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SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL MACHISMO by Claude Mills Featured

Entertainment News Written by  Claude Mills Saturday, 07 April 2012 23:56 font size decrease font size increase font size 0
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UNTIL I got to first form at Wolmer's Boys' School, I didn't even know that there were homosexuals in the world. In first form, the guys developed this sign which they called the V, which was simply the index finger and the middle finger splayed and upright, you know, like the victory sign from the sixties, and which was (don't ask me why) used to identify suspected homos.

 

Whenever any student made any comment that could be misconstrued as being homosexual in any way, he was beaten down by the other guys to feverish shouts of 'Vee'. This continued until about the end of second form when it fell out of vogue. But the good-natured 'gay bashing' continued unchecked throughout high school. It was just gay hysteria, fed by the dancehall culture, and the 'pretend-machismo' that prevailed at that time.

Looking back, I think it was just a way for us to define ourselves as young men. There were certain rules governing behaviour and fashion that you had to adhere to if you wanted to make sure you did not step over the lines in the sands of coolness, and could be seen as 'one of the guys'. They were, in no particular order: a REAL man did not engage in oral sex, was not a 'bottomist', did not walk or talk funny, had many girls or was in the process of getting them, did not wear tight clothes, anything pink or the "squeeze-mi-seed", "leggo-mi-ankle" pants. Plus, you couldn't cry, you couldn't be an informer (a snitch) and you had to play some sort of sport. The whole thing has now flipped with tight-pants wearing bleached out face young men who do effeminate dances littered all over the dancehall space. Just goes to show you, if you live long enough, you're liable to see almost anything happen. But I digress.

Growing up as a male adolescent trying to make your way in the world, there was an awful lot of things you COULDN'T do, and too many rules for a young boy to learn. But you did. You had to. And then later, once you got to third form, you had to prove that you were no longer a virgin, you had to get into the underpants of some girl, and get a 'confirmed kill'. After age 15, it was all about getting laid.

The interesting thing about the high school experience was that you were told that you had better be interested in girls before you were even old enough to have those sort of urges. At age 12, you still wanted to see cartoons, you just wanted to see them naked, but what did you know of the physics of the sexual act, really?

So the coolest guys in school were the athlete/footballer, the "gallis" who was 'getting some', the bully, or the "rude bwoy" and of course, the rich kid. Intelligence didn't count unless you could supply them with answers during exam time.

During high school, a lot of kids nurtured a sort of hate of self because they weren't cool enough. It messed with your whole self-esteem, your whole concept of who you were. No one wanted to be 'The Odd Man Out', or the 'Kid Who Let the Side Down'. If you did, that means you were LESS than a man, you were a sissy, or worse, a gay. According to some psychologists, repeated bad experiences may create persons who feel like social outcasts, and who may be prime recruits for joining a gang or engaging in anti-social behaviour.

Unfortunately, that was the option open to most young boys who got to age 16 hating themselves and the world around them. They did not have the athletic skills, looks, or the silvery tongues to charm girls, or the wealth of their parents to fall back on. So guys announced their manhood by rolling up their jeans, and hanging out on the corner where the same rules learned in high school were reinforced. Just a bunch of guys with damaged self-esteem clinging together, and swapping lies about how cool they were. However, our local brand of machismo is more dangerous because of the lack of choices available to young people, and the general ignorance that exists in society.

The thing with a lot of our adolescent boys is that there's no one to teach him to be a man. A mother can't teach you to be a man, so most boys grow up thinking that a MAN is the opposite of being a woman, and so they get locked into all sorts of risky behaviour to be that MAN. And even if there is a father figure around, sometimes he may be going through his own machismo issues. That's why Jamaica is full of young men who are man enough to take a life, but not man enough to take care of one.

I guess it is just a rite of passage. You just have to pray you make it through alive.

Read 2271 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 April 2012 00:00

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