what you can bear, I told them good beards are like good Hip Hop. They are underground. They laughed. Turns out, if you make a girl laugh, you are halfway into her heart (or bank account, right Effie?)

I remember the first time I saw a guy shave his beard in high school. His name was Mark but we used to call him MtuSaba, styled as ‘Mtu7’. He was not the sharpest tool as evidenced by the eventual grade Mr Kaimenyi handed him, but my God, he could rap.

He channelled all his inner seven personalities, and when he was on stage, it was like a demon let loose at a holy rite. Women wanted to be with him; men wanted to be him. Where was I? Oh, yes. Mtu7 came to school with Veet (remember Veet?) and he applied it and voila! Like magic, his stubble was gone. I was under his spell for the rest of that term. I spent most of the days with his other bearded fellows. Grown men. I think those men were hired by the school under the guise of ‘students’ to represent us in the National School Games. Some may have done a little time back in the day. Some definitely could—and would—kick your ass, should your ass be in need of kicking.

When I bought my first shaver, it had me in a chokehold. I believed this was the bridge between teenage and adulthood. And then I realised that pencil-thin moustache, looking like a broke Salvador Dalí is not what girls like, so I said no way Jose! and shaved it all. Nothing screams adult! more than the ability to safely take a sharp object to your face every day.

But then I went to campus and I had a growth spurt. After the silence of my adolescence, now it seemed that even the ghosts were shouting, demanding to be heard. It seemed like I grew overnight, suddenly I had more freedom than sense, and I was responsible for myself.

After class, I’d offer, being a gentleman and true to my Kakamega roots to sindikiza my girl friends (note the space between girl and friends, which marks the friend zone) back to their rooms. And then they would invite me in but I would tell them I come from a long line of Rastafarian Anglicans and besides, doesn’t the school law state that male students are not allowed in female hostels during the 10 to 10 curfew? The girls would look at me, and smile strangely. I am sorry Stephanie; I was young and naïve! Please call me!

Campus passed by in a whiz, and I was thrown full-blown into adulting. I got my first proper paycheck after nodding furiously when I said I could work under extreme pressure—UNSUPERVISED. I celebrated it by tithing ten per cent. The rest of the money not even KRA can waterboard me to reveal what happened to it. With an up-and-at-'em attitude, I had an “anything goes” approach to life. But, boy I had fun. Fun was had. Broke, binge-drinking, and impressionable—the hallmarks of a life still under construction.

And then came the big one. I met a girl. And not just any girl. A girl with the whole world behind her—a behind that could lead to a Damascene conversion, one that deserves its own personality trait. But turns out nyash can get you to the table, but it won’t keep you at the table.

Ah, the promised land. When she dumped me in the middle of June (in that cold!), I almost went berserk. I promised to never love a woman again. I cursed women. I pledged chastity. I swore off romance. But what is life? A few months later I met another and another and another and by this time, my heart had cauterised enough that I could handle rejection. A milestone.

I have been thinking lately about milestones. How quickly “these days” turn to “those days”.

Milestones that define your transitions from one stage to the next. Every major milestone a man achieves in his life starts with getting something all on his own. All things that some—well, most—men secretly yearn for and snigger over but understand are aesthetically, socially, intellectually, and tastefully indefensible: Fast cars. Women. Women in fast cars. Getting women in fast cars pregnant. Because when it comes to success, every man makes his way at his own pace.

Often we never sit to stop and look at that rearview mirror, and thank God, the universe, or whatever it is fills the void in your soul. We are focused on acquiring the next success object, going to the next shiny toy, and climbing the next rung of social stairs.

While these do create an illusion of success and growth, the one thing that matters most is, what milestones are you chasing to grow as a man of character. Do you still have the same tardiness? Distractions? Vices? I have often looked to Hunter S. Thompson in my manhood journey, to shine a light on my dark path. “A man has to BE something; he has to matter,” Hunter says. “But a man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance. But beware of looking for goals; look for a way of life. To let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.”

It’s not the only milestone, but it is the only one that matters most. Even if you are a late bloomer.