Sam, my barber for dogs years, wears his trousers just above his navel. He’s always worn them that way. That’s who he is, that’s his equilibrium. His world feels safer that way. He’s very neat, always wearing official pants and official shirts and spit-polished shoes, like he’s going to a horse race. He’s also about the only person I know who still rocks an afro. Him and some chap who works at Nairobi Serena. You must have seen him, regal-looking guy, ramrod straight with 1965 perched on his head. Two weeks ago, as I had lunch with one of my editors at Madhari restaurant (read, trying to kiss ass for more money) and this chap and his afro passed just about a meter from my bhuna gosht (that’s tender pieces of mutton cooked in brown onion and indian spices…it’s culinary gospel!) and for a moment I came close to flagging him down and asking him why he has kept the style alive; what it means to have an afro, how much it weighs in winter, what kind of dreams one has at night with that much hair on their head and most importantly, what he feeds it. But I was with a lady.
I always say if you want to know how pre-independence looked like all you have to do is look at the head of someone with an afro.
Sam and this chap should have a drink, I think they can seriously hit it off, or hate each other at first sight….it would be interesting to watch nonetheless.
Him: How do you keep yours straight and solid like that?
Sam: I wash it and then apply Hair Glo.
Him: I stopped using Hair Glo, people would always ask me “is that curly-kit?”
Sam: Haha. That’s because you applied it before it dried.
Him: So, what, I have to stand in the sun after showering?
Sam: No, just towel it thoroughly until it dries.
Him:Yeah. (Pause). Kids are always trying to touch mine.
Sam: Kids are foolish.
I like Sam because Sam doesn’t run his mouth. I dislike barbers who want to talk the life out of you…you know, the ones who prattle on about politics or, worse, football. My former barber, a degenerate drunk with bloodshot eyes, used to ask me about football all the bloody time and I kept telling him, Boss, I don’t watch football! The following Saturday he would be saying, Lakini Man-U leo tutawalima, sindio? It would drive me mad. Sam is different; he says hello, I sit down, he covers my shoulders with that leso, run his machine on my head and when he reaches my beard he says, “Tuta punguza hii leo,” (note: a statement not a question) and I will let him have his way with my beard.
On very rare occasions, Sam and I will engage in long banter. I love that. I’m SDA, Saturday mornings should be peaceful, not filled with talk about Man-U.
Now because of the infrequent heart-to-hearts, Sam has never known that I have another kid. He only knows Tamms because once a month I take her there to do her pedicure and manicure. My sister always says that I’m spoiling the kid. I think not. We have to expose our daughters to these things early, raise the bar for those punks who will try to use them to get into their pants. The hardest women to lay are the ones with extremely high self esteem or extremely low self esteem. Hehe. That’s just my theory, I could defend it but I just don’t have the time or the word count.
But what I believe is that when you expose the girl-child to “shiny things” she won’t be easily bowled over when a chap tries to throw them in as leverage. So I say we cock-block those bastards, take the girl-child for fine dining now, buy her an occasional bouquet of flowers, tell her you love her, tell her she is beautiful, raise her self esteem so high when that randy weasel shows up with a tattoo of a frog (at least that’s how it looks like) on his arm promising dinner and spa and telling her that she is such a flower, she will remain beautifully nonplussed. He will just have to bring more to the table, which means on top of the shiny things he will have to have a personality, so if you are currently raising a son who spends his days watching Tellytubbies he will have a much harder time getting girl’s attention. Oh yes. It’s on.
So si two months ago I took Kim for his first shave which is a huge deal because it’s like a small initiation! Lovely Saturday morning, a bit nippy, so he had on his beloved and only green puffy jacket and these beige shorts (he has terrific legs, that boy…which he of course gets from me) and these really fancy Adidas shoes that I bought him in Berlin. He was looking dapper and he knew it because he kept looking at his shoes while walking. Don’t you just love when kids do shit like that? Like when they sit and keep touching their new shoes as if they can’t believe they have became those guys who wear dope adidas shoes even before they can say masala? How when you get back home they refuse to remove the shoes so they go to bed and sleep in them? Haha. That level of innocence kills me. Come to think of it, I know adults like that too…chaps who sleep in their shoes, but they do it for different reasons, obviously.
Anyway, we get to the barber shop and the girls in the salon are like [cue in shrieky girly voices] Aww, you have a son? Why didn’t you tell us? How old is he? Oh my God he’s soooooo cute! Come here, what’s your name baby? What’s your name? (Uhm, he doesn’t talk…yet!) And they touch his cheeks and make faces at him and they say My God, he looks exactly like you! And I stand there not knowing what to do with my hands or my blushing cheeks nor that feeling in my chest (I hear it’s called pride) but I’m pretending that it’s no big deal but it is a freaking big deal because everybody wants someone to say their kid is cute otherwise what’s the point of having kids if salonists can’t say he is the cutest kid they have seen (that day)? So it’s a fuss-fest and I look at Tamms standing next to me and she is sort of sulking because the brother has taken all the attention from her and I bet she is thinking that perhaps she was adopted, so I rub her back reassuringly and smile at her and she looks up and grimaces and looks away. Kim loves light chicks because he agrees for some light pedicurist to carry him away, in fact he drapes his hands around her shoulders like he has just found a new mother.
Anyway, I shave first and when Kim is brought back and I sit him on my lap and Sam readies him up and everything’s going great until he says, Ni kijana ama ni dame? (is he a boy or girl) And I’m like, Nani? And he says, Huyu m-juniour wako And I’m like what??! I stare at him hard through the mirror and tell him he’s a goddamn BOY! A boy! Jesus!
