What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subect of the week.
It’s hard to find a picture where Franklyne Ikediasor isn’t smiling like he just won the lottery. While I initially dismissed this energy as a performance set up for social media, the more time I spent with Franklyne, the more I understood a man who’s worked hard to find the joy he shamelessly displays to the world — even when the conversation broaches painful subjects.
In this episode of Man Like, Franklyne talks about being a young adult desperate for romantic validation, how losing his mum changed him and why he rates friendships over romantic relationships.
Everyone gets their “I’m a man now” moment. Do you remember yours?
The moment that came to me was when I moved out and got my first apartment at 23. It was right after NYSC, and I’d been living in Port Harcourt with my aunt, but I was a horny guy in his 20s and needed my privacy. I couldn’t bring people over or stay out past 7 p.m, so I was itching to leave. As soon as I had some money, I moved out.
That was my first experience, not just being a man but as an adult taking responsibility for himself.
What was that experience like?
Omo, moving out was when I realised that everything was expensive. I needed a bed, a gas cooker, a pot — why would posts cost me 20k to 50k? It’s just for cooking! And while I was making all these expenses, I had to save up for the next rent. It was a lot.
I was hell-bent on being independent, so I made sure I didn’t ask my aunt or sisters for money. I wanted to figure things out on my own. Even though I knew moving out would be hard and I didn’t have a lot of money, there were certain things like stumbling home drunk or waking up whenever I wanted to. I needed to experience those things, and I learnt a lot about myself during this period.
What’d you learn?
Number one, I have ojukokoro. I can eat like a thief. I didn’t notice this with my family because the food was being regulated. But living on my own and being able to wake up and make eba at 2 a.m. or finish all the meat in my soup was all the proof I needed to understand my relationship with food.
I’ve also found out I enjoy my company, which is surprising because I’m an extrovert and the life of the party. I thought I’d be bored all by myself, but I could go weeks without leaving my apartment. After all, I have Wi-Fi, booze and food. But when I go out? I will enjoy myself to the fullest.
I’m also anal about having things cleaned and arranged in a certain way. It’s such a big deal that I remember being annoyed at a lover because they rearranged my bookshelf. They didn’t get why I was so upset.
Wahala! Do you know where it comes from?
I wish I knew. It’s just that I become unsettled when things are not arranged the way I like. I could be in bed unable to sleep because I’m thinking about how my dishrack isn’t arranged in a particular order.
Like the lover you mentioned, I’m sure this impacts your relationships
My friends unlook because they’re used to me now. But it’s an entirely different thing when it comes to relationships. I told a friend the other day that almost all the breakup messages from people I’ve been with have the same message. There’s a pattern. But I’m set in my ways and at a point of emotional independence where I don’t feel like I need anyone.
I had my hoeing days in my early 20s. From my mid 20s to early 30s, I was obsessed with relationships and felt like I needed someone. Thankfully that horrible era of being desperate for companionship is over.
All your exes have the same complaints?
Let’s see, about three of my exes have described me as self-absorbed, and another thing that came up with like two was I’m incapable of giving or receiving love.
Do you think they’re right?
Maybe. There’s that bible thing about two or three witnesses, so who knows?
I’m not mushy when it comes to relationships. I once saw a tweet about getting upset when your lover doesn’t speak to you for four days, and honestly, I might not even notice. It was part of the problem in my relationships because they mistook my silence as me not caring for them.
Right now, I’d prefer someone who has stuff going on, so I’m not the one that completes them. I’ll never be that person.
Therapy has helped me unpack my past relationships and the role I played in their demise. I decided to chill on relationships for a bit, and now that “a bit” has turned into five years.
Before this break from dating, you referenced a period where you were desperate for companionship. What was that about?
I didn’t particularly feel like I was attractive growing up. My siblings and other people around me were more good-looking than I was. The only thing I had going for me was my intelligence.
In my late teens, things started to change. People were noticing me for my looks. Did I get more attractive? I don’t know. People would say things like, “Fine boy,” and I’m like, “Is it me, Jesus?’ LOL. Becoming more desirable was a bit confusing for me. I couldn’t see myself the way people saw me. This feeling drove my hunger for dependency and the need to have someone like and validate me. I needed to get to a point in my life where I was the only one validating myself.
Therapy is expensive and inaccessible to many people, but it helped me unpack these feelings. If my office didn’t cover it, I’d probably use whiskey as my coping mechanism. Outside of therapy, having a tight-knit community of friends helped me find that feeling of self-validation.
We’ll come back to therapy, but tell me about how friendship helped you love yourself
I always preach that friendship is the cornerstone of life, not romantic relationship. If a lover leaves me today, it’ll hurt a bit, but I don’t know how I’ll survive if one of my best friends stops talking to me. I’ve built healthy long-term friendships, and these people are the ones who fix me.
My friends are the people I can have open conversations with because we’ve been through so much shit together. I remember I gained a lot of weight after the lockdown, and it affected how I saw my desirability. After a healthcare scare, losing weight was one of the things my doctor recommended. I dropped about 10 kilograms in six weeks.
With the weight loss, I began to enjoy going out more, taking pictures and wearing clothes. But at some point, I also felt like a fraud, like I was enjoying someone else’s body. I called a friend, Fiyin, who explained that she was going through the same thing. She asked if I’d be okay if the weight came back, which helped me interrogate why I was feeling the way I was. It was because I was viewing myself through the lens of what society found attractive, and I wasn’t used to that.
I have these open conversations with my friends, and it just helps me figure out life. It’s always weird to me when people say they don’t have friends.
I love it! So about therapy. Was there a particular experience that pushed you to start?
I used to go to therapy on and off for years, but it became a permanent part of my routine after I lost my mum in December, 2020.
My mum’s death was the first time I dealt with something I couldn’t navigate, and I needed help processing my emotions. I’m not a crier, but I cried for two weeks after she died. Without the support of my therapist and friends, I doubt I would’ve been able to survive that period. My friends gave me space when I asked for it and followed me to the funeral. My therapist also allowed me to talk, no holds barred, about how I felt. They created a space for me to feel a full range of emotions.
I remember people saying, “If you’re crying as a man, what do you expect your sisters to do?” An uncle tried to force me to look at my mum’s body. I’d chosen not to see her body because I wanted to always remember her alive, but this uncle was literally dragging me “as a man” and didn’t stop until I got violent.
I’m sorry, what?
Yes. My siblings had to intervene and ask him to leave me alone.
Anyway, I said renting an apartment was when I realised I was an adult, but let me say losing my mum was the hardest thing I’ve experienced as an adult. Grief changes you in ways you don’t expect.
How did this particular loss change you?
Like I said before, I wasn’t a crier, but now I find myself crying unprovoked. I was recently on a run and started crying randomly. I had to pause, sit down and try to understand why. Fun fact, I couldn’t find an answer.
I’m so sorry about that man. Not so random question, but what does it mean to “be a man”?
Being a man is about doing what makes me happy as long as I’m not hurting anyone.
I want to explore the full range of my humanity. If I feel anger, it’s okay. If I feel like crying, then cool. My therapist always says they’re all feelings that’ll pass. It’s what we do with these feelings that matter.