Two weeks ago I sat with this person and they told me something very dark and beautiful about their lives. We agreed I’d write about it. And I wrote about it. On Sunday I told them I had finished writing it and it was running today. They freaked out. They said “I can’t do it anymore, Biko.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
“I don’t think I can share that part of me with people. Please don’t run it.”
“Come on, it’s already written. Plus I have nothing else scheduled for Tuesday!”
“For you this is about a deadline, for me it’s my life. ”
“How about then I send it to you first, read it and if you still feel the same I will can it, fair?”
So I sent it. (They are the only people left who still use Yahoo). Then I waited by Whatsapp, biting my nails. After 20mins she came online.
“Read it twice.” She said.
“I still can’t do it.”
“F**k. I hate you.”
“I hate you too.” She said.
I sat there and sulked for a bit. Then I started writing Mantalk. In the middle of it I remembered this dream I once had about Carol Odero’s uhm, enigmatic hair. This was way back in 2009 when we used to work for the same employer. In the dream Carol’s hair was in flames and was chasing me. It wanted us to die together. Carol stood by the side, watching this spectacle and laughing hysterically.
So I went on Whatsapp and said, “Hey CO?”
“Hey.” She said.
“How is your health?”
“Uhm, I have a pain in my pelvic, thanks for asking. How is yours?”
“I’m in mint condition. Say, can you write for me something about your hair?”
“My hair? What about my hair?”
“Anything. Blank cheque.”
“For your blog?”
“How many words?”
“That’s TWO of my Sunday columns!”
“Ja! By the way, Carol. I saw a picture of Ian Mbugua dressed like a cross-dresser on that fashion show of yours. Why would you guys let him do that?”
She went offline.
Anyway, she wrote something to replace what I had initially written. Bless you.
Also. About Ken, the guy from last week’s post? Tons and tons of overpowering emails from people who want to help. He’s applying for HELB as we speak and chaps from HELB promised to look into it once the application is in. I’m sure he will be just fine. BATA Shoes reached out too and said, “ We want to give this guy shoes.” I asked how many? “As many shoes as he wants.” So there, there is one signature remaining at Bata then Ken will get all the shoes he wants.
Many more of you asked if they can send him money or if they can help in any way. This was not a fundraiser, but you can reach him directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Should you need to talk to him directly (yes, because as someone mention this could be my fictitious creation to beat up emotions or even fleece the public of money) please email me on email@example.com and I will share his phone number privately. Otherwise, it’s touching to see how many of you just want to help others. Viva humanity.
Lastly. OK. There is no lastly.
Gang, Carol Odero and her hair. Carol, Gang.
Gentlemen, this week you might want to read something else, because this piece will fly over your scalp.
By Carol Odero (and her hair, Carol Odero Snr)
I have a confession. I make voodoo dolls of all the people on social media who troll my hair. If you got a sudden sharp pain on the insole of your left foot, yeah. That was me and my Shaman. Now, let us begin.
Salons; those sweet-smelling, scented, compact, for some reason never really airy enough compartments of female glory. I spend hours there. My personal best is 8 hours straight. The lovely Dee at Amadiva Beauty Salon, Riverside, once set aside my imaginary bed. That’s longer than a bus ride to shags. Salons are where the creation of my persona starts, always from head to toe, an anointing of red paint ending with, “What do you think?” I’ll tell you what I think.
Last Saturday I desperately needed a rush job within controllable geographical distance. I set myself an 8am appointment with my hood stylist, Rose. And agreed to brunch with Big Bro at 10am. In and out in 2! Except, when has a salon visit ever gone predictably? First, Rose texted. She’d be late. 15 minutes. Then, I was just late. 8.27am. In my defense I was running an errand for said brother. Felicia Leatherwood’s clients know exactly how much time they will spend at the salon. It’s writ on her Hollywood wall. The transition from client A to B is 15 minutes. If you’re late, you lose your slot and must rebook. Because she’s Felicia, that’d be months away. Thank yee gods it wasn’t L.A.
Salons, bless, have the capacity to make me feel pretty even at my least attractive. I mean, if a post shampoo female at her drippy finest in the incandescently deadening fluorescent lighting does not look at herself in the mirror, is she still flawless? That’s why staring at my straw-copper hair under said lighting I thought, “Damn I’m hot,” – said no one ever. Rose suggested a colour refresh. Said it would only take 30 minutes. Has anything in the history of hair ever really taken only 30 minutes? Since my hair apparently has a community independent of my head, of course I said yes. I have a minute. Or 407. Also, a stash of expected books with respectable public covers like Chimamanda, Stephen Covey and Malcolm Gladwell – completely unreadable inside the perpetual electric buzz of a salon but hey – who cares. Throw in WiFi and executives with laptops and it is no time to crack open Nancy Friday.
Meanwhile I was fending off a very patient man on WhatsApp. Big Bro has an advanced degree in Women Salonery. He is married and wifey has a magnificent mane. Here’s how our conversation went at 17 minute intervals.
Big Bro: Tell me when you’re done so I can know what time to leave the house
Me: I’m running late!
Me: Ok. Let’s make it 10.30am
BB: Eye roll.
Me: Ok. For real this time, let’s move it to 11am. I’ll be done!
