Mantalk: Dear women: It’s time to leave the Kinyozi to men

Dear women: It’s time to leave the Kinyozi to men. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

As women infiltrate the barbershop, feminising it and making it gooey, men now stream there for the antics

In life, there are some absolute absolutes. Irreducible minimums. No ifs, buts or maybes. Just absolutes. Like every journeyman knows no kinyozi can operate without a picture of Ludacris, the Rosetta stone of barbershops.

Back in the day, a relationship with your barber was as, if not more, intimate than with your wife. The spirit of ubuntu. Your barber was your close confidante where you went to unburden the travails of manhood. Winning and losing, glee and grief, hope and hesitation, and the way she looked that night.

Barbers were an institution. 

In my forays into the barbershop, I’ve met a retired brigadier, a pastor who did not seek to tell me about Jesus, and a Congolese man who tried—and failed—to sell me fake diamonds. Close shave. Barbertalk is premium male banter at its absolute finest: the jokes are mean and the laughs are heard and hard. And, everyone is involved. The barbers, the customers, the newspaper vendor, that guy selling jackets (and weed), the pastor who just cussed and forgot that he is Christ’s agent on earth.  

If you want(ed) to get your thumb on the pulse of what’s beating in the community, head over to the barbershop. Local political analysts would chew the fat and tell you how each politician is a goon. Want to know which school sets the KCSE papers? Barbershop. And the barber’s chair has long stood in for the therapist’s chaise longue, confiding about that heartbreak that made you change, nay, the transition from fade cuts à la Ludacris to the ludicrous Jordan cut, where they left your scalp bare, down to your root hair cells. Barbershops were the modern only-for-men church, and barbers were the high priests that presided over the penitents. 

It’s a straightforward male experience with none of the foofoo accoutrements in our current age of faux-emoting. I’ve had enlightening convos with my barber, Moha, who told me things about his brother who—oh sorry—that was confidential.

See, there is an unspoken ‘barber’s code’, an implied understanding of mutual trust between client and barber which has been there since barbering began. Holding a very sharp razor close to someone’s face does that to you. What is said in the barber’s chair stays in the barber’s chair.

There are very few places left where men are allowed to be men. That’s the barbershop’s USP: a space where men can be men. Here, they feel like part of a club. It’s a stance borne not of anti-woman but pro-man.

Barbershops are to men what salons are to women: a place to talk and cuss and swear. I put it to you that the men of today are hooked to their screens and have no one to talk to that’s why there are increasing cases of depression, which is festered by loneliness. 

Everyone is a little too sensitive today, and you have to watch out for feelings and moods swings. Fair enough, we cannot adjust the times, we can only change for the times.

But, I long for the days when old men and young men alike would talk about everything. Have you seen men with other men? Nothing is off the table. Men would talk about women and sports and cars. In the salon, just right across—because women just love being near men—the women will talk about men in sports cars. Win-Win.

As women infiltrate the barbershop, feminising it and making it gooey, men now stream there for the antics. To be touched where the nails of their significant others no longer reach, as she rests your kisogo on her bosom. Ah. That land of milk and honey. The land of the living dead. The promised land. In that position, you tell her everything, brother. 

This is what happens: The drilled lady inserts her phalanges into your shirt and you let out a little whine. Every touch is a gung-ho coordinated orgasmic Italian job on your skeletal organs. She might even throw in a casual babe for good measure.

She gently and softly closes your eyes while massaging your thorax and you giggle like an over-eager orangutang. This is how it feels to be a king. You can see why. These are those twenty-something light-skinned lasses blessed with the 4Bs of kingdom-come: big-booty-big-boobies. It is enough to make you sing Hosanna.

Here, no one blames you for saying yes to anything:

“Tuweke pili pili?”


She pinches your nipples and you roll your eyes so far back you can see the crater in your skull where your brain used to be.  The man who came and the man who is leaving are not the same. This is how it feels to be helpless. This is how it feels to be up against the wall.

“4423,” you say.

“What?” she says.

“My ATM pin. 4423. Chukua yote.”

If you are a man, you know what I am talking about. If you are a woman, your man knows what I am talking about. No bother if you have not read Gifted Hands. You can experience it in today’s barbershop.

While the lord has blessed the work of her hands, meanwhile the safe space that was the barbershop is no longer there.

The sexualisation of barbershops has rendered male spaces indiscriminate. Now, you can’t even have a conversation with your boys. I’ve always felt that the ladies are too intrusive. Kinyozis have become the new red-light districts, just like those Kilimani and Kileleshwa and Lavington ‘massage parlours’ that everyone claims not to go to but everyone knows where they are.

Women have taken up every space in the beloved barbershop. Shaving. Serving. Shaking. See, not everyone is a horny teenager or a libido bleeding matador. Besides, I have noticed the vinyozis of nowadays are not introducing new styles. Why? Take a guess?

The kinyozi was hallowed ground for men. It was where the real heartbreak stories were beaten, and men laughed at each other and said, “Me too!” Me too! Me, too. It was a man’s cave. Now every Eddy, Edith and Edna Shikwekwe can join.

While I believe anyone can shave, I don’t believe everyone should shave. I have never had a female barber. There is something off about it. Like a raven-free tower, a polar bear on a melting ice floe. Like adding Fanta to whisky.

I am mulling over going to Western where pictures of Ludacris still litter the barbershop, and the barber uses very hot water and slaps you as a blessing. A place where they still call it ‘kinyozi’ and Bob Marley refers to you as a buffalo soldier.

You know the one. The one with the ng’ombe fly whisk, not for flies but for the back of your head. And spirit. What was in that spirit because it was not spirit? Anyway, what you don’t know cannot hurt you. Capisce?

I’m not asking for much. I mean, the men of yore, were shaved by a Wilkinson’s Sword or a Nacet razor. You don’t know a Nacet razor, do you? Nacet blades oozed such machismo that its logo was a lizard—LIZARD—being sliced in half. I urge all my buffalo soldiers. Hearken to my call. Get back our Vinyozis. No ifs, buts, or maybes.

And you wonder why men are all starting podcasts. 

Twitter @eddyashioya 

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