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 subject of the week.
The subject for today’s “Man Like” is Rilwan. He’s a lawyer and premium baby boy. He tells us about the responsibility that comes with living alone, finding it easier to form deeper connections with women than with men and how Amala is life.
You know the drill.
Lmao. The first time I had my “man like” moment was at the beginning of 2018 when I moved out of my parent’s house. Moving out was significant because I was suddenly responsible for myself and a lot of choices. Up until then, I’d been fortunate enough to have the support of both of my parents.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
A lot of it was tied to being responsible. I was suddenly living alone with no one monitoring my entry and exit time. I was also now responsible for the choices I made and the company I kept. The question became: “What do I do with my newfound liberties?”
As someone who has always felt a deeper sense of responsibility, especially when compared to my peers, I had to constantly check myself. I had to ensure that I was as responsible as possible. Although I still had reckless interludes. Lmao.
I was expecting you to talk about curtains and furnishing challenges. Are you rich or something?
Lmaoooo. I’m not rich oh. I moved in with a responsible housemate, so that made furnishing the apartment a lot easier.
I remember that one “annoying” challenge I faced from moving out was having to fuel my car myself. When I was living at home, my parents used to fuel my car sometimes and that made things soft for me. After moving out, I was notorious for always driving my car on E — my girlfriend at the time constantly dragged me for this.
Till today, I’m amazed when I see people who drive around with full tanks for no reason — I keep wondering why.
I also had a challenge trying to keep track of all my expenses. I haven’t gotten the hang of it, but I keep trying regardless. I guess it’s part of trying to be more intentional with where I put my money.
Interesting. Tell me about some things moving out made easier for you.
Firstly, it reduced my commute time because I was closer to my office. Living alone also removed the burden of mum and dad calling me if I was running late from work. Not having to answer to anyone to a larger extent was one of the things I valued the most. It was also when I moved out that I started thinking about marriage in a deeper sense. In fact, I thought I’d be married by next year.
Lmao. I had everything figured out and a plan. If I could trace the source of the conviction, I’d say that in addition to other factors, moving out played a big role. It was just like check, I’ve done this. I’ve done that. So I can do this next.
Energy. When are we wearing this aso-ebi?
It’s a long story, but there were fundamental circumstances around the relationship that couldn’t be resolved, so we ended things.
It’s a long story…
We have some time.
It’s a long story.
In between trying to figure out where my life is headed and trying to show up, I have a lot less incentive for marriage right now.
Interesting. Why did you think you were ready then?
I was sure I had found the right person. I believe a major reason people say they don’t believe in marriage is that they haven’t found the person that’ll make them lock up. At the time I was sure I had found my person, but hey, life happened!
Does your experience influence how you navigate romantic relationships these days?
It does a whole lot. It’s different when you lose something because you didn’t value it and you realise the value in retrospect. But when you understand the value of what you had and lost it to circumstances beyond you, it hits differently. It’s no longer a case of you didn’t know what you had. It then becomes a situation where you helplessly watch as something of value painfully slips away from you.
What this experience does is that it sets expectations for you. You’re always going into romantic relationships using that experience as a benchmark. If nothing else matches it or is better than it, you’re a lot more hesitant to commit.
I’m not sure if it’s a problematic thing, but I just feel that we settle so much as Nigerians and marriage and the person we love is something we shouldn’t settle on.
Lmao. I always joke that if I continue with this mindset, I’ll spend the rest of my life alone.
My unpopular opinion is that the choice of who you end up with is a lot less about love and more about compatibility — does the relationship fit into your family and spirituality goals? Are they team stay or team jaapa? I’m not saying love isn’t important, I just think there are so many considerations to navigate.
I’m curious about your red flags for relationships.
I don’t do “crazy” people. Some people might find it exciting, but I’m not cut out for the stress that comes with it.
I also can’t be with someone who can’t hold a conversation, isn’t genuine and doesn’t have some measure of consistency. I understand that people have different versions of themselves, but I want to be able to know that the version of you I’ll see today will be the same to a large extent as the version I’ll see tomorrow.
Naira to dollar exchange rate, I hope you’re listening?
Does anything scare you?