Don’t you just hate that? When someone mistakes your son for a girl? I mean, fine he has great legs and a forehead (to be fair there are also chicks with great legs and large foreheads) but Kim’s face is obviously male! Common, just look at his jutting manly chin!! And didn’t he hear the girls squeal that he is a cute BOY? I shot him bad looks and I think he realised that he had offended me and Kim, so he made what was supposed to be a light hearted comment that when you meet a man who looks really nice (he called it “msupuu”, chali msupuu..nkt) men want to befriend them because they know their sister must be a real smasher. I think if you are a man who describes another man as “msupuu” maybe you don’t need to meet his sister, just saying. Suffice it to say, I didn’t laugh…neither did the afro on his head.
You know when you have a son, you want him to be all male. You want him to grow up brave and strong and protective of his sister and his mom. You want a son who plays football (other sports are acceptable too…but I draw the line at handball or volleyball) and breaks and falls off things and tries to eat your ear with gusto. You want a boy who opens the door when there is a knock, because at some point men shouldn’t open doors, their sons should.
When you see your son climbing things or trying to pee on the TV remote or when he follows you into the bathroom and when you pee suddenly he pokes his head around your legs and looks at your member curiously, I mean that is a brilliant moment to be a guy with a son. You want to be called to (high) school because him, together with some boys, were caught kissing a girl (not the same girl hopefully) during a school trip. You will pretend to be very disappointed in him and you will scold lightly about his priorities in life but deep inside you will be saying, Atta boy.
There is a reason someone said “boys will be boys” and not “boys will be boys who kinda look like girls.” You want the kind of son who when you are 60, he can stand next to you and you introduce him like, “This is Kim, my son,” and he has a firm handshake and a strong chin and bony knees.
Still on this exciting topic of boys, there is also a chance that our sons might opt to be gay. Yup. If you don’t think this is a reality then your head is buried very deeply in the sand. It’s a very real possibility especially for the guys with really beautiful sons. (Hehe). Have you seen pictures of those light boys on Facebook who look EXACTLY like the moms and in turn look exactly like girls? It’s scary. I’m not saying they have a chance to be gay, but I just imagine having a son like that, a son who both men and women all describe as beautiful, is like.
Can I say something without being judged? I mean, here we don’t judge each other, yes? So the last time I was in Turkey I saw this chap in the mall who looked EXACTLY like a chic! I hate to say this and I will probably regret it but if I was to give that guy an adjective I would have used the word “beautiful” to describe him. (Shrug). I swear, you should have seen that guy! If you looked at that guy you would understand how shocking that was for me! It took me by complete surprise! I swear, as we passed each other I looked at him once and I quickly looked away in bewilderment and horror. After he had passed I wanted to turn and look at him again to confirm if he was not a chick but I was afraid to turn because what if he turned at the same time and our eyes met (violins) won’t that make me gay at that exact moment? I mean, won’t that go down in the books as the time when Bikozulu was gay for exactly 3 seconds in Turkey? I think that every straight guy is allowed about 30 seconds of “gay moment” in his entire life, of course spread across many years but you can take them all in one go if you want. Beyond 30 seconds you need cross over. So far I have done only 6 seconds. Now be honest with yourselves guys and say how many seconds you have done. We don’t judge folk here.
I remember walking out of that mall and in the waiting van chanting over and over in my mind, “you like chicks…you like chicks, chicks are good, chicks are very good, you like chicks…”
Where was I?
Ja. Beautiful sons.
We should all be prepared just incase our sons decide to pursue that side of their sexuality, and I’m not saying this because Obama is coming, it’s a reality. In about 20-years from now our sons will just be discovering who they are sexually and things will have changed a great deal then and we will have to make a choice on where we stand with our own blood.
Picture this, you are 55-years old, you have worked hard your entire life and you’re kicking back enjoying your sunset years and your boy who is 20-years old, a great kid who has done well in school and has been a stellar son pulls a chair and says Dad do you have a minute? So you put down your book and retrieve your spectacles from the tip of your nose and you say, Sure, son, what’s up? He will shift uncomfortably in his seat then clear his throat many times before saying that he’s gay – and has been for many years. You will suddenly remember Sam’s voice saying, Ni dame ama ni kijana? Hehe. Prophet Sam! The first thing you will probably ask is, Does your mother know? He will say Yes. (Mothers know everything). But because you have survived many tragedies in your life (like Masaku 7s) you will carefully look at him and nod slowly and then ask the one question you are allowed to ask at this point, Are you the chick or the guy?
We want a lot of things for our sons but we want to look at them through this subjective prism of who we are rather than who they are, which is ironic because we take them to good schools that help them gain confidence to tackle life on their own terms and be whoever they choose to be. We are all headed to this fork of the road. So those of us with sons, sons who are sometimes mistaken for girls (note…this has happened only ONCE with mine) let’s all get ready for some hard conversations and choices.
But later, when I thought about Sam’s comment, I realised it could have been worse. I think it’s worse when someone mistakes your daughter for a boy. I think that’s something you don’t recover from. You know sometimes you meet chicks who behave like men, chicks who want to be the men in the relationship and you often sit and wonder what kind of socialisation they had; if they were loved enough or if their fathers were absent. But when you sit still in a room, mulling over this, you realise that their behaviors could be something so simple from their childhood, something as simple as them hearing someone tell their father, “Your son has really grown up fast” and their father saying with a hard tone in his voice “Cindy is girl, Pastor Mogaka!!”
To all the beautiful men (and women who look like men) out there, greetings!