When I think about admirable youthful men, I think about Andrew, my handy and benevolent brother in-law. I sent him a WhatsApp a few weeks ago. I said, “Boss, I had a root canal. I can now take your offer of a beer.”
He responded with, “Chief, that’s great to know.” I wasn’t sure if the “great to know” was about the root canal or the beer. I didn’t probe any further because no one should make the life of their bother in law difficult by asking unnecessary questions. He’s a good man.
Guy loves local music. He’d make a fantastic ambassador for tunes from Uganda. He has hundreds of songs from the Pearl of Africa, entertains his guests with everything this country has produced in song.
He’s a big heart, a thoughtful lad, the type of man mothers would pray for their daughters to have and daughters would be over the lights if they had him. He’d probably be their ideal man, their type.
I’ll tell you something about types. I was on a call one evening with a girl I liked a few years ago. I’ll never forget that day. It still sticks out like a sore thumb.
I was walking from the KCCA farm in Kyanja on a clear Wednesday evening, shoes and trousers soiled with manure. The wind was having a moment, breezing smoothly, leaves dropping off trees, flowers blooming by the side of the road. It felt like the perfect time to call the girl I liked. A Toyota Prado being driven a man with a bald head and clean shaved face eased past me.
I dialled her number and her phone rang. I silently spoke to myself. “Please pick-up,” I whispered in the air.
She picked up after about 20 seconds. She spoke in a jazzy alto voice, that sound that made me pay attention to her. Her voice hit all the notes that any smitten young man would want to hear. She paced her words, measuring them before they left her vocal codes. It drove me to smiles and – this might seem unreal – uncertainty.
We exchanged niceties, talked for moment about how the day had been and what we’d been up-to. She worked at a family business at that time, handling the money and I don’t know what else. She drove my crush neurons crazy. I felt the tingle of goodness then. It was surreal. We talked some more, then I told her, “By the way, I like your voice.”
I stopped by the side of the road and waited for what she’d say. You don’t want to be distracted by anything because the response your crush gives you to compliments like that matter. I held my breath.
She went silent and said a thank you which sounded half hearted, one that your ear tells you isn’t from a source of comfort. She said it out of courtesy. I got it. She didn’t want to be impolite. Her mother taught her well.
I could hear the distance in her voice, the uneasiness. Her mind was probably on another planet and I was distracting her from her day’s happy adventure. And I still don’t know why I continued with that call anyway. A few words later, I felt the urge to make a confession. I did.
“I think I like you.”
Ho! (This is a Ugandan expression.)
First, I liked her voice. Then I liked her. All this said in the space of what, three minutes? What was I thinking? Where was I rushing to?
In my defence, I used the word “think” because I wasn’t sure how she’d react. I needed to coat it. If anything went south, I’d say I protected myself. I’d say I tried to be smart about it. I’d say “at least I tried.”
There was stillness on the other end of the line. She was probably meditating through what to tell me. Then she spoke, said something I smile about to this day.
“You’re not my type, Ernest.”
She said it in the most polite way she possibly could. She signed.
I burst out laughing. It was the funniest thing I’d heard that year. Truth is, it wasn’t funny. That shit hit me like a bullet. How was that even possible? How could she say I wasn’t her type? Hehehe. That was my silly ego trying to bounce around.
She had the decency to say my name at the end of her rejection. She was smart about it. I slept over those words that evening, woke up the next morning and sent her a text about how I’m not made of a specific archetype. It was a futile attempt. It was like water running down the drain. I asked her out to lunch. She said, “That’s fine.” We had lunch once and our communication dwindled thereafter.
I don’t think Andrew is the kind of man a girl would ever say those words to. I’m glad my sister didn’t say, “You’re not my type, Andrew.”
I’ve got a deep respect and admiration for him, how he carries himself and how he treats those around him. I’ve seen him in the kitchen. He’s got a helpful pair of hands. I’ve watched him sling the baby bag to his shoulder and lift up his son to the gents. He’s placed him on the sink rest, unwrapped the diapers, cleaned the little boy’s backside and changed him into a clean one. If I’m ever able to pull off the diaper change of a baby on my first attempt and in record time, it’s because I learnt it from him. He’s a present a dad. I’ve seen him feed his baby boy.
Brothers would happily hand their sister to a man like him. Aunties and uncles would be thrilled to welcome a man like him to their homes. Fathers and mothers would be at peace knowing their daughter is in the hands of a good man. A polite, kind, humble and a firm man. He’s a millennial too by the way.
He knows things I don’t, about cars and family. About being a first born son. About money and fatherhood. He’s still learning, of course. He has inspired me to work towards marrying the right way. Andrew certainly isn’t a perfect man. No, none of us is. He’s human. We all have frailties. I know he works hard towards being a better man every day.
The world needs more men who look beyond their masculinity and men who tame their ego. Men who show up and are present in the lives of their wife and children. Granted, sometimes relationships might not work as initially anticipated. When a child pops out, we need men who will be there
We need to have men who will show responsibility and stay open to the idea of co-parenting when necessary. Men who won’t run off at the first sign of a child’s disability, that’s the kind of men we need to be.
We need to be men who will stay the course. Men who will realize their responsibility in raising a generation of responsible children. Men who will speak life to their children and siblings and families. Men who will not be afraid of being vulnerable and real. Men who are honest. Men who will speak to their daughters. Men who will keep working on themselves to be better in society. Men who will accept their mistakes and errors and work towards staying true to themselves. It’s a journey.
But with all these aspirations, none of us is perfect.