Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Day After

A friend called me today and lamented that no-one took her out or called her yesterday. Aged 34 years old, she feels really down about this.  After speaking with her, I decided to share my thoughts on Valentine's Day:

When I was an undergraduate, I used to dread Valentine's day - because I felt I was under soo much peer pressure for the day to live up to all the hype.

As the success of the day largely depended on the actions of someone else (boyfriend/ admirer); it is safe to say that then, my Valentine's Day experience was largely dependent on the extent to which my admirer/ partner was expressive, loved-up, financially stable and even available!

When I had a laid-back boyfriend - who was not very expressive - the day was a  disaster! However, when I got a boyfriend who was very expressive and lovey-dovey, the day became a special one for me.

Now, I am much older, I do appreciate the day but I do feel it can be a bit overblown. That is why I refuse to go out to a restaurant on that day. On most festive days, I find restaurants a bit too impersonal - with too many diners, too much noise, mass-produced food and decor that tries too hard to be 'romantic' or 'festive'. I often come away feeling like I have been on a conveyor belt. Indeed, the situation is not often helped by the pensive faces and superficial smiles worn by the harrassed waiters!!

Honestly, I rather spend the day at home or in a hotel room - with the one I love, a bottle of good wine, good music in the background, fantastic food etc etc

Yes, yesterday, some of us felt loved, while some of us did not! On the other hand, some of us died yesterday and some of us - like you - survived!

Let everyday be your Valentine day.....LOVE YOURSELF EVERYDAY!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Weakening Sex?

When I was younger, women were referred to as the weaker sex. However, as political correctness became the norm - and women became more empowered - women are rarely referred to as the weaker sex.

Growing up in a house with only sisters, we were encouraged to learn everything. There was no room for 'girl jobs' or 'boy jobs'. My father (an engineer and avid gardener) encouraged us to learn  basic DIY skills (gardening, car-maintenance, painting and fixing simple plumbing/ electrical faults); while my mother (a mid-wife and exceptional cook) taught us about cooking, house-keeping etc

While we were expected to excel at everything, my simple understanding of gender roles was that men was meant to protect and provide for the family; while women were meant to build the home and nurture/ shape the family.

However, even then, I knew that the roles were sometimes blurred - for example, it was my dad who taught me how to sew and how to appreciate art. Recently though, I have noticed that gender roles are becoming even more blurred and I now wonder whether men should now be referred to as 'the weakening sex'?

Without sounding like a bra-burning, man-hating feminist, I dare to suggest this - not because I hate men or I have been hurt by them, but because I have noticed the evolution of certain types of men (especially here in the UK). I will now describe them:

1. The Escapists:
The recession has seen quite a lot of job losses in the UK and this has placed a huge strain on most families. While, I do accept that a man will generally find it more difficult (compared to a woman) to adjust to job loss/ loss of income (because their self-esteem is largely tied to their financial worth); I have observed the rise in the number of 'Escapists' - men who seek to escape their responsibilities and obligations as soon as the going gets tough.

Among Nigerians, these are the men who decide to leave their family in the UK/US to return to Nigeria  - 'on business'. They then hang around in Nigeria - without any visible source of income, transaction or business plan; OR without any consideration for the needs of the family they left behind.

Believe me, there is no way a gainfully employed adult can hang around in Nigeria,  for more than a month without having to worry about all his obligations (i.e. his job, bills or mortgage/rent). Unfortunately, this is now a common phenomenon as more and more men abandon their responsibilities to 'do business' in Africa. More often than not, this 'business' means contacting old friends (they haven't seen for years) to lobby for 'contracts' or political posts - while sampling the feminine charms on offer.

A friend's husband - an escapist - stayed in Nigeria - 'on business' for 6 months. He finally returned back to the UK - broke and contrite (after impregnating a girl in Nigeria)!

2. The Domestic Generals:
One thing about relocating is that you are more than likely going to have to retrain - and embark on a new career. This is usually not out of choice but because (a) your educational qualifications might not be recognised or (b) employment opportunities might not really exist in your field.

