[OPINION] A Man and His Burden of Manhood

A Man and his burden of Manhood

By Lateef Adewole

A lizard that falls to ground from the top of a tall Iroko tree and still alive said to itself that if nobody hails it, it will hail itself. Saying this in Yoruba would have been so sweet. That’s how deep meanings of communication are lost in translation. That’s by the way. This illustration with the lizard can be applied to men. In spite of the huge contributions and sacrifices of men to the society, they are less appreciated or celebrated. If no one will blow our trumpet as men, why can’t we blow it by ourselves?

This Sunday, 19th of November, 2023, commemorated another International Men’s Day. Now that I mentioned it is when many men themselves will know, not to talk of women or children. Why? Because, it is not in our psyche that celebrating such day means much to the men. Is that true? Not at all. Men just decided to conform with the society expectations with regards to such issues. So, let me wish all responsible men, happy International Men’s Day!

We all know that anytime it is Women’s day or Mother’s day or Girl Child’s day, one needs not look far before knowing as messages and programmes about such day will flood the whole media space, print and electronic. Social media will be agog with sharing and exchange of pleasantries. Physically in many homes, men are ‘compelled’ mark such days for women or girl child by taking them out or buying of gifts.

Every November 19, is about 42 days to the end of any year, which often heralded huge expectations due to ceremonies. For most christians who believe in Christmas that is celebrated on 25th of December (36 days away), it is a huge celebration. It involves massive merriment, exchange of gifts, buying new festival clothes, shoes and other beauty accessories for the wife and children, by the man. Many kill chicken, goats, rams or even cows and throw parties. Who bears all these expenses? The man of the house, of course.

A week after Christmas is the new year, 1st of January. This is celebrated by more people, irrespective of their religion. It entails a lot of spending on the part of men, for families in particular. Just the same January of the new year, all schools at elementary and secondary, resume for another term, particularly in Nigeria. The children’s school fees, buying school items that they will need and other things, all required huge amount of money, which men, who have such responsibilities, have to make available.

With these loads and many more on men, considering the challenging economic situation that people are facing globally, and in Nigeria in particular, what state of mind do we think many men are likely to be? What is likely to be the state of their mental health? They are better imagined. Consideration of things like this could have informed the theme chosen for this year’s International Men’s Day, which is: “Zero Men’s Suicide”. Isn’t this extreme? I don’t think so.

The few things I highlighted above are insignificant when the burden that a man has to bear day-in-day-out, all year round, almost throughout his life, is considered. I just talked about November to January concerning ceremonies and school resumption in January only. What about day-to-day needs that men have to meet? What about other months that different expected and unexpected demands come up?

Just as I started writing this article yesterday (Friday) morning, I was called from the hospital where my daughter went to take her last injection as she was being treated for malaria and typhoid fever in the past few days, that she needs to still be admitted for her system to be more properly flushed. I had to pause the writing immediately for some period. That was the last thing I wanted to hear at that time. But, what choices did I have? Such is the unplanned situation that drops on a man’s lap.

So, when things like this happen to many men who are already struggling for survival, to feed their families, to provide them with shelter, to cloth them, to pay many other bills like electricity, water, waste, security, and so on, what could we expect? In this era where people are no longer as strong and courageous to face life difficulties like in the olden days, but often look for easy way out, especially younger men of these days, suicide is not too much of a big deal as an option for them. So, that theme chosen for this year’s commemoration is apt.

International Men’s Day was actually founded by Thomas Oaster in 1992. He conceived the idea a year earlier. However, Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, a professor of History at the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, used the day, 19th of November, which is his father’s birthday, to mark it in 1989. Same day coincided with the day of unification of Trinidad and Tobago football team that enabled them to qualify for the World Cup. After a lull period, he revived it in 1999. Since then, it was celebrated in more pronounced way.

The day is earmarked for global recognition of men’s contributions to society, family and community. It is a day that highlights many issues that confront men, that affect their wellbeing and mental health. The day offers the platform to promote gender equality and positive male role models. It might sounds strange to hear ‘gender equality’. This is because, such term is commonly used when women and girls’ matters are being discussed. This is driven by the stereotypes and society expectations that men have to contend with.

Before I continue, less some people decide to interprete the title of this article in ‘mischievous’ way. According to Oxford dictionary, ‘manhood’ is defined as “the state or period of being a man rather than a child. It depicts maturity of boys to men.” This is the basis on which stereotypes and society expectations are formed. These can be categorised into psychological, physical, emotional, financial and sexual.

“Psychology is the scientific study of human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context. The mental characteristics or attitude of a person or group.” From the foregoing, there are certain ways the society expects men to think and behave. This is why when any man deviates from such stereotype, he is told that he is “not man enough”. This diminishes any man told this. What mental state do we expect such a man to be in?

There is the image that society already calved for men. Macho, strong, unemotional, and courageous. Any man who does not fit into such picture is seen as a wimp. Men are not expected to show fear, as if they are not humans as well. Another is physical. Men are expected to be strong, of macho image, with strength of steel. Emotional stereotype has to do with “instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.” It is emotion that brings tears. That is one thing that men are never expected to shed or at least, not in public.

