When I was growing up back in the village, personal hygiene was up there, sacred as motherhood and chapati—unquestioned and unquestionable. We would scrub our slippers till they became brand new. After school, we would wash our uniforms, then I’d wash my brother before I hit the showers. Okay, it was more of a mabati karai and bucket, but you don’t need to know that.
Now, I made it to Nairobi and somehow thought that this experience was universal. Shocker. Some months back, I had to put my halo aside and break one of my cardinal rules, which is to never sleep at a woman’s place. I visited someone’s daughter who I had been crushing on for a while. A septum-pierced yellow yellow babe, with skin clean as rain and a nyash that could get Palestine and Israel to a truce.
The moment I walked into her Roysambu (I know) apartment, I shed a tear. She was a sight for sore eyes, yes, but that did not negate the fact that her place was an eyesore. An active crime scene. Exaggeration aside, her dishes were staring daggers in the kitchen sink, she had sufurias inside her fridge; her trash, piled upon piles, represented the kind of men she was probably dating and what on God’s climate-changing earth is that smell?
You probably think I am salting this narrative but ni me nakushow. The house smelled like broken dreams and crumpled flats, like fried onions and a fundi’s feet. It was filthy, noisy and dilapidated, bursting with tales of personal struggle and surrender. It’s a sad state of affairs, gentlemen. #BringBackHomeScience. Hello? Nairobi mamas are getting dirtier than my incognito search history.
In fact, the government may have failed in its shock-jock billboards to scare me out of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but seeing this girl’s house made me softer than a gang of keyboard warriors on the battlefield. I don’t mean to wash dirty linen in public but I tried to get myself to get it on, but I just couldn’t. The dirt was too much, and her apathy failed to land like a punchline delivered in a foreign language. Things were just that little bit off, not quite lost but diminished in translation.
Some would say the signs were there. Her sales pitch was devil-may-care. I mean, she lives in Roysambu. Nothing good comes from Thika Road, they say. (Apropos of nothing, Thika Road ends at Muthaiga. From there, it’s just Thika.) She was a red flag with little red flags hanging off it. Colour me petty but I cannot descend into a relationship with someone who is okay with having dirty dishes sat the whole day in the sink.
There are talks in the streets about men in their baby boy era. While I don’t necessarily agree—absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence—it is imperative that we understand the first rule of life is cleanliness. Men have been accused of wanting submissive providers but he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. I put it to you that no man wants a female man or a male woman. Cleanliness is not a gender thing, so when did we make it one?
There in that Roysambu block, I tried to offer little nudges to express my displeasure, harmless comments like, “Umesema bora chakula si chakula bora haha!” “Play Wasafi music.” And “Si we take a bath together?” It was not romance—considering Kenya’s water problems—but necessity. You must understand that was a big sacrifice, what? With mitungi and jerricans as our emergency defibrillators?
Gents, it is easier to date a woman with OCD, that one who colour codes her underwear and has a cups-spoons-plates-sufurias design-process of washing than be with a dirty woman. Woe unto you if she is also into the ways of the world—at the brink of alcoholism with her gin-ama-whiskey idea of a weekend, has worn the same weave for nine months till the horse hair it was made from has now become a donkey, and crucially she is the most high Mathe wa Ngara diehard—who cares about her lungs anyway? As a virtue-signalling non-smoker, I figured that cigarettes were an indulgence run amok—the ordinary man’s means of escaping the ordinary, and procrastinators, those who wrote bad poetry, and those who put off writing bad poetry. I refrain from dishing out advice, but brother, if this is your woman, run. And do so now. Mapema ndio best.
And I am not talking just about external hygiene. No. They say manners maketh man, but woman more so. Have you heard a woman cuss? It’s sexy only in the movies—and my incognito search history. I let out a gentle guffaw every time I see on social media ladies advising each other to take some water. Maybe they really should follow their own wisdom. Because halitosis my friend? Grounds for divorce.
Look, it’s simple. If a lady cannot show up and clean up, and wants to jump in your bed after ingesting all that Nairobi smoke, hobnobbing in Luthuli Avenue and picking up small demons from everywhere, then she’s not for keeps. I have hosted ladies and I have cleaned up after them not because it is a gender thing but because it is common sense. I have been told by girls before that they can’t do ‘wife duties on girlfriend terms’ and I cried my way to sleep. Just kidding. I didn’t sleep.
I have been to ladies’ places that made me take a shower before I jumped from the friend zone to a bestie. And I have been to places where a cockroach, the wretched of the earth, would need a KEBS certificate before they’d venture in. Do you know how far down the ranking order you have to be for a cockroach to look at your place and be like, mmh, no?
Perhaps it was bound to happen. Nairobi relationships are now a reflection of Nairobi County: filthy, littered, and people doing each other dirty. We have a tendency to view ourselves as evolution’s apotheosis: the be-all, the end-all, the very raison d'être of life itself. We are not. Wake up honey and smell the refuse.
Cleanliness, those who say things say, is next to godliness. Ladies, I know Google may have lied to you. But when we say, “Talk to me dirty,” this is not what men mean. We may be living in the new millennium but the ideals of the past are still our North Stars. And oh, babe, that black bra needs a deep wash. Actually, just throw it away. And this is coming from a brother with a high tolerance—I mean, have you seen my incognito search history?