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Boys to men |

Fashion and Beauty

Boys to men

A friend of mine, a fine writer, flew business class for the first time and had a miserable time of it. He wanted to raise his feet to get more comfortable in the unfamiliar largeness of the seat, but didn’t know which buttons to press. And rather than embarrass himself by asking the pretty flight attendant how to raise the footstool, he just ordered a cocktail and thought of all the people he had ever known, including his mother, whom he wished were there to ask the question for him.

He is not unlike my son Julian. We were having dinner at Dencio’s in Capitol Hills recently and he needed another shot of soda, for which he was afraid to ask the waitress, whose name was Dhei, and who was very pretty. "I want another can of Sprite," he told me. You ask, I said. "No, you ask," he said. He is very stubborn and would much rather suffer a dry dinner without the benefit of Sprite to push his lumpia down his throat.

My friend in business class was not too happy. He suffered catalepsy and that kept him wide awake. At the hotel after the flight, he consulted his oracle at Google on the fine mechanics of plane seats so that on the return trip he might confidently raise his foot while he enjoyed his drink, after which he might recline the seat and snore like a businessman.

There is an intimation of a boy in every man, and if woman were to keep her humor about her, she is likely to see a boy peeking from behind a man’s necktie on a bright morning, and sometimes he is scared.

My boy Miguel, who is 15 and in junior high school, tells me he is now a man. Since when? I don’t know if there is a precise moment when a boy, previously full of sweet incidents and devilish pranks, becomes a man. I’m not sure it really happens at all, except in their minds. I think at some point their bodies are invaded by some bacteria called testosterone and they are maimed for life, the macho little boys. They grow hair, shoot up like weeds and begin to have drives that make them dream of girls that are not their mothers. But by essence and by design, they remain what they were born as: boys.

There is this brilliant CEO I know, a pillar in the world of business. He is rather small of physique and is perfectly comfortable on coach seats and peanuts, and so he trades his company-paid business class tickets for two of coach. That way, he gets to where he needs to go while keeping in his suit pocket a promise of another trip, which is free and taken leisurely in some future summer. I doubt that his busy schedule affords him many summer vacations, but I’m sure the happy prospect of a quick getaway to a distant adventure keeps him sharp and alert in the boardroom, knowing that he is ahead. It makes him as happy as my brother Rico was in the old days when his pockets were jingling with jolens and around his neck was a thick lei of rubber bands, a hot currency among boys his age at the time.

My brother Ver, be he in first, business or economy class, would pretend not to know how to flush the cabin toilet just so he could chat up a stewardess. He is tall and handsome, and he is bound to tell her a funny story, which, along with his smile, will leave her bewildered and charmed at 35,000 feet. Ver takes after my Lolo, who, at 80, stood by the gate of our home with a brand new anahaw fan that he was ready to give any hot woman who happened by. My lolo was never on a plane, which is a shame, because it would have made him burningly happy to have a girl in uniform straighten his seat up for him just before take-off and offer him a choice of chicken or beef for lunch. He would have in turn offered her an anahaw with his logo, the number 8, printed on it.

There is a sweetness embedded in boys, manifest from the time they first present Mommy with a kalachuchi from the garden. Miguel, even when he was Batman, presented me with all sorts of flowers he picked up on the way to the playground. And what do you know, this last Valentine’s, he bought two dozen red roses that he sent not to me, but to a girl from Assumption (she probably thinks, too, that she has found herself a "man").

I don’t know about Julian. When he was four and we were living in California, he prowled the yard for long hours in the spring, collecting worms. One afternoon he presented me with a bottle full of them dead and alive. When I screamed, his eyes saddened, dimmed for a little while, until he realized he had uncovered my wildest fear, and he brightened up as if he had discovered the secret of life.
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Email me at or visit my blog at

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