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 Edwin, popularly known as Dwin The Stoic. He talks about quitting his 9-5 to pursue music, his anxieties about money, and how he navigates the expectations of masculinity.
Tell me a story from your childhood about struggling with “being a man.”
I remember in secondary school I didn’t give a fuck about football. I still don’t. However, it was something other boys used to mock me. I didn’t want to be called “gay,” so I went to study football. I learnt the rules, players’ name, teams. I had to learn enough about football to carry a conversation. Things are different these days because the only time I watch football is if Nigeria is playing or I’m bored and the person I’m with is watching. Then, I might watch.
It’s funny how we have all these rules for what men are supposed to do and enjoy. I’m glad I started questioning it along the way. It’s good when you understand that there’s nothing inherently manly about enjoying a certain activity — who even said you must enjoy it?
At one point in school, I started telling people pink was my favourite colour because there was the assumption that I couldn’t like it.
Lmao. How did that go?
It went okay.
Love it. When did you now get that you’re a “man” now?
Everyone’s “man now” moment sounds monumental to me because mine seems tiny. I’d say my own moment was deciding to tell my parents that I wanted to pursue music. Before then, I had worked as a copywriter at an advertising agency, and my father kept telling me to get a “real job.” After NYSC, I got a “real job” as a tech consultant, and I also paid for studio time. The idea was to record an album that year. After getting studio time, I sat my parents down and told them I had gotten a job and was also working on my album. I was like, I’m not asking for your permission, I’m just informing you about what I’ll be doing with my time.
Ahan. Biggest Boy.
They sat down there like, “Cool, dope.” The music thing is not new to them. They were the ones who told me to finish my first degree before considering anything music.
That was the moment for me. I was like, whatever happens on this album is on me because I made the decision.
Were you not scared?
I was. I left school in 2015, and that was the last time I collected money from my parents. I was making my own money and living under their roof, but I didn’t feel like I was properly handling shit on my own. That’s why in 2018, after NYSC, when I decided to pursue music, I was finally alone. On some level, I’m lucky that they understood because I can’t imagine what life would have been like if they didn’t support me. Everything now added up to me having to prove that the music could work out. The love of music kept me going through all the fear.
Interesting. What was the scariest time for you during this period?
Quitting my 9 -5 to focus fully on music.
Sorry, you did what?
I’m a believer that everything that happened had to happen for me to be where I am today. Leaving my very secure job was a huge risk. To add to it, I was also going through a break up at the time. I told myself: “You are without gainful employment or love. You’re a young man who can do many things, but you chose to pursue the thing that brings you the least amount of money.” For me, this was both a harsh and scary realisation.
I honestly didn’t think I’d leave the job. Part of the reasons I got a job was so I’d never be in the position I suddenly found myself in.
It didn’t end there. All this happened in 2019. As I was about making plans for 2020, Corona came. This year showed me pepper because I was just coming out from a terrible period in my life. I’d just paid for a co-space in Yaba where I could be doing freelance work from. In this Corona period, I’ve asked myself, “What’s this life, am I cursed?”
I’m sorry. How are your finances?
See, I have a lot of anxiety and it stems from little things like not having money. I started therapy and that’s helping me to not worry too much about money. I tend to tie my worth to it. When my therapist examined all aspects of my life, he found out that anxiety was a common thread in all my dealings. So, that’s what we worked on.
Noticed any improvement?
All my life, I’ve tried to shake off a lot of heteronormativity. I’ve tried to remove “No be man you be?” from my dictionary because I heard it so much growing up. However, I’m still struggling to shake off the part of not having a lot of money. It’s funny because I’m not interested in kids or marriages, which are usually the major financial constraints for men. Regardless, not having money made me think less of myself. Therapy and this year have taught me to be pragmatic. When I start to have anxiety about money, I remind myself of the skills I have that can make me money, and I pursue them.
I know in my head that tying my worth to money is wrong, but my mind won’t budge. E no gree.
We still live in a patriarchal world and I’m under no delusion that I’ll get through life with struggling artist aesthetics. That shit is played out. I know it’s easy to say that you don’t need money and that you just need to be a nice guy.
Oh. I know what obtains in reality. Man, you better get your money up.
I’m slowly getting to a place where I just want to make money to enjoy my life. I used to restaurant hop before Corona started, and it’s something I’d like to continue after it lets up. Even if my worth isn’t tied to money, my enjoyment is.
I’m doing things and working for a better life.
Oh. Like what?
With music, there have been a couple of high points this year – releasing my band, Ignis Brothers’ debut album and co-writing on Adekunle Gold’s album. I did a theme song for OneRead and my startup TheContractAid is going into beta so yeah, those have been cool.
Ahan. Do giveaway
Lmaooo. Getaway this guy.
I’m curious: when was the last time you cried?
It was last month. The morning after the Lekki massacre, my mum called and asked how I was. I was unable to answer, so I just started crying.
The thing with tears is that sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. There are times you’ll cry and still go back to the nonsense that made you cry. I feel that men trying to do away with toxic masculinity still have to fight years of conditioning to even cry. It’s impossible to unlearn in one day, but it’s the work we should all do.
I feel you.
Moving away from stereotypes of masculinity will make men stop stifling themselves. I hope we come to realise that it’s to our advantage. I hear on Twitter that a lot of men are not moaning. My friend, open your mouth, scream and enjoy yourself. Being silent doesn’t help us at all. You’ll just miss out on the fun. Don’t tighten your chest.
Dead. Has anything ever threatened your idea of masculinity?
There have been cases where I had my conviction about certain things, but I couldn’t do anything. One of them was the burial of an extended family member. I already have issues with how my people [Igbo people] handle burials and the way money plays centre stage, then I was asked to drop a certain amount of money as “ a man.” I was broke at the time, but I had to look for the money. Resisting would have meant standing up to a large institution [culture] with years of history. It didn’t seem worth it, so I gave them the money.
Another area is marriage. I told my mother I’m not crazy about marriage, and she’s still in denial. But I know I’ll still probably do it because society and culture expect it from me as a man.
After I got my first job, I kept on getting marriage questions from my aunties. It became a thing. For someone with anxiety, it became a bigger deal. I’m at a place where I hope to meet someone good who also shares my ideals and is cool with the kind of person I am.
Love it. I’m curious: what was it like going from a committed relationship to the streets?
I didn’t recognise the streets anymore. It had been two years since I was on the streets and everything was so different. I was just like wow — I have to start finding out about people’s lives again? Their interests? Guys, let’s just…