“My son, I cannot see you staying with just one woman for the rest of your life. You are too restless.”
This is what my Dad said to me not too long ago during one of our many discussions (I say discussions but it’s more akin to a lecture. Nigerian fathers aren’t fond of the idea of discussions haha).
Since myself and my father have a more amicable relationship now that I am a full-grown adult, I dismissed his remark with a laugh (15 years ago such an action would have resulted in a lightening fast slap to my right cheek).
But what he said surprisingly stayed on my mind like an unwanted guest and began to trouble me. Maybe my Dad is right. Maybe I won’t stay with one woman for the rest of my life.
Is that such a terrible thing, though?
Romance is fun. Marriage is a job.
In my 30 years of walking this Earth, I’ve had two long-term and serious relationships (I am not counting the seasonal flings). My first serious relationship was 3.5 years during university with a girl from Brighton. Not too long after that one collapsed, my second relationship was with an Italian girl, which lasted for four years and resulted in the birth of my beautiful daughter. This relationship eventually collapsed as well.
As you can see, I am very good at making my relationships collapse haha.
But having turned 30 now, I’ve looked back at these two very important relationships in retrospect and realised I might not actually be built for long-term monogamy.
I am someone who only commits to something completely if one or two of the below conditions are met:
I love reading and writing because I enjoy it. There are times (very few thankfully) where I don’t enjoy my 9 to 5 but I need it to survive so I stay committed to it.
But a relationship or marriage? I don’t need to be in either to survive and if I don’t enjoy being in a relationship or being married anymore, what is the point of being in one?
From what I’ve observed from my own relationships, what I've heard from other people’s experiences and what i've read online in numerous articles, relationships are fun and your spouse is perfect for the first 2-3 years on average.
After that, maintaining the relationship becomes a job. The love chemicals have left your brain and now you see your spouse as the irritating human they are. Now it’s an effort to keep loving them. This is nothing new.
For some people, maintaining a marriage for the rest of their lives is exactly what they want even if it will be hard. These are people who don’t really care about novelty of a relationship but put value on security and longevity, even if they are unhappy with their partner.
Trust me, I admire these people.
But people like myself who crave adventure, spontaneity and enjoyment will eventually become bored in a long-term marriage or relationship. Even if we’re somewhat happy that we have a stable partner by our side, we will also grow to resent the overfamiliarity of their presence. Once the passion goes, the fun goes with it.
An argument for short term, monogamous relationships
Falling in love with my two girlfriends was an amazing experience. I look back at the memories I shared with them fondly.
But in the end, both ended. Does that mean my relationship with them was pointless?
No, it just meant it came to an end. When you watch a great movie or an entertaining football game, you don’t think it was pointless because it came to an end. You’re happy you got to experience such a great film or game.
I think, for some of us, not everyone, this is how relationships work for us.
We meet someone. Fall in love. Let that love run its course. Then, if we are no longer enjoying it, we are honest with our partner and leave the relationship as amicably as we can. And we must expect the same treatment to us.
If children are involved, it goes without saying that it’s crucial to remain on friendly terms as I am with my child’s mother. But even without kids, as hard as it will be initially, remaining at least civil with your ex will give you peace of mind and a better sense of closure from the relationship.
Sometimes, as humans, we want things to last forever even when doing so is detrimental to us. I’ve seen women and men stay in relationships and marriages that should have ended years ago but they had to stay together for the kids, for appearances, for finances etc. But where is the joy in that?
I am not against marriage and there are many people who can and have made it work for over 40 years. But don’t be ashamed if you're one of those people who get to their 60s and you’ve never been in a relationship that has lasted more than 4 years. Because you can look back at your life and think of all the wonderful memories you had with people you genuinely loved at the time.
And you know the thing about fond memories? They don’t collapse.
Boyz n The Hood is one of the greatest coming-of-age movies about young black men.
It may take place in LA and focus on a group of black men growing up in one of the most notorious gang periods in America’s history, but it resonated with me when I watched it as a 12 year old with my younger brother (our parents thought we were asleep but myself and my brother always stayed up late watching cable TV. Back when life was simple).
