There are four tasks Ernest Hemingway suggested one should complete in a lifetime to become a Man. With apologies to Rudyard Kipling – if you drink a beer without fighting and you don’t covet your neighbour’s wife and you don’t lose your cool down at the licensing office and you hide your contempt for your boss – then the keys to the Merc will be yours and what is more – you will be a Man, my son.
Hemingway’s four ‘Manly’ tasks are a) write a novel – well it’s ok for him to say so, he did it and got some prizes for it – even the Big Kahuna of writing competitions – but what about the rest of us grunts? Maybe if we just kept a tidy blog for a month or two how would that do? Maybe write an essay or two – but a whole novel? That’s a big ask for manhood. Especially if you have a day-time job.
b) Plant a tree – now I’m with Ernie on this one. It is about caring for the planet and about posterity. So yes – plant a tree, even a dozen. What I do think is that you should plant indigenous trees and here’s the rub I think you should plant them yourself. Like dig the hole – get all sweaty and get those accountant-type hands blistered. Besides loving the planet it’s good exercise.
c) Raise a son – ha! My daughters are rolling on the floor and they are hosing themselves, and I agree. It’s a whole lot harder to raise a daughter than a son. With a son you only worry about one prick in the neighbourhood with daughters you worry about all the pricks in the neighbourhood. And in those early teen-aged years let me tell you – they hang around in groups, like battle-weary troops.
d) And the real corker – fight a bull. What the hell was the man thinking – Yes it is bold, dangerous and macho. But I would think that getting a roadworthy certificate on a second-hand car in Johannesburg is just as challenging. How’s about renovating an old house? Now there is a challenge for you, especially in this town – especially at this time. I’d rather fight the bull any day.
Something also needs to be said about ‘becoming a Man’ nowadays. Surely we should be inclusive with this and consider becoming a person? Manhood? What on earth is that supposed to mean. Is this the Sensitive Male? The Post-Sensitive Male? Involved father or distant dad man? Terminator or neo-wimp? Clearly Hemingway’s macho is a masculine in crisis. Manhood vanished under the weight of civilization, confinement and feminine efforts to domesticate society. The masculine baritone passed from society’s choir and now it is replaced by nervous chatting or sometimes a hysterical soprano. Ah – Earnest – loved your books but some of your ideas are a bit iffey.
If there were four worthy tasks to complete before we came of age or attained great wisdom – what do you think they should be? I’m going to try and tackle this weighty problem in the next four posts so watch this space.