I generally struggle with feelings of inadequacy and I’m constantly asking myself if I’m good enough. It’s a battle of constantly checking myself and reminding myself of my capabilities. This feeling of “not enough” always leaves me fearful that growth opportunities might pass me by. It’s something that I’ll keep working on.
Then there’s also the question of purpose: “What am I here for?” “What’s my end game?” “Where do I see myself in 20 years?” There’s also the part of navigating societal expectations where I find myself asking: do I want to be a father? And what kind of father will I be?
It’s a lot to think about and I’m thankful for friendships where we’re not shy to talk about our struggles.
Tell me about these friendships.
They’re mostly with women. Right from primary school, some of my closest friends have been women. I remember that people used to mock me for this, but the truth is I found it easier to form deeper connections with women. With men, I found it difficult to have conversations about the things that were on my mind in quiet moments. Beyond all the jazz and noise, I wasn’t sure I was having real conversations with my male friends.
So you don’t have male friends you have deep conversations with?
I do. In the past year, I’ve been intentional about nurturing deeper relationships with men. I’m very pro-deeper friendships.
What’s that experience like?
It’s not been easy.
In my experience, women are a lot more open and honest about their struggles. With men, there’s a whole lot of intentional effort that goes into getting your guy to talk. You have to ask how they are three times before they talk about their issues. These days, as young men who are all struggling to find our place in the world and are facing many challenges, we definitely need to talk.
My friends are slowly accepting that someone asking how you really are slaps differently, especially as Nigerian men. As a man in Nigeria or even as a Nigerian, you’re always going through something traumatic.
Have you experienced any pushbacks from trying to form deeper relationships with men?
For sure. But I’ll never give up. Mostly because I’ve seen what happens when you don’t talk to your friends or just leave them be.
I had a friend from Uni who took her life a couple of years ago. The rumour [whether wrong or right] was that she was struggling with figuring out her place in the world and there was not enough support for her to talk about it.
That incident made me feel like I didn’t pay enough attention. It also made me realize how similar we all are at the end of the day. I realise that regardless of any push back I need to always reach out.
Because of books and websites where I get to read about the experience of others, I don’t find it discouraging to reach out. Consuming other people’s stories makes me realize that I’m not alone [and no one should be], and there’s no shame in being open about struggles.
I feel you.
You mentioned something about a lot of your friends being female, I’m curious about that.
It’s a lot of dealing with people either calling you a woman wrapper or [wrongly] assuming you’re sleeping with your female friends. At some point, I used to be bothered but I’ve learnt that one thing I owe myself is to live an authentic life. It’s easier to live with myself because I don’t depend on the validation of others. In fact, I sleep better at night.
I’m not going to throw away deep, meaningful friendships with my female friends because of what people will or won’t say.
How do you balance your female friendships with a romantic relationship? Do they clash?
They do. My best friend in the entire world [even though we don’t do labels] is a woman. What this means is that whenever I’m in a relationship, the dynamics of our relationship changes.
It’s not like I cut her off or anything. It’s just making adjustments and respecting my partner enough that I don’t create the wrong impression or find myself in situations beyond my control. This means prioritising my partner at the time and always placing her first.
Wahala for who is not your number one woman.
How do you define your masculinity?
Masculinity is not something I really care about or think about often. However, if you placed a gun to my head asking for a definition, I’d say masculinity involves self-restraint. It’s lowering your ego and accepting responsibility. Being accountable too. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process of learning and unlearning until we’re comfortable enough to make authentic decisions that allow us to sleep better at night.
Random question: what do you think are some things necessary to live a happy life?
Party Jollof in the morning and amala with abula in the afternoon. Very key.
A life without amala is not a life worth living —Rilwan 2021.
On a more serious note, I think that to live a “happy” life you need to surround yourself with people who love and care about you unconditionally. People who always want the best for you even when you can’t see it.
I see. Do you think you’re surrounded by people who love you unconditionally?
Yes, I think so.
My chest. So sweet.
Help Zikoko keep making the content you love
More than ever, people are turning to Zikoko for stories that matter and content they love. But still, we, like many media organisations, are feeling the financial heat of these times. If you find us valuable, please make a contribution to help keep Zikoko zikoko-ing.
Thank you for your support.
We are also cool with Crypto.