Boyz N the Hood was the the only film that has made me cry. I remember going to bed after watching it, tears in my eyes. I lost my innocent view of the world that night.
Ever since then I have longed for the British version of Boyz n The Hood.
Until I watched Blue Story, I have been disappointed.
Kidulthood and Adulthood were too loud and unfocused.
The Intent and The Intent 2 glamorised the hood life in London rather than exploring it in any meaningful way.
Bullet Boy was mature in its storytelling. But while it’s a much better in quality than the films mentioned earlier, it was ultimately forgettable.
Top Boy suffers the same problem the Kidulthood films have – which is that it’s all very superficial. It’s like a love letter to the roadman life rather than a mature analysis of why some black men go down that path.
As I was losing hope that no British filmmaker will ever be able to make the British Boyz N the Hood, God finally answered my prayers.
A Blue Story is our British Boyz N the Hood.
It’s the most important black British film to ever have been made so far in the history of black British cinema.
Showing the hood life without glamorising the hood life
Directed by Rapman (real name Andrew Onwubolu), Blue Story is a masterful, thought-provoking and authentic examination of the postcode wars that have blighted London for more than twenty years.
It’s a tale that follows the lives of two black British boys who grow up as close friends but, due to living in two different parts of South London and a series of violent events, end up becoming bitter enemies with tragic consequences.
What elevates Blue Story above the likes of Kidulthood or TopBoy, are two factors: its authenticity and its superior storytelling.
Throughout my viewing of Blue Story, I had a stupid grin on my face. I recognised this London so clearly.
The language used by the characters, the banter, the atmosphere of south London colouring the big cinema screen. Not even Top Boy has captured, so authentically, how many black British boys grow up in London. It was a joy to watch my culture being so faithfully represented on the big screen without being watered down for middle-class white people.
Rapman has shown that he is a masterful storyteller with Blue Story. As someone who has read many fiction books and studied storytelling for most of my life, I can tell when a story is well-crafted. For the most part, Blue Story is an exceptional example of how to tell a story. It takes time to develop the friendship of its two main leads but even supporting characters are layered.
"It’s the most important black British film to ever have been made so far in the history of black British cinema."
Half-way through the film, we learn something crucial about one of the main character’s brother which completely changes how you look at him and yet makes so much sense. By the end of the film, he is a truly tragic character and a symptom of the pointless generational postcode wars that have destroyed so many lives and futures of black men.
Impressively, not once does Blue Story preach to its audience. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, Blue Story could have been a very preachy film but Rapman is a gifted writer. The actions of the characters, their dialogue and the choices they make tells the audience all they need to know about why these black boys defend and die for a postcode they don’t even own. Show not tell. Rapman achieves this effortlessly.
It’s not a perfect film. The central love story is cliché, a little underdeveloped and then becomes overdramatic. There is also a shock twist towards the end of the film from one of the minor characters which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t feel earned. But these are minor quibbles. A Blue Story is a British cinematic masterpiece.
Now it’s time to tell different stories about the black British experience
Blue Story is getting amazing reviews, causing unfortunate controversy and racking in the cash. This is the epitome of urban, gangster films about black British men.
For now, we don’t need anymore.
Honestly, Blue Story has pretty much covered this aspect of the black British culture and, for some time, we don’t need any more films exploring this theme.
Although it will surely be tempting to movie producers to create more stories about black British thugs, considering how well Blue Story has done financially and critics' positive response to the film, we don’t want such films to become the core narrative about black British men.
Yes America has a plethora of films exploring black men doing crime, but it also has a lot of television shows and movies about black people leading normal lives, falling in love and having family disputes. We need more stories that showcases black British men as complex individuals leading different types of lives.
We are not all roadman.
We are not all violent.
We are not all engaging in postcode wars.
We desperately need more stories that show black men struggling with the same everyday problems that white people deal with and how we overcome them. This kind of positive representation is crucial for the next generation of black British boys growing up in London.
