My toxic masculinity demands that I only shave with scissors and only when it is absolutely necessary. Instead of the surgical spirit, I prefer a lemon as the aftershave.
Often, I think the modern barbershop makes men sissies. Simps. I find the idea of being shaved smoothly and the aftershave treatment that sometimes can take up to two hours as homosexual behaviour.
About a decade ago, I complained in my Nairobian column about the mushrooming barbershops that have additional services like pedicures and manicures for men. Some even have massage parlous that guarantee happy endings.
At the time, my barbershop had these women who washed our heads, and with zero massage experience would knead our bodies like flour for Christmas mandazis. They would then proceed to twist our necks with a certain provincial energy, before beating the crap out of our backs. Somehow, some sexually starved men found these theatrics worthwhile. I used to be shaved, and only allowed the girls to wash my neck with hot water to avoid the ugly bumps that crop up after shaving.
As a Kisii man, what used to work me up, were the men who went for pedicures and manicures. It mostly used to be men in their late 30s and 40s, who sat there in their banker attire, stretching one hand to a girl who was working on his nails, and browsing on their humongous Samsung phones on the other.
What used to annoy me is that our ancestors fought lions, went to war, liberated us from wabeberu, and here you had men who were sitting in a salon, being shaved, having their nails cut, polished, and oiled. I could see why women were giving up on men in my generation. It seemed that there was something faulty about men of my generation, there was a need for a serious factory recall to fix some settings in us.
Now, when I complained in the newspaper, some guy who mostly worked in such barbershops, told me I am full of shit, and asked me to respect other people’s hustles. It is the only hate mail of the hundreds that I used to receive that ever moved me. It made me think differently. I saw those men in barbershops as guys in the bar drinking themselves to save those wheat farmers and keep those waiters and waitresses in their jobs and business.
Back then, I was a swashbuckling young man, with swagger and spring to my feet. Somehow, I foolishly believed that I would be young forever. However, age catches up with us pretty fast, and here I am a middle-aged Kenyan with a potbelly, and sagging skin and girls in clubs call me a ‘mbaba’. Girls nowadays can accurately estimate my age. I am in that phase of life, where, for me to be attractive to younger women, I need to groom better, have a fat wallet, and place a car key (preferably of a German machine), if girls are to consider me to be hot.
Now, I understand why some middle-aged men spend as much as women on their grooming and fashion. I used to be a retrosexual man, but I soon morphed into a metrosexual man, and I champion good grooming, not the least because of women, but also for the general well-being of men.
Our ancestors had it rough so that we can have it soft. And we are having it soft so that our descendants can have it rough. We are all historical accidents, and we can only live through the epoch of our time.
With this justification, my silly and funny friend Wakesho tagged me to the launch of Borderless Barbershop, Spa, and Salon at Bruce House in the CBD, next to City Hall. It was a proper glitzy launch with fireworks and cocktails. It was a mid-week evening and there were the working-class Nairobi women looking as hot as I have ever seen them. I liked the jungle-green theme, the lighting, and the interior of the spa. I have really thought of green as the theme of my next life.
I promised that I will take myself for a treat, been a rough year.
And thus, early in the week, I checked myself into the place. I was introduced to a guy who speaks in a deep tenor, as my barber.
“I am Sila, and I will be your barber of the day.”
“Sila is a good name. I love it.”
He was confused. There was so much awkwardness in the air. It is a line that a man should only use on a woman when flirting and you want to flatter her.
“Because I am also Sila…” I told him. He smiled wryly, almost relieved.
And we got down to work.
Here is the thing about high-end or mid-range spas: The price always dictates the quality of service. There are no two ways about it. The machine was so kind to my head, almost comforting. I have been shaved in various barber shops and the cheaper it is, the more the machine is likely to hurt you. But at Borderless, it felt good, and Sila is dexterous with his hand and he followed my instructions so well. He told me I have such a dry and dirty scalp that needs some good cleaning and regular maintenance. Then he handed me over to a lady named Lineth. Who washed and scrubbed annoying dandruff off my head and recommended treatment. Which she did. And then she offered to work on my nails. I see why girls always feel good after a spa treatment. I haven’t touched a woman in recent times. Neither has a woman touched me. So, I realized why men like being touched. Because, man.
By the time, Lineth was done with me, I looked ten years younger, and it felt good. Turns out, there is nothing wrong with a facial scrub. And all the men I judged harshly; I beg for their forgiveness. Every man needs to get such a treatment every two weeks.
Confession: Of course, it felt horrible, awful, cheating on my barber. Usually, when I cheat on my barber, which happens maybe once a year, it always backfires. The new barber will always draw a new hairline, fuck up my beard, and it takes like three shaving cycles to get it back on track. That is the equivalent of getting an STI when you cheat on your faithful spouse. But sometimes cheating can be rewarding. Like when you meet a partner who takes you to the moon and back.
I can’t say that Borderless took me to the moon and back, it is the cheating that makes you feel good, almost guiltless. It is a place I would pay for my girlfriend to be treated, and when she is almost ready, she can call me to pick her up. But before I pick her up, I can pop in for a quick shave before we go watch a movie. Lovely. But I need to find a girlfriend first, now that I have a spa plug.