(On the evening of October 31st, while Nigerians were debating on whether or not to mark Halloween and delve into trick-or-treats, I was engaged in an intimate conversation with a number of arts enthusiasts, and we were talking about the undue expectations that had been placed on male folk through the generations. My thoughts went into overdrive for many hours after that, and I needed to get stuff off my chest, so…)

“You used to call me on my cellphone, late night when you need my love… ”

“Change the sound! Who the hell listens to that b**** nigger? ”

People who diss Drake for making ‘girly music’ are part of the problem, reinforcing the toxic masculinity that chokes men to death, literally.

We can’t be in touch in our emotions, we can’t cry, we can’t love the color purple/pink or drink Fanta, we can’t enjoy chick flick movies or watch E! , we can’t listen to Sam Smith. It has to be Football, WWE, hardcore rap, the ‘hard, manly stuff.’

You know, when I think of you, all I see is a friend, I feel none of that romantic ish with you. Don’t get me wrong, you’re cool and all, smart guy, but I just see you as too emotional, too tender, too ‘feely’, you know, and there’s more I want in a guy than just liking them. “

You’re friendzoned, dumped or cheated on if you are too “emotionally intense”. Yeah, we have to be financially independent by 25, a car at 26, a connecting beard (I hear ‘they’ want a few strands these days) and big penises too. We are sneered at if we are ‘unfortunate’ to have round pouches or man-boobs, and no, we dare not tell our partners about our insecurities or anxiety benders, we have to take charge, or risk being compared to the next “guy who has it all together”.

It’s all over the place, this toxicity, in the impressions created by Hip Hop music videos that you need to impress, in the cold shoulder given by a female Lekki resident when she hears you blurt out “I live on the Mainland”, in social media threads about men earning below a certain financial range being ineligible for long term relationships, in the way men are not allowed to grieve over a broken relationship for too long, or even be too open about their reservations during the pendency of said relationships. Any show of affection between males must be accompanied by the “no homo” suffix (thank you, Boondocks), and two boys dare not head to the mall to get ice cream together, you’d get piercing stares for that.

It’s why young men in their late 20s and early 30s would sear their consciences with hot rods and jump outside the social fences provided by the law just so they can measure up, it’s why one in five men harbours suicidal thoughts, it’s why we overdose and “R.I.P”s flood our Facebook walls the morning after. A boy who screams of depression on social media is either broke/out of workor just seeking attention, he’s called a “whiner” or “p***y a** nigger” if they don’t like him .

“Girrrrrrl, you should have seen how he was all teary while we were having that discussion, like, it felt like I was in a Drake song. What kind of guy is that? I need the guy I’m dating to own his space and be strong for me, I can’t be babysitting a grown ass man, haba! It’s either I leave him or I do some hoeing around o, which kain ogbolo guy be this na, shuo? “

It’s Thursday afternoon in a city bedeviled by perennial gridlock, where one-thirds of an 18-hour day is spent praying that large trucks provide little space on eroding roads for commuter buses conveying weary humans to slave plantations where the leash is a neck tie, the sickle is a desktop computer and the cotton is a few sheets of paper. I feel like a robot operating on a work-eat-sleep programming system, and I have never felt this homesick, but my ungrateful privileged mouth had better not spew any drivel, there are “millions of youths looking for jobs”. I have no right to yell, no reason to cry, I have to “suck it up” because “that’s what men do”. Three years shy of thirty, and I should focus on doing anything to get that SUV instead of exhibiting some needless vulnerability.

There are no hugs for broken boys. We are winning bread, expression of discontent should be left for the other gender.

***

you may say I am strong
but you are so, so wrong
I’ve only learnt over years
ways to disguise my tears
so when I travel down road
I smile and keep spirit cold
and the beggar on the street
envies me thinking I am neat
for the most of human history
I have carried a load of misery
how do I cope with this infirmity
in a mad world, I fight for sanity
how much longer must I hide
my pains, this discontented tide
that I too hunger to be loved
not glad with all I’ve achieved
so throughout all of my existence
must I play this role of sentience?
Even my heart I’m not allowed to pry
oh please, where do men go, to cry?”

(From the poem “Where Do Men Go, To Cry” by Funkekeme Akposeye)