Finally, we have our own Black British Boys N the Hood. But why stop there? Let’s have our own Black British Downtown Abbey or our own Black British sports film.
Let us show the world that Black British men are most than just lost boys in hoodies.
Black men have a problem with female sexuality.
Well Rapper T.I.’s recent comments about his daughter’s virginity pretty much encapsulates many black men’s attitude towards female sexuality. To summarise what the American rapper and actor said, he basically admitted to accompanying his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah, to gynaecologist every year. Why? Well to make sure she is still a virgin by asking doctors to check that her hymen isn’t broken as evidence that her precious virginity was still intact.
Our daughters are not going to be our little angels forever
My daughter is only 33 months (basically an advanced two-year-old) so I have a long way till the inevitable “talk.” For many black men, both African and Caribbean, with our hyper-masculinity coursing through our blood like steroids, the conversation will most likely go something like this:
Black father: “You can’t sleep with any guy till your married.”
And that’s pretty much the end of it.
As a father to a daughter, this reaction is understandable. As fathers and as men, we are naturally protective of women, more so when it's our daughters. I look at my daughter sometimes and I think she is just this amazing, mixed-raced angel that God has blessed me with.
But the reality is she isn’t going to be 33 months forever.
Apologies my brothers if I come across as belittling, but many of us lack self-awareness. I have many black men in my social circle tell me how their daughter will be a good-natured, kind and sweet woman. These are the same men who, in the past and sometimes currently, will seek out the “hoes” and “bad bitches” who they can sleep with quickly. Sometimes I wonder if they realise that these women you’re happy to have a one-night stand with is another man’s daughter?
Obviously, no man wants his daughter to have a reputation of being overly promiscuous. However, us black fathers need to accept that our daughters will grow up to be sexual. She may reach her teens and absolutely crave sex. Trying to control this, by ensuring your daughter remains a virgin, as T.I. does, is counter intuitive and could possibly damage your relationship with your daughter.
Think back to when we were teenagers. If my parents knew some of the sexual activities I was getting up to when I was 16, they would collapse in shock. Similarly, there is no way I will be able to know what my daughter gets up to when I am not around especially when she’s a hormonal teenage girl. Trying to police her will most likely fail. If she wants to sleep with a guy, she’s going to do it and I wouldn’t even know. From young, girls are good at concealing their secrets. Us boys? Not so much.
The point I am ultimately trying to make is that it’s more productive for black men to simply accept that our daughters will one day grow up to be sexual beings. If we want to protect her, we should educate her about her sexuality, not try to control it.
When my daughter is 16, where she can legally have sex, I will sit her down and talk to her on the level. With the help of her mother, I will teach her about STDs, contraception and the realities of pregnancy. Then I will leave her to decide whatever she wants to do. As a father, I’ve played my part which is to educate her. I may have given my daughter life, but it is her life to live.
Now when it comes to our sons…
The double standards regarding female sexuality among black men
In that same interview, T.I basically admits that boys who are virgins are boring to women.
Do you not see the hypocrisy and double standards here? This view is echoed and shared by many black men I know. There is this belief that men who sleep with hundreds of women should be praised but women who do the same should be shunned and disgraced.
Now, I somewhat understand the logic behind this thinking. In the sexual marketplace, now more than ever, women can get sex much easier than men. A man who has slept with 100 women has, most likely, worked much harder to achieve that than a woman who has slept with 100 men. This is mostly down to our biology. Men, on average, are always horny and women, on average, are horny only when they feel that way.
" I may have given my daughter life, but it is her life to live."
But so what?
If a woman has a high sex drive and enjoys consensual sex with multiple partners, then that’s her prerogative. Just because it’s easier for her since she’s a woman is irrelevant. She’s living her life as she chooses to live it and taking advantage of the horny men in this world. It is what it is. Men do not own her.
Many black men really need to let go of the idea that women are not supposed to be sexual as if we have dominion over their body. Women are sexual and love sex just like we men do. Who a woman chooses to share it with is none of our concern until she’s your girlfriend or wife. And if she has had multiple sexual partners before you, why does that even bother you? Is your masculinity so fragile?
