In that instant where the only challenge facing you is saving face with your friends, you may look tough when you talk about women like they’re conquests instead of people.
Being the nerd that I am, I was watching an episode of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” one day, and I saw Buffy having a conversation with another character on the show (Giles, for those who know). She expressed concern over the fact that being the slayer had made her “hard”, unfeeling and cold. Borderline sociopathic. It got me thinking about the way people perceive this quality of hardness, both positively and negatively, in today’s social zeitgeist.
For example, men are expected to be hard. Impervious, unemotional, gruff and insensitive, and a guy is likely to be mocked by his peers if he fails in any of these criteria. It’s a supremely dumb stereotype, but then again, when has that stopped society before. The truth is being hard isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We focus on the wrong things here, aspiring to be hard, instead of strong.
One may argue, they are the same things. Another may argue that even if they are not the same, hardness belies strength. To that, I’ll respond with the one of the three total things I remember from four years in engineering at the university (I think I listened like twice in class); Hardness and strength are two different material properties that frequently have little to do with each other. Hardness is an external quality, strength is an internal one.
For engineering geeks, hardness is a measure of how the external features of a body respond to a force usually applied instantaneously. Strength is a measure of a body’s internal resistance to consistently applied pressure. While hardness can be dependent on strength, very often the two are not related. Glass, for example, may be hard, but I highly doubt you would want that Camry you used six months’ salary to buy to be made out of it; it really isn’t strong enough. However, some semiconductors which could be soft as foam are found to be several times stronger than steel.
What’s the point of all this jargon, you ask? When you focus on improving yourself only at the surface, it may be easy to shrug off some ephemeral challenges. In that instant where the only challenge facing you is saving face with your friends, you may look tough when you talk about women like they’re conquests instead of people. It may give you pleasure to display apathy towards things you should actually care about. You may feel too big to cry, be convinced that only women and wimps show emotion, never let people around you get close to you. But strength is in the ability to let people in, and still be standing when they disappoint you. It’s the willingness to disagree with something you think is wrong even when the rest of the entire darn world says otherwise. It’s being secure enough in yourself to know that crying if you need to doesn’t make you any less of a man.
My response to Buffy was that she wasn’t hard. She was strong. Fiercely loyal to her friends and family, committed to fulfilling her calling at the expense of herself, willing to let herself be hurt continually, and after losing people close to her, dying (and then being brought back to life) twice, and being somewhat alienated from society because of her gift, she was still standing because of that fact, she was strong.
So you could go ahead and be hard, but much like using glass to build a bridge, once that pressure continues to build and accumulate, and there’s nothing on the inside to support it, it all comes crashing down.
Osaretin Akenzua is a final year student studying Mechanical Engineering at University of Maryland, College Park. He likes music, reading, writing, when not swamped with engineering homework.
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.