On Friday afternoon, my brother came into the house near to tears because, after a small misunderstanding, his best friend had told him he had “mental problems”. ‘No big problem, just childish folly’, I thought. I said sorry, told him either I or my mum would sort it & kept on with my business.
I was trying to put an IKEA chest of drawers together & failing.
After a couple of minutes I heard sobbing, my brother was on the sofa, head in hands crying like the love of his life didn’t love him back. It was very dramatic. I asked him what was up & he kept repeating “how could my best friend say that? I thought he was my best friend” between sniffles. Now, I’m not gonna lie, this irritated me. My brother is 10 next week and has never been able to take things on his chin. He internalises things, sometimes things that aren’t that deep so that ‘you’re so silly’ becomes something that he holds on to for weeks before asking “am I really silly?”
Now, I don’t want to be that sister (friend nor wife) who says stuff like “big boys/real men don’t cry” or makes the men in my life feel inferior for being upset. So I didn’t say that but in that moment, I struggled to find something to say to him that wouldn’t make him feel like he was less. I ended up saying something like “it’s ok to cry but cry about important things”. But who am I to determine what is important to him? Being so involved in the upbringing of my brother is teaching me that raising a black son is going to be difficult. I have to teach him that although it’s ok express emotions (good or bad) that lead to tears, he also needs to be able to take things on the chin. I need to teach him that although he will be expected to be a sexual predator, it’s ok if he’s not. Not only because I believe in abstinence until marriage but also because his masculinity isn’t tied to his sexuality.
Thankfully children aren’t in my near future but I’m realising that unlearning the images of masculinity I have will take an active effort. Constantly checking my self & the words I choose.