Black men look at it this way. A woman who has had a few sexual partners will at least enjoy sex more and will probably be able to please you better in bed.
So don’t hate female sexuality. Embrace it.
Nipsey Hustle, may his soul rest in peace, gave the world music that hit you hard as a man.
Asking me to choose my favourite Nipsey track is like asking me to choose my favourite colour in a packet of skittles – it’s almost impossible since nearly every track of his hits me in some way.
But if someone put a gun to my head and threatened to blow my brains if I didn’t choose, then, to save my life, I would pick Nipsey’s Hustle’s Double Up. Since reaching 30, it’s a song which resonates even more. Throughout the song, Nipsey raps about how he doubled up in life; constantly achieving his dreams and becoming a truly self-made man.
It’s a mindset I am trying to cultivate now that my twenties are behind me.
Every man is his own king. And every king needs his castle
I truly believe that every man on this Earth is a king. Every man on this Earth was made to rule. However, when I say rule, I don’t mean govern other people but to have total control over his own life. So every king needs a castle.
Unfortunately, the way western society has developed over the past 20 years - a terrible economy, over sexualisation of women and men and the pursuit of instant gratification - means that most men have not behaved like the kings of the earth that we are supposed to be, particularly a lot of us black men.
If I look back at my twenties, myself and many other black boys around me (although it’s a behaviour across all race of boys in western society) were not focused on building our castles the way men like my father would have been. In my case, wild parties, casual sex, splashing money and bad decisions colour most of my twenties.
But, in all honesty, I don’t regret any of those experiences.
My 20s were one wild and crazy movie. I had some unforgettable times and experienced two immature but emotionally and physically intense serious relationships (one which resulted in the birth of my beautiful daughter) and I certainly have some interesting stories to share one day.
But my 30s cannot be the decade-long party and drama that my 20s was.
The decade of building my empire
If you haven’t realised already, I am a highly ambitious man with some big ideas and big dreams. God-willing, I will live long enough to accomplish them.
Yet to realise my ambitions, I must build. Brick by brick. Doing this takes time and effort and at 30, where I haven’t accomplished much as far as I am concerned, this will require a drastic shift in my focus. Below are the three things I have promised myself in order to ensure I have built my empire by the time I am in my late 30s.
No serious relationship till 60% of my goals are accomplished – As I’ve spoken about in a previous post, relationships are a distraction. Depending on where you’re at in life, they can be a good distraction but when you’re a man in the stages of building your castle, a relationship is a bad distraction. Most women these days aren’t going to help you build your empire as they want your attention most of the time. Until at least 60% of my goals are accomplished, I am not investing in a serious relationship with women. Just keeping it real ladies but, for now, I am keeping it strictly casual.
Work harder than you play – I played a lot in my twenties – way too much. There was a period in my twenties where I would go out hardcore partying and drinking on a weekday and go to work the next day completely shattered, affecting my performance. All that stops and has stopped for a while. I love a good party, so you’ll probably still find me at a rave in Shoreditch, but it’s limited to only a few weekend evenings. The rest of the time I am on my grind.
Save money – My greatest vice is my reckless spending. It’s not that I don’t know how to save, I just severely lack the discipline. Since university (blame student loans) I’ve had a “I’ll make it back anyway” attitude to money which I simply need to rid myself of. I am not fully there yet, but I’ve made significant progress and becoming better at saving money. No longer do I care about buying brand names – I’d rather use some of my disposable income to travel.
More than I ever did in my 20s, I now have a clear vision of where I want to be and what path I need to take to get there. Due to the childish ways of my 20s, I have created some fires I now need to put out, but I am well on my way to extinguishing those flames.
