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 Muyiwa. He’s a writer and business mogul. He tells us why men should live intentionally, the role of friendship in his life, and his beer journeys.
When did you get your “Man now” moment?
I don’t think I’ve had one moment. For me, it’s been a lot of small moments which always comes down to people being able to rely on me when the stakes are high. And not just anybody. I’m talking about my parents respecting me enough to ask for my opinion — about something high level that’s bothering them — not to ask for money or send me on an errand. And when I talk they actually listen to me.
That didn’t always happen. If your experience is limited no one is going to call you for advice. If you’ve never faced certain conditions, no one is going to call you.
In addition to my parents, I also have friends who ask for my opinion. My friend wants to quit their job and they aren’t sure so they reach out. A friend who’s a parent calls to ask about the pros and cons of buying a house vs sending a kid to school abroad. That’s as high stakes as it gets, and I’m like, “What do I fucking know that somebody is asking for my opinion?” The older I get, I find that people want me to weigh in on things. Half the time I’m screaming, “See, I don’t have the answers any more than you do.” But there’s also the part where they don’t need me to have answers — sometimes explaining how I’m thinking of their problem is all the help they need. You’d be surprised at the kind of person you are when the stakes are high.
Don’t these expectations scare you?
To be fair, not a lot of things scare me. Dealing with my own fair share of challenges early prepared me. In university, I had an extra semester that became an extra year simply because they moved the course to the second semester. I got out of uni, and I couldn’t find a job for a year. When I found a decent enough job, I got dragged to court by my employer and spent four to five days in prison for nothing. All these experiences coupled with personal failures helped me redefine what to be scared of. For things I can control, like work, relationships, I’ve learnt that increasing knowledge reduces my fear. Then for things that I can’t control, like death, there’s nothing you can do. You just get on with it. I understand that a lot of this is based on my disposition to life; my perspective is that as long as I’m not dead, I’ll keep trying.
This sounds super hardcore. I’m curious about how you get through a difficult day/bad patch.
Ọmọ. Bad patch differs from bad patch. There’s a regular bad patch where you go home, drink a beer and call a friend to talk about your day. There are other bad patches where you need to call your family because they’re the only ones who can bring the energy you need at that point. I’m not really a sharer, and this is sometimes a limitation. However, I’ve found that whenever I open up, my friends are really invested in my life. I don’t take it for granted that I can tell them about a bad day and they’ll call to check up throughout that week. I find time to drink beer twice a month with my closest friends. Beyond the drinking, I’ve realised that we’re lowkey a support group where we encourage each other, share things we’re working on, and help members in financial distress. My friends are my family, and in them, I’ve found my tribe.
Wahala for who no get tribe.
When I was younger, I used to say a lot of weird things. Like “the people you work with are not your friends.” or “Twitter people are not your friends.” Life, time and the benefit of experience have shown that those statements were garbage. When I went to prison, some of my closest friends didn’t show up. Instead, it was the people I used to drink beer with that showed up. These guys left their jobs and were running around for me. One of them even stood as a surety for me. It was at that moment I saw that with each hangout, our relationship had slowly become more rooted. We now have a WhatsApp group where we talk about serious things and also just banter. It’s a pretty safe space where I can say “I’ve had a shitty day and I need someone to come over”, and someone would leave their office.
Ahan. I too want to partake in this.
Lmao. It’s a closed WhatsApp group.
You said something about not being a sharer. How does this play out in romantic relationships?
My love life is a disaster, and it’s the subject of unending continuous jokes among my friends. Not being a sharer is not good for any relationship, but I like to think that it gets easier the more I get comfortable with the person. I’ve realised that there are things that I don’t share because I haven’t processed the event. However, I’ve learned that it’s important to communicate this reality to my partner. Something as simple as saying, “I don’t want to talk about it right now because I’m still processing.” or “Can we talk about it tomorrow?”
Hmm. Does this influence the kind of people you date?
I wish I could say that I’m intentional about relationships, but the truth is that many times, my relationships are anywhere belle face. And that’s not a good thing. I’ve been lucky to meet amazing people, so I’ve not been pressured to change my methods. I generally find that I don’t attract impatient people.
What’s one relationship that has added to the quality of your life?
This will be divided into two. The human part and my dog. You think your dog annoys you until he is out of the house for four days. You go to the parlour and it’s empty. You feel an ache when you look at the door to your room and you don’t see your dog there. Then you say to yourself: “God forbid, I’m missing a dog.”
It’s funny because I used my fridge money to buy my dog, Charlie. I had ₦50,000 to buy a fridge, and I opened Twitter and saw someone selling American Eskimo for ₦45,000. That’s how the money got diverted. I couldn’t afford a fridge for another nine months.
What of the human part?
That’d be my relationship with my ex-girlfriend. Nothing has ever challenged my perception of self like that. We arrive at a point where we think we’re perfect, do all the right things and we’re great at communication. If you’re lucky, someone comes along to challenge these notions and you get some growth. I think everyone needs the type of love that makes you say, “Wait, me?” By being aware of your shortcomings, it becomes easier to apologise and you become open to criticism.
I feel attacked.
What does masculinity mean to you?
Masculinity is about showing up for your shift, doing your best and accepting whatever result comes with your head unbowed. And also knowing that sometimes your head will be bowed — this is where the relationships you build with people become useful. You can find safety within them.
If you say you have friends, and you don’t call them in a month, you’re not showing up for your shift in that friendship. Call your friends, take them out for drinks, pay attention when they talk so you know what’s going on in their lives. Buy something for your friends that lets them know they’re your guys. Show up for your family. Even if people complain about black tax, understand your own situation and realise we’re all different. Find joy in being there for your family. Don’t spend all your time chasing money that you forget to show up for people.
Profound. Do you have role models that shaped your idea of masculinity?
I’d say my father is a pretty strong figure though we didn’t get along when I was growing up. He is a strong example of you must go through good times and bad times, but you must always get on with life. My father has embodied to me that a man is human, flawed and with his own virtue. And at the end of the day, it counts to really try — you can’t KPI your life like some to-do list. You have to live intentionally and genuinely.
What does the perfect drink look like to you?
LMAO. I feel like it changes. In 2006, it was Star because there was Star Trek and everyone drank it. Then I moved to Heineken, but it was too expensive so I had to do anywhere belle face. I moved to Hero. I really enjoyed drinking Trophy before it was discontinued because that beer knew where I hurt and did a good job of soothing the pain. It was a chilled beer that was neither too heavy nor light. Almost like a Lagos man that can form tush or werey depending on the situation.
Lately, I’ve been drinking Tiger beer. I’m turning thirty this year and it’s the perfect beer for my thirties. Mostly because I’m currently in the space where you’ll find me just chilling with a cold bottle while judging the whole world.
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