(Unedited excerpts from my soon to be published book My Side of The Street-One man’s journey from active alcoholism to a fulfilling sobriety)
“Your kanyamu does not look like theirs…”
I was seven when my elder sister, Angela, uttered those words. There we are; the two of us upstairs, outside the bathroom door. In the bathroom, are my twin sister and my mother. I can hear the water running in the bathtub. And as has happened many times before, my sister is going to have a bath right after my mother is done with hers.
“Why, can’t I go in? I still don’t see why I am always being left out”, I cry.
“Because, your thing does not look like theirs”, she repeats.
I am not sure why I do not continue with this line of conversation; the fear instilled by Angela’s rising voice or the confusion created by all this kanyamu business. The worst part is that she does not even indicate what or where this kanyamu is. The only part I can think of that‘s different is my penis. I couldn’t, understand, however, why it was an issue. I always share the same bath with Brenda, my twin sister.
I felt left out and I wanted to belong. I so wanted to belong. Imagine what it was like for a seven-year-old feeling alone and unwanted. I really wanted in and my penis was not helping. I felt I had the wrong equipment. I hated being a boy and I recall often saying that I never wanted a son when I grew up. This belief was reinforced by the fact that I was an only boy in a single mum household. My only identification with my masculinity was the negative messages I got about my father. Actually when I was bad, the main comment was, “…just like his father.”
In my recovery from alcoholism, I started dealing with issues from my past; what Mellody Beattie, in her book, Codependent No More, calls Family of Origin Work. The intention of this was really to rid ourselves of anything that may lead us back to drinking: the unresolved issues, hurts, painful memories, etc. That bathroom incident really stuck for me and I wanted to know why. With the help of a therapist, I recalled the actual experience, the background, the feelings and the conversation. I saw that it was an initial turning point for me in forming my identity.
Growing up an only boy in a single mum household certainly had its moments but my lingering thought when I’m asked to describe my childhood in one word, what comes is ‘fear’.
I was always afraid. Afraid of playing with the boys, afraid of playing with the girls. Afraid of joining in; afraid of being left out. Fear of saying the right thing and of saying the wrong thing. Standing out always meant that someone stood ‘in’ and I then looked bad. And being left out meant being left alone. Trust me; I learned long ago that we are not created equal. That some are created to win and others to lose and be ok with that. I was different. I couldn’t stand either. I clearly do not miss my childhood.
Today, possibly as a legacy of my feminine influenced environment, I wear earrings and eyeliner, tweeze my eyebrows, go for the occasional facial, I am a trained hairdresser, I love cooking and I am as straight as they come.
 Kanyamu – euphemism for penis