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 of today’s “Man Like” is Moboluwaduro, a doctor. He talks to us about his plans to spoil his mum and struggling to pay his first house rent. Additionally, he tells us how observing his dad showed him that people express affection differently.
When did you get your “Man now” moment?
I feel like I’ve generally been privileged because I wasn’t rushed into becoming “a man”. When I finished my first degree in Basic medical science, I went back to medical school. In a way, I kept asking myself if I was going to medical school because I wanted to be a doctor or if I wanted to be shielded a little more from growing up.
The first time I got hit with the reality of being a man was when I finished housemanship — a compulsory one year service medical graduates undergo in the hospital. I suddenly went from having a well-paying job and a hospital-provided apartment to hustling for a job and trying to figure out how to pay rent.
That’s when the bubble burst.
For the duration of my housemanship, I’d saved up ₦500,000 to rent an apartment in Lagos. After going around for two to three weeks, it dawned on me that I had fucked up. As someone who’s always prepared for anything, I was rudely shocked when I realised that my one-year savings couldn’t pay rent.
When my eyes cleared, I SOSed my mum and was like, “Mummy, send help.” Through the efforts of my mum, combined with a loan from a friend is how I eventually paid the rent of my first apartment.
I didn’t have money for furnishing after I moved in, so my sitting room was empty. Thankfully, I got a job. An aunt here came through, another friend here came through, and I was finally able to set up the house. It took me nine months to find my feet. The post housemanship phase was a life-changing event that showed me “real life.”
Nah, it’s fine. I’ve come a long way from then, and while I’m not a pro at this adulting business, I remind myself that I’m not doing badly. At least I stay in my own apartment and I now pay my rent without any assistance. LMAO.
LOL. What did you learn from your house-hunting experience?
House-hunting in Lagos teaches you how challenging it is to be a young adult in Nigeria. How can it be legal for landlords to expect you to have almost a million naira to pay rent for like two years? When you compare other countries where rent is monthly versus our lump-sum system, you start to see how cruel the system is on young people trying to find their feet.
I also learnt that there’s mad corruption in this country. If a professional who’s supposed to be relatively comfortable is struggling, it shows that cost of living doesn’t match income levels. I suspect that illegal money in the possession of a select few has inflated housing costs and made life more difficult for honest earners.
The whole house hunting experience made me feel poor and helpless. I kept asking, “How do people who don’t earn as much as doctors fare?”
Bro! Does this reality scare you?
Yes, it does. There’s the worry that people may come for you because they feel you’re better off than them.
I’m actually scared of being outside my house past 7 p.m. I grew up in the relatively sleepy town of Ijebu-Ode where 7:30 p.m. counted as getting home late. And I also grew up hearing about how unsafe Lagos was. Add low income and high cost of living to my fears, and suddenly, my anxiety makes sense.
I feel you. Do you have any other fears?
I’m scared of my mum dying before I have enough time to do big man things for her. I do things for her in my own little way, but I want to really spoil her; I want her to ask for x amount while I send her 3x the amount.
Lool. My mum has been there for me every step of the way and has supported me through everything I’ve done in life. No one can want good for you more than your parents. There’s nothing I’ve asked my mum for that she didn’t find a way to provide.
If my mother saved all the money she spent on her children, she’d probably be a multimillionaire by now. That’s why I won’t feel accomplished until I can properly spoil her.
Love it. Do you feel the same way about your dad?
My dad is reserved and a man of few words. Also, he was constantly shuttling between Ijebu-Ode and Lagos for work, so this made conversations sparse. I guess it’s easier to gush about my mum because we spent a lot of our formative years with her.
Overall, I’m not worried because my mum takes care of my dad. Taking care of her guarantees I’m also taking care of my dad.
Neat. Did your dad’s reserved attitude have any impact on the type of man you grew up to become?
As reserved as my dad is, I know he’ll give me a kidney if I need one. I remember that every Sunday, my dad would put us on his laps and cut our fingernails and toenails. He’d also never finish his food without giving the kids meat from his plate. I came to understand that he wasn’t cold, but just affectionate in his own way. I mean it’d have been nicer if he was more expressive with his emotions, but I understand that he’s a product of his upbringing.
I like to think that I’m an antithesis of my dad because I wear my emotions on my sleeves.
Observing my father showed me that the fact that someone doesn’t express themselves the way you want doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cold. It just means that they show love differently.
How does wearing your emotions on your sleeves play out for you?
It’s going quite well. Being myself has allowed me to attract like-minded people. With my friends — both male and female — I try to be vocal about my feelings. I don’t want to die and my friends are unsure about how I feel about them. I understand this behaviour is definitely not what society expects of me as a man, but I’m an open book. I’m now 30+, it’s too late to fight who I am.
Do people tell you to act like a man/man up?
I used to hear it a lot while I was growing up. One of the beauties of adulthood is that growing older gives you a tougher skin and the words people say have less power to hurt you.
You have to be unapologetically who you are. You must not allow someone’s opinion or definition of who you are hold you back.
Mum, Dad, I hope you’re reading this?
How do you define your masculinity?
I don’t. I like to believe that I’m self-aware enough to be my own person. This knowledge is why I don’t subscribe to certain notions of masculinity.
I cry when I get frustrated. Some people see crying as a sign of weakness, but I’ve found that crying helps me relieve frustrations. Crying doesn’t stop me from pursuing my goals because as I’m crying, I’m still putting one leg in front of the other.
I feel like I’m a complete person, so I don’t bother putting labels and expectations on masculinity.
Interesting. What do you think is different about being a man in Nigeria?
Your recognition as a man is tied to your ability to provide. If you can’t do that, you’re not counted as a man. If you have money, your experience as a man in Nigeria is 70% easier because everyone respects and treats you differently. I think this is the reason why men spiral when they get into situations where they can no longer provide. They understand, subconsciously, what’s at stake.
I’m curious about your role models for what it means to be a man.
Weirdly enough, I don’t think I have anyone. All in all, I always want to be a nicer and better model of my previous self. I know the things I want and I’m always open to change, so I don’t put any one person on a pedestal. I add and remove from people’s traits as I find them useful to me.
To be honest, the only “role model” I want to be is to be successful. After all, people say that money is the bicycle of the gospel.