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 David I. Adeleke, a writer, communications strategist and media analyst. He talks about moving a lot as a child, how that affected him and growing up in a family where gender roles weren’t a thing.
What was growing up like for you?
I grew up in a Christian home, so I was taught certain values. A lot of these values still guide the way I live my life now even though my parents and I interpret and understand the Bible differently. But the values they taught me — love your neighbour — still guide how I live my life today.
My family also moved around a lot. Each time, we’d leave behind friends, schools, businesses and just move.
Why did you move that much?
My dad was a pastor, so he moved around a lot.
How did that affect you?
When you move around that often, you start to adapt in specific ways. One way I adapted was that it became easy for me to connect with new people. But it also made it easy for me to move on from people. And because I grew up in a nomadic family and made friends easily, I moved on from people without nostalgia. It was what my life demanded but also a coping mechanism.
How has that shaped your relationships now as an adult?
It has done a lot of damage to me. People would become attached to me in ways I was incapable of reciprocating. That didn’t mean I didn’t like them. For me, it was just another relationship; or them, it could mean a lot. And maybe it meant something to me, but in the grand scheme of things, it would be just another relationship.
Moving also taught me how to be alone. Even now that I’m married, having someone else in my space is something that I am struggling with.
Married? What has that been like?
I’ve never had to face my flaws as much as I do now.
When you know you’re going to be with someone for the rest of your life, you have to let them in. Whether you like it or not. This means letting them into places and aspects of your personality you’d not have liked to. It’s ugly because your partner then starts to see how flawed you are, and you’re forced to acknowledge some of these flaws.
How long have you been married now?
One year and two days.
So how do you think you’ve changed over the past year since you got married?
Before now I didn’t have to deal with my character flaws, because no one stayed around long enough to let me see the negative aspects of my character. A lot of the relationships I was in before I got married were long-distance, so there was never really anyone who was close enough to hold up a mirror in front of me and say, “These are your blind spots, or these are your negative aspects and you have to work on them.”
Marriage has forced me to confront those parts of me. And it has been tough. I’ve had to tear myself apart and rebuild parts of myself. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s been good and I’m happy about doing it .
What does being a man mean to you?
I don’t know what it means to be a “man.” I grew up in a home where my dad was there and my mum was there. But I never bought into the idea that a man is supposed to do this or a woman is supposed to do that. Maybe it was there, I just never noticed it. People say the man is supposed to be the breadwinner, but my mom had more money than my dad. Of my parents, my dad was the better cook. In my house, I think I’m the better cook, and I’m the one who likes to cook more. So when people try to tell me what a man should or shouldn’t do, I’m like, I don’t give a shit.
I can also be effeminate. One time, while attending a conference, I mentioned my relationship to a lady I met there. She was like “Wait, what?!You have a girlfriend?”
Wait, she thought you were gay?!
And that’s not the first time. I’m used to comments like that.
Can I ask you a random question?
What’s something you spend a lot of money on regularly?
Shoes. And most recently, high fashion. I buy a lot of sneakers. I like to change my sneakers now and then. Also, nice blazers and nice traditional wears. I also like food. I spend a lot of money on food. I like to think that when I become a billionaire, I’ll be going to a nice restaurant every other day. I like eating well.
In order of interest, I’d say shoes, fine dining and clothes. And as much as possible, I like to give. At least 30% of my income goes out to other people.
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