BB: Side eye. Feeds the family cat. Ok they don’t have one, but they are far more likely to find and adopt than I am to make it at 11am.
Me: 11:30am! Promise! (Inserts about 11 running man emojis)…
I summon Uber because, Mombasa Road. I like being Zen on Saturdays. It makes me a nicer person on air. The kind that namastes the tweefs, “constructive criticism” and whatever Faceboook wars are called. Yes, I’m talking about you uncensored pages and yes, I totally went there. Soon as I hit the ground, the tepid, unpredictable sun highlighting my red head, burst into Java and ta-da!! Honey, I’m … erm… here!! At which point my ridiculously good looking buff brother (it’s my story and I can say whatever the hell I want) arches a brow, pins my hair with a sarcastic look and says — “that’s what I’ve been waiting for?” Parenting books practically make it a requirement that older siblings rib younger ones. Besides, I completely get his perspective. So let’s rewind.
This meet was supposed to happen in March. At 11am. At my confirmation. Except, you guessed it, I was at The Salon. From 9.30am. I was done at 2.27pm. I checked. Because I texted him and he fake-gasped.
Also, he has another sister and a mum.That’s why he stays in his PJs awaiting my confirmation, unimpressed by declarations of being an early bird client. Allow me to clue you in just how delicious salon sunrises are. Blow driers haven’t pumped up the heat, kids are still home with mummy, my butt isn’t on anyone’s face when I move, I promptly have a drink thrust in my hand, sink is mine, air is crispy and everyone refreshed and sweet. Basically, the crank hasn’t set it. What I had not known was how much patience man requires to wait out a salon visit. It needs more than a list of interests and hobbies and a bunch of fun stuff to get up to as nails get filed. The consequences for dudes can be summed up quick:
- Do not ever wait at the salon reception
- Never believe her when she says “this won’t take long,” I will only take an hour at best,” – I’ve used that one a few times – “I’m just getting a blow dry,” or “Pick me up at 3”
- If she is a Naturalista you simply have no Saturday/Sunday/WheneverWashdayIsDay
- Don’t ever rush her. Yes. It applies everywhere.
- Drink water
- Always carry your charger
When I spectacularly blew into Java, framed by the beauty of the midmorning – ok ok – noon sun – all Big Bro saw was this – two big fat thick lines snaking down my scalp. And not much else. These, he is very obviously thinking, did not just take you close to 4 hours!! Two Godarned lines (Biko told me not to cuss…) – traffic, errands and wait time notwithstanding. So my hair smells nice, it’s neat and it’s RED. Granted it did not look like this previously on Fashion Watch – big effing deal. What’s with the time suck?? He would be right. The transformation is at best interesting, but I didn’t exactly turn up in a long, purple weave and tattooed eyebrows.
Let’s cross over to my side. Again. Because this is about me. I know guys wonder, what the hell – heck – whatevs Biko – do you do in the salon, why does it take so long and why does it cost so much? Well. You know how when you go to a barber, one person drapes a towel over your shoulders, and sometimes it’s not the same one who flicks and Velcros you into that smock, right before the main act, the barber, turns up with all the requisite importance and another minion will wash – because men don’t get shampooed apparently – your head/hair/scalp? It’s exactly the same thing, only women have more moving parts. Our army aka Glam Squad tend to a cross section of needs.
My hair for instance was done by 3 different people through various stages of tending, never at the same time. Once, on my epic 8 hour day, it involved a rotating line of 7 people. However, during overwhelm, serial saloning is sometimes transformed into a polyamorous affair. In such cases a woman is surrounded by a steadily working swarm – I mean team – from hair, brow, fingers to feet, all trying valiantly not to take too many breaks or too many calls. This is exactly why wee hour visits are such a treat. Tempers will rarely flare at 8am, mostly, the client’s temper, specifically, my temper. Also, not all salon hissy fits – other people’s and mine – are created equal. It depends on fixability, time and hunger levels of all the parties involved. Yet another reason men sense intuitively that women need to go away to the salon, just so that they can come back. Mellowed. Primed. Preened. An unhappy salon service has a vicious ripple effect. For salon owners, keeping clients calm and fluffed ranks right up there with world peace, one strand at a time.
Big Bro didn’t give a rat’s bum (Biko, can I say ass? Bum is so Disney), but, Rose and I tried out a new colour, prior to my visit I had to WhatsApp 3 different photos, each with 3 different angles showing her exactly what I wanted and which specific shade of Marley braid I needed. When I arrived these plans had to be reestablished and confirmed. You can’t just take it for granted. I could have had a dream. So could she but since it’s my head my dream trumps her dream even if it was the same dream. I had to undo my previous do, condition my hair to detangle it, shampoo to clear off product residue, colour, shampoo post colour, detangle post colour, condition, moisturise and finger comb for braiding, braid, then Rose swoops in with her final touch. No babies cried in the making of this hair. Because Big Bro was waiting, I skipped the whole nailing it affair. And so I arrived, my African scalp savouring the cool, caressing fingertips of the wind running it’s gentle hand through my tangle-free kinky red hair. The moral of the story: absolutely none. I do think however some pins might be coming unhinged and need a little push back in.
Photo credit : mpasho.co.ke