My throne awaits me. I am going to spend the next few years building my castle so I can take my crown and sit on my throne. Afterwards, I’ll see if there is a queen out there worthy to sit beside me but that’s a post for another time…
This is the first in a series of blog posts where I talk about the process of writing and self-publishing my first novel, A Prophet Who Loved Her (released in October 2020)
Even though I was technically born in the 80s (1989 to be exact) I cannot make the claim that I am a child of the 80s. I am very much a 90s baby – Pokémon, Nickelodeon, Harry Potter, Nokia 3210s, So Solid Crew and Myspace are what I grew up with and what shaped me.
So you can imagine how crazy I must have been when I decided half of my first novel, ‘A Prophet Who Loved Her’, would be set in Brixton during the 80s. Readers will follow my two main Black British characters, Elijah and Esther, as they grow up in a racist South London during the 80s and gradually fall in love.
Why 1980s and why South London?
A few people have asked me why I decided to set half of my book in the 1980s when I wasn’t even alive for nearly all that decade. One of my goals with ‘A Prophet Who Loved Her’ was to explore a significant period of modern Black British history which isn’t written about much. Apart from some of the great books written by Alex Wheatle (which were great source of information about growing up in 80s Brixton), there wasn’t much literature which explores this fascinating and important period in Black British history.
The 80s, especially in South London in areas like Lambeth and Lewisham, were a time when many black Britons, largely of West Indian heritage, were starting to find their identity as black Britons during a period of widescale racism, from the police right up to Thatcher’s government.
We don’t have enough black British books or media which looks back at the modern history of Black British people and appreciates how far Black British people have come since then. So I wanted ‘A Prophet Who Loved Her’ to partly take place in a period where I could explore this era.
The slang of the times – Did people still say “innit?”
I’ve always been someone who loves language (I studied English Language at university after all) and for me, one of the joys of setting my book in the 80s was researching how young black people spoke in Britain during the 80s. In Brixton, especially among the West Indian children who grew up in Brixton, Rastafarian colloquialisms and Jamaican patios pepper the languages of the youth (as it still does today).
Since Elijah and Esther are British Nigerian, I made their language more aligned with how British white youth spoke since they wouldn’t absorb so much of the West Indian culture as they are from an African background and grew up in an African household.
Technology of the time
There was no social media or apps during the 80s. Teenagers left their houses and did stuff! Imagine that happening now. You couldn’t stream movies over the internet(which was only an exciting concept at this point not even a thing) so there was no Netflix. You had to buy a VHS tape and play it in a VCR. Towards the very late 80s, pagers became available which was basically like text messaging and a technology Elijah and Esther use during the parts of the book set in the 80s.
The technology available during this time period informed a lot of the story. I couldn’t just have my characters call each other when they wanted as smartphones did not exist yet. Face-to-face communication was a lot common then and people experienced the moment rather than film everything and communicate everything via their smartphones. Maybe things were better back then but it was interesting to write about how black British teenagers would have interacted with each other during the 80s.
What it did mean to be Black British in London during the 80s
Right now, we live in a period where Black British culture, from Caribbean to African, is not only accepted but celebrated. Go to any British nightclub now or turn on the radio and you’ll hear so much black music, from reggae to afrobeats.
But it wasn’t always like this. Afrobeats did not even exist in the 80s as African culture was largely shunned in the 80s and the 90s (I experienced this growing up). Bob Marley’s massive success meant that black music and reggae were one in the same.
Afrobeat, which is entirely different from Afrobeats, was pioneered by Fela Kuti, It quite popular among the African diaspora. This West African sound was played in Nigerian parties and households in London during the 80s and still is till this day (I grew up listening to this in my father’s car as a youth).
Mostly, it was American rap, reggae, punk and jazz music that was popular among many black Britons during the 80s. There was not really a collective Black British culture in London in the 80s as many black Britons were too busy just trying to find a job and survive in a hostile country.
Things would change. A series of events, such as the 1985 Brixton Riots, the 1981 New Cross house fire and the Black People Day Of Action, all explored in my book, reveal how Black Britons slowly began to form an identity as they came together and rallied against the racism that blighted their lives.
A Prophet Who Loved Her, Leke Apena’s first novel, will be published in 2020. Find out more here.