Going to the kinyozi is a ritual that every man respects and looks forward to. It’s sacred. It’s a shrine where men come to read newspapers, share football banter, talk about hangover cures and share betting tips. It’s a place devoid of nagging wives, girlfriends and kids. Here a man can ignore the missus and call her back when he’s out. Here men let other men touch their heads. It’s a tribute to masculinity. An ode to the manly man.
Having a barber is a long term commitment a covenant between to people to let one cut the hair on the other’s head till death (or business travel) does you part. You don’t choose each other, fate just brings you together. Every man gets to this point in life. Even for those who bald too early and the ones that have a close shave with bad barbers; hehehe, they too at some point find the one.
When I read blogs and magazine articles that headline how men are afraid of commitment I scoff. We’re the embodiment of commitment. We will stick with one barber who works in Hazina and commute all the way from Kabete every Sunday afternoon. We make it work. At all costs. Fare. Price hikes. Inflation. Angry girlfriends.
I imagine there’s a chap in Kile. Bald head and full beard. He’s getting into his car on a Sunday afternoon, a 3 series. Black. He’s probably IT or graphics. His girlfriend, a slender girl with big hips will pop out of the house and start.
“Babe where are you going?”
She’ll have those soft voices that erupt with no warning. She’s a brewing storm.
“Kim’s. Need to trim my beard.”
“All the way in south B? Kwani you can’t go to that place for akina Steve? Kyalo says he’s decent.”
“Kyalo also cheats on his wife and thinks bananas are veggies.”
“Yeah imagine. Bananas.”
“No his wife?”
“No she’s not a banana.”
She’ll throw her hands up in the air, resign her shoulders and do what normal women do. Put you in a corner with an ultimatum. But she’ll be sleek about it.
“Sawa enda basi.”
At this point the rule book says thou shall not go. But the rule book also says thou shall not cheat on your barber. If you like you can call this a hairy situation. But unlike the bible, these rules have hierarchy. And cheating on a barber is right up there next to thinking bananas are veggies. So chap will drive off to south B to Kim’s and get his beard trimmed. Ego stroked. And masculinity restored.
If my grandpa were to come back say next Sunday I think he’d be a disappointed chap. For them haircuts were straight forward. Razor sharp blade on scalp for a clean shave. Barbers stood under trees with their tools of trade. These were the days of manly shaves because a shave had only three outcomes; cut hair, tetanus or lightning strike. It was raw. I don’t imagine niceties or nagging mamas. Just a man letting another man undress his head without as much as a how do you do.
But now there’s so many extras. Too many extras. The opposite of an iPhone 7. You get to your barber shop and they wrap you in some white cling paper on your neck. Then they add some latex wrap that feels part of some bio hazard suit. You go for a hair cut you end up fighting strain N1. You can opt out of the extras until your guy, Jack, casually says by the way bei imepanda. You look at him like your trust has been betrayed. Why the heck would prices soar? Chap is using the same clippers since you were twelve. The guy will just smile and go ahead to comb your hair. He knows you are stuck. He knows you’ll dig deeper. He’ll even uselessly throw how he lost bets last weekend.
But to be fair the extras were a nice touch. Shampoo here. Moisturizer there. Facial in between. I get it.
But now these male shrines of masculinity have been infiltrated. Women. Wa kuosha they call them. Tender handed and light fingered weapons of mass destruction. Jezebel’s first cousin. They will coo and ask how your day was like they give a damn. And you’ll say it was fine. Then she’ll lean your head back against a sink and let a jet of frisky warm water caress your scalp. Shit. Iko sawa? She’ll ask. But you’re not even in the room so you’ll say; sure.
As you get shampooed she’ll lean over you; and for some reason they have this set of huge bosoms. As she massages your scalp, her fingers rubbing away your troubles they will occasionally brush against your face. At this point your eyes are closed. You’re afraid. Your thoughts are being taken elsewhere. You don’t want a boner. She will keep you asking questions.
“Is this nice?”
“Do you like it?”
‘Maji iko sawa?”
And you’ll nod to all of them. Maybe even groan.
Then you’ll be done. Finally.
But it’s not over. Far from it. You’ll go to another work station where she’ll follow you. After all your hair. Head. It needs drying. Oiling. So with a towel around your neck and your dignity curled in your trousers you sit. The worst is over. You think. The next thing you realize is that your shirt is unbuttoned or if it’s a t-shirt there’s hands thrust down your shoulders to your chest. Warm hands. Light fingers. Once again you’ll close your eyes and hang on to your dignity. They’ll rub your shoulders. Neck. Keep whispering things in your ears. Asking if you like it. You’ll still nod because you can’t say a thing. You’re probably trying to figure out if this qualifies as cheating. When she’s done you’ll pay. Feel dirty. Go home.
Then when the missus asks you what’s wrong you’ll just laugh it off and say something like
“Imagine. Bananas. Veggies.”