In any case where a man cries, what you hear is: “why are you crying when you are not a woman”. Can you imagine? So, men has no right to let out their own frustrations, anger, pains by crying. This has forced many men to bottle up so much at the detriment of their physical and mental health. This has led to many more catastrophic ends like high blood pressure, stroke and or death. There is so much a man can contain within before he breaks down, possibly irreversibly. No man should be made to get to such stage. But, will the society let men breathe?

One critical and unavoidable stereotype is financial buoyancy. The burden that society heaps on men are so enormous that they can’t be given any break from not being financially buoyant. It is expected that men should not be “broke” (sápá, in local parlance). If such happens, all hell will let loose. The easiest to prompt such scenario is when a man fails in meeting some of those responsibilities mentioned earlier. A man who could not provide foods for his family, or whose children are sent out of schools because of his inability to pay their fees, or his landlord publicly embarrassed him for owing house rent, and the likes, is likely to feel less than a man, just because the society does not cut him any slack.

I watched a video clip on social media recently. As a man was about to leave his house, his wife accosted him at the door and called him back. Normally, just like you, who is reading this article thought now, that the woman must have called him back to ask for money or other things, it was not so. The woman told the husband that she spoke with his manager (employee) in his company and she was told how much they were spending on fuel to provide power for the office and she was shocked. She said it surprised her that the husband still acted normally at home as if all was well.

Then, she brought out a carton and handed it over to her husband. When he opened it, it was full of cash that totalled half a million naira. She said she went and collected her “àjo” (contributions) and wanted her husband to take it as her support to him. Do you know his reaction? Disbelief. He kept asking whether his wife was pranking him, to which the woman reassured him of the gift as being genuine. He jumped up, rushed to his wife and hugged her tightly as he thanked her. Such is the emotional depth that men get to whenever they are gifted anything because they are used to being the one always giving gifts to others.

I was moved by the whole episode. It was possible that it was the man who established his wife in business or who has been giving her all those money for her personal use over time. So, it wasn’t that the money was gigantic to him, but the spirit of giving behind it. Men hardly get worthwhile gifts on any occasion, unlike women. That’s how the society has stereotyped men. Most men get boxers (male pants) and singlets on their birthdays, unlike women who often get massive gifts, including cars, houses, jewelries like gold, diamond, etc, fully sponsored foreign trips abroad or other valuable items.

Whenever I see some men drink all manners of “àgbo” (local herbs) in the name of trying to become a stallion in bed, I worry about the long term damages they are doing to their systems, internal organs and health generally. Majority of men, young and old, have become “drug addicts” unknowingly, while trying to please their women sexually. Every man dreads being called “noodles”, meaning a “two minutes man”. There are countless aphrodisiac drugs all over. Many men will go to any length to perform, mostly, “extraordinarily” in bed. Same goes for “gbólà” (male organ) enlargement. All these are the new craze that put enormous pressure on men. Why won’t they die early?

In all that I have highlighted above, I am not saying that men should become lax, irresponsible, and stop hustling to meet up their responsibilities. All that I am saying is that men should realise that they are human beings, just like women. They are not made of stone or steel, but flesh, blood and water. They have emotions and they can cry if needed. It is not a taboo. Men should not allow society to drive them nut with crazy expectations to the extent of ruining their lives or killing themselves. “Agbara ojo ko ni oun o n’ile wo, onile ni ko ni gba fun”.

Every man should strive to do whatever humanly possible to meet their obligations. No man should be indolent and expecting miracle. Manna no longer drops from heaven. However, they should not kill themselves doing so or over-doing so, many times, like trying to impress a woman in bed. “Olómi lò ma rè” (na man go tire las las). Even if enhancers help to “show the woman pepper, na for the man body e go tell”. By the way, effective sexual performance and satisfaction are beyond all those ‘marathons’, they are ‘technical’.

Men should rent moderate houses in neighbourhood they can afford. They should put their children in schools within their capacities. They should shop for themselves and family members where goods are priced reasonably within what they can afford. They should undertake only pleasurable ventures like holiday trips if and when they are up to it without breaking bank, that is if it is necessary at all. No man should allow himself to be led by the nose with the usual blackmail that: “what will people say?”. Let people say whatever they like. “Oun ti o ba wu olukaluku lo le f’enu e so”.

Our women should help men too. When we say “society”, it is the women that are largely referred to in this case. Almost everything that men do, is for women. So, women should put less pressure on men. Many women who are single, fending for themselves, or having similar family responsibilities like men, or single mothers who have no support, can relate well and will understand all these better. “Dem know say khaki no be leather”. While their own cases are exceptions, men’s cases are considered ‘normal’. This is the burden of manhood!

As another International Men’s Day was celebrated this week, men should make themselves happy and celebrate themselves. They should “spoil” themselves a little, once in a while, moderate splurging is allowed. They should always cut their coats according to their sizes. One thing is sure, no one will die along side any man who kills himself trying to please the society. In no time, his wife, his children and other dependants he died trying to please, will survive, move on and even become great. “Eniku ni tie gbe” (the loss is that of the dead).

To all responsible men out there, once again, happy International Men’s Day! God bless us all.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

Adewole can be reached through Email: lateefadewole23@gmail.com,
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole.

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