“If I can’t provide for my family, then I am not a man”
This is something a friend once told me a few years ago. He was talking about earning enough money to ‘provide’ for his family. It didn’t help that he was talented in the arts and therefore would not be doing a corporate job. Instead he wanted to make it through his art or his talent in the food industry. It’s still unconventional. This idea dwells in him even today and has been the cause of great pain for him.
I thought of this recently because I have heard of so many men who are pressured to provide and only once they are able to provide are they considered marriageable and eligible for the title ‘man’. This means you earn well, own a car, wear some kind of branded watch and have a nice fat bank balance. Works well for a few but not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. If you are starting from scratch, achieving this is near impossible till you’re a good 30 something. Unless you are some talented genius. Those are also rare.
Why do we equate a man being ‘a man’ to his material wealth and his ability to provide? What of his heart? Kindness, compassion, maturity and decency? Why is money the consideration for someone being a man when what really matters is what kind of human being he is? Yes marriage to some is an economic deal but today it’s not like 50 years ago. Women work. We provide for ourselves and no, not all of us want a man who ‘provides’. We actually would prefer a mature human being who is kind, emotionally intelligent and trustworthy. These things matter far more than money and cars.
Sri Lankans have a strange fascination with vehicles. More than a mode of transport it is a status symbol. Something to prove you have money when honestly it’s a bad investment unless you are buying a vintage car. So many take loans to buy a vehicle which depreciates in value over the years. Even if you pay outright, how is this a sign of being a ‘man’? Such bullshit. I can name many thugs who have money, drive fancy vehicles and are in general scum of the earth.
But this notion to provide also creates pressure on men who somehow feel emasculated if they can’t. So many are so caught up in the ATM role that they forget what it is to be happy. They forget to be there with their partners – just to support them emotionally and be around as an equal partner. The pre conditioned notions somehow take precedence. These are so ingrained into our being that we seem to be unable to look at it objectively and understand that as with anything in life, change and understanding can only come with acceptance and a willingness to adapt.
Not all women want an ATM machine today. Most mature and self sufficient women actually would like an equal partner who is empathetic, intelligent and trustworthy. Money can be made today and lost tomorrow and vice versa. And the value of a human being should never be based on material terms. Yes even for men. We have got so caught up in what the patriarchy has done to women that we seem to have forgotten that it is smothering and killing men too.
So honestly, fuck the provider role. Be an enabler. Be a decent human being. Be mature and emotionally aware. Seek your happiness within. That would provide far more than what money ever could.