Why do men lie to each other?

The truth is, men love telling lies. And before you start throwing stones, I’ll be the first to throw mine.

For example: Do you remember what you were doing the first time you told a woman that you loved her? I do. I was lying.

Weak-joke-quota-of-the-year-exhausted, it’s a precarious time to be a man. The redefining of what it means to be a man necessitates giving men a space to take a candid appraisal of their emotions, uncertainties, and sense of self.

I quickly discovered, as a young man growing up in Kenya, that little white lies, cooked well, are the slices of meat in the sandwich that is life. The truth, on the other hand, is like the skin you’re in burns. And the salve is little deceit here, a trick there, that keeps society moving. Altruistic lies, rather than the conniving, self-aggrandising variety, are an essential part of polite society.

Thus, lately, I have been doing a little experiment. Lifting the scabs. Poking the bear’s ass. Seeing the wood for the trees. I am not settling for surface-level answers—being polite—I am going deep. ‘Si ni me nakushow’ no longer carries its weight in my books.

The results have been varying. I have found out things about my friends, some friendships as old as a decade long, that I had never bothered to know. (Who knew one of my closest friend's father is actually Congolese? Congolese! No wonder the ladies flock to this boy!)

Are you following? If not, never mind, read on and I’ll get funny shortly.

Recently, I was out with the boys and I was reminiscing about how I’d outgrown and dumped some of my friends in order for me to have more time in my own fascinating company. They told me I am self-indulgent and pretentious. Both are true.

Our discussions segued into a talk about masculinity because my Congolese friend—that is his new name henceforth—had become obsessed with Twitter-inspired masculinity. We told him, in 280 characters or less, that Twitter is like a form of masturbation because you're by yourself when you do it.

Congolese bimbo didn’t grow up with his father, not a unique problem, but we felt he was substituting that by looking for father figures everywhere. Is it male attention he wants or male authority? You can’t use another man’s bible to preach your own gospel, we said.

We even threw (okay, Googled) a Congolese proverb for good measure—nguma aloba moto malamu azali te na mokili (the python said there are no good men in the village). We bought him one more round so he could wash it all down and sometimes I think that’s the best we can do for people, apart from giving them money.

Defective men

In this nation of shopkeepers, snowflakes and sensitivity, there is something particularly disconcerting about watching a thirty-something-year-old man, tuning in to Twitter, YouTube, or even, goddamnit, Facebook to be told how to act like a man. This assumption only further pathologises men in our culture as "defective women". Men are no more defective women than women are defective men.

Because at what point then do you grow up? At what point do you finally become your own man? Able to live with your own ideals—defining your own masculinity—being you? Sooner or later, the world expects that the die is cast, that you have arrived, that there's only so much talk to go around—that you are finally you, for God's sake.

I’ll be the first to admit. What men seem to need the most is the very thing they most fear: Honesty.

It’s only lately that we have become naked (not in that way) with my closest male friends. And to tell you the truth (hehe) it has been liberating. Call it ego, call it bravado, call it intransigence, but whichever way you frame it, that cheeky chappy carefree jester we portray tends to be a mask, a carefully constructed carapace concealing a secret that lurks in our psyches.

We boys are taught, sometimes with the best intentions (knowing full well how the road to hell is paved) to mutate our emotional suffering into anger. This is where the seeds of doubt are planted, the earliest stirrings of a male identity at war with itself. Like an emotional whack-a-mole, being a man germinates to a lifetime of stripping away the external influences that shape the emotional desert that we find ourselves in.

Anger, for the most part, is the emotion that men are allowed to express, and most men seem to forget that anger is, in fact, an emotion. Isn’t it interesting then, that sadness unexpressed often turns to anger; sometimes worse? It’s the Faustian bargain that allows men to maintain their power, however pyrrhic the victory. It’s the soft underbelly of manhood, the super-ego of the Kenyan male psyche, defining its two most toxic traits: the charm of self-confidence and the melancholy of self-delusion.

Women are half of society and they create the social landscape in which male identity is formed. Men, no longer the only bastions in providing, working, achieving, and leading; suddenly are thrust into this expanse to face the shadow of their emotional landscape which has been projected onto so many others. A homecoming with nothing to write home about.

And the claims to fame are lol-inducing: A real man wakes up at 1 am, having only slept at 12:47 am. A real man does not have a mirror—a glance at the picture in his ID is enough. A real man does not eat the food he has not hunted or gathered. A real man doesn’t scratch his balls in public. Actually, let’s keep that. Don’t scratch your balls. In public or private. Just don’t.

There are precious few models that define what a man is. Perhaps that's because gender becomes less important in the process of attaining wisdom. Even so-famed masculinity experts seem unsure of the right answers, unsure that there even is a right answer.

I’m throwing the gauntlet down to a few men. With your boys or gang or crew, it’s time to stop sweeping reality under the carpet. You know the ones. The drinking thing (no it’s not functional alcoholism, it is alcoholism.) That gambling addiction. Pornography. If men cannot hold each other accountable, then who will?

The truth, you soon learn, is a capricious thing: a show of strength but also a glimmer of weakness. It will guide you to be more authentic in your relationships (not "nicer" or more people-pleasing). It will demand of you to stop being so scared of women's emotions (appropriate or over-reactive). It will undress the lies and ask you to be honest and real, and let the honies put on their big girl panties and deal with it.

Perhaps when the end finally comes, when we are lying on our deathbeds preparing to gasp our final breath, we will remember that night in that bar when the glasses were full but all we really wanted was empty our hearts.

And here’s one more thing you’ll discover. You might or might not be ready to get as good as you give. Because by the end of my day of telling nothing but the truth, I had brewed hurricanes that would sweep me. I finally understand why storms are named after people. My bosom friends decided to tell me some home truths of their own. I still haven't quite recovered.


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