For example, a friend studied Biochemistry in Nigeria but retrained as an accountant here. Another studied Law in Nigeria, but has now retrained as a Social worker. Similarly, a relative trained as a doctor in Nigeria but had to do several low-paid jobs while he took professional exams that enabled him practise as a medical doctor in the UK. It's just the way it is.

However, some of our men generally seem to resist this. This is in sharp contrast to the women who face reality and retrain pronto. The result - while the woman climbs up the professional ladder, the man is likely to be left floundering with the low skilled job he has settled for.

Unfortunately, quite a lot oif these men are then threatened by their wife's progress and seek to wield their authority unneccessarily. An example of a 'Domestic General' is a family friend. When they arrived here, he settled for a low-paid postal job and absolutely refused to retrain or gain further qualifications. On the other hand, his wife - who came here as a Lingusitics graduate - retrained as a nurse. She has largely been responsible for the needs of the home - to the extent the children go to her frst whenever they need anything.

The 'general' is now feeling relegated and has chosen to hit back in frustration - verbally abusing the woman, galivanting with other women and treating their home as a battle field. I know some women disrespect their men when they are financially stronger, but this is not the case here...and that is what pains me!

3. The Emasculated:
My observation is that while some men have reacted positively to having a strong woman in their life, others have reacted negativelty - with some becoming 'Domestic Generals' while some now appear to be 'Emasculated'.

To emasculate is to 'deprive of strength, vigor or spirit'. Research has shown that Many men believe the world is now dominated by women and that they have lost their role in society, fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued

Within our community, these men seem to have given up on trying to be the man of the house. Call me old fashioned but while I believe in strong women, I also believe a man should still be a man. What is my definition of a man? Well a man should fulfil the following:
  • Provide/ Try to provide/ Have plans to provide the basic needs of the family: This is not only financial. The needs might relate to providing guidance or leadership for the family. If a wife is earning more, a man should be strong enough to be proud of the wife and be comfortable with planning together.
  • Be a role model to his children: It should not be a case of 'do what I say - not what I do' . For me, a real man should be conscious of the fact that his kids - boys or girls - are learning from his example regarding what a father and husband should be like. 
  • Put the family first: Not distant relatives, not friends, not his community.....his wife and kids should come first.
Unfortunately, the sad thing about 'the Emasculated' in our community is that even though they act like wilted spinach most of the time; whenever they are in the presence of their relative(s), they regain some vigor and start strutting around like the only rooster in the hen house - barking out orders and wielding authority over a wife they have barely spoken to all year long!

4. The Users:
Unfortunately, these have been around since time began. However, what I have observed is that younger men seem to be more focused on gaining maximum wealth - with minimum effort. In the past, it used to be that the first few years abroad - for an immigrant- were spent doing low-paid jobs, finding your feet and essentially, building the foundation for a brighter future.

However, the new influx seem to be in a hurry to live in a posh flat, drive a fancy car and host parties every weekend - without any visible means of income. The result...they have become 'Users' - using and discarding people willy nilly 

These are the boys/men who latch onto a girl - preferably someone employed or a foreign student (who is receiving regular funds from her parents/ sponsor) and milk the girls for all they are worth.

In 2009, when a little cousin came to me and said her boyfriend was moving in with her, I objected and asked her to move in with him OR for both of them to rent a place together. My reasoning - the flat was being paid for by her father and I was not comfortable with the fact that the boy was not in education OR holding down a steady job. Again, I knew the father would tell me off for not informing him. Well, she went against my advice - because according to her, she was in love and they were getting married........soon.

The end result .......the boy was using her address for fraudulent activities. They were both eventually arrested and the boy was deported. Happily, she was released without charge. However, the legacy of this experience is a strained relationship with her dad. The loverboy hooked up with his ex - a banker - as soon as he got back to Nigeria and I hear they are now married. My cousin?..... still bitter and nursing her wounds!

What do you think?

Are men generally becoming the 'weakening sex'....as they increasingly fail to rise up to their responsibilities and obligations?


Are stronger women making it difficult for men to fulfil their responsibilities and obligations. Could it be that as we encourage women to become more empowered, we are robbing men of the opportunity to be 'men'?

This is not an attack on ALL men. It is an observatory piece - on what I have witnessed recently - within our community in the UK.