Last week I went to my favourite eating place. It is not that fancy like the places my lady friends post on Instagram, where I’d have to auction a kidney and a piece of my pancreas to be allowed into. It is not smoke- filled and dingy either, like the place my friend took me to yesterday where they serve your food under the cash counter and the owner keeps glancing menacingly at you the whole time. Or the other shady establishment he took me to the day before where the owner asks for your help in stirring the porridge while he smokes an illegal substance.
I like this café because of the personalized service. And by personalized, I don’t mean they offer the same services as those ”massage palours which employ human sign posts in Kileleshwa. What I mean is that the owner will come to personally explain to you why they don’t have freshly squeezed fruit juice, or why there is a price increase of five shillings. The waiters are courteous and professional. They don’t refer to you as boss or with phony nicknames like Omosh or Chege. Or spit in your food. They have an open kitchen which is a bit comforting if you are the type who has CCTV cameras installed in your kitchen to monitor any Eurobond-esque activities going on with the chapati population, or if the missus is sitting on them.
Also, I never take anyone there. Not because I am ashamed of it, but because they may be rude to the waiters and spoil it for me. Or complain about the prices. Or hit on this new waiter with thin lips and an ample bottom and throw me into jealousy fits like a 12 year old.
I like this place because it is peaceful and affordable. It is great hotel for a common mwananchi like me. It is not crowded, even during lunch hours. This is especially important to me because I don’t like waiting for EACC to catch a big fish before my order arrives. When I went there last Monday, however, I found it had a certain bustle to it than usual. I checked if I had indeed entered the correct premise. I had. Even the Arab owner with his mane was at the counter. Because I have never eaten anywhere else without company in the last one year, I took a seat on the only available table.
Sitting a table behind me was a middle aged man. Most likely a lecturer in one of the town campuses. I know this because he was wearing a fedora and had his shirt tucked into his pair of jeans. The cross- generational dressing was evident. A man, his wife and child together with a couple sat on the table ahead. It was a lady introducing her boyfriend to her sister and her family. I felt sorry for the young man. I pitied him because I have been there. Meeting any man suggested by your girlfriend who is not her real family never goes well. Unless it is her father, you are not obliged to affirm Arsenal’s title credentials. Her male friends are much easier to deal with because there is a certain casualness to it. In fact, it is them who have to pretend to like you. But navigating a meeting with men in the lives of her family members is a bit tricky.
Ladies, we appreciate you are family, but we men don’t just get along on the basis that we are dating members of the same family. See, we are deep human beings; therefore, we need to connect on a deeper level to even be acquaintances. We need to share the same life philosophy, support a common sports team or like the same brand of beer. For example, my ex-girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend took Balozi beer, which is like the rock bottom of beer hierarchy. For the unknowing, Balozi is the beer equivalent of those cane spirits in sachets that crack your tongue, light an inferno in your chest and turn your nails black. I don’t know if he was driven to this by the state of our economy or by dead taste buds, but I prefer drinks from internationally recognized brands.
Also, he wore a red shirt, red pants, red pair of shoes and a red cap to match and I was awestruck at just how red he was. Saying I am not the best dresser is probably a huge understatement, and the only cap I own was the one I was given during a recruitment drive way back in campus so walking alongside him made me look like a personal assistant to an MCA. The fact that I have kept a branded baseball cap from a steel manufacturing company for almost a year should be telling on the state of my wardrobe. But here I was with Redman. We had nothing to talk about despite the itch to ask how much time he took to assemble a Welsh clown outfit. The itch was particularly worsened by the fact that he was a 50 year old man who can find a shoe store that sells red pair of shoes. Too young to be an accomplice to midlife crisis, I left Redman with his red shoes and went to the counter to partake something with a standard mark of quality.
I digress, back to the young man. He was attempting to strike a conversation with the husband to the sister of his girlfriend, but the kid kept interrupting. The kid was being a real brat. He was a boy of about 3 years of age. He was yelling and screaming and when their order came, he flailed his arms so wildly that he knocked his soda down. This was followed by even louder screams. His parents were visibly embarrassed by the spectacle and tried calming him down with little results. I am no parent myself so I won’t jump onto the high horse and come up with phony proverbs like samaki mkunje angali mbichi. A part me however wanted to jump in when the father called him “Babi” (pronounced Ba- bi, perhaps to distinguish him from the other baby, his wife) while simultaneously pointing a finger to presumably call him out on his manner-less behavior, or poke his nose. It’s already bad enough that male children are given pet names, but “Babi”??!!
It doesn’t matter if it’s the Generation X’s hip way of saying Baba! Dedan Kimathi did not give up the warmth of his hut for boys to be called Ba-bi. Imagine if Jakom was called Ba-bi. It’s not the same. It’s atrocious, shameful even.
His open defiance to his father bordered on insubordination. I wondered what kind of man the boy would grow to be. I wondered if he’d grow up to sip his cream liqueur with a straw. And if he would steal his dad’s car and get into an accident because the pair of skinny jeans he will be wearing hamper free movement of his legs on the clutch pedal. I wondered if he would keep that emasculating pet name when he reached adolescence, and if the girls of his time would find it adorable, because Babi is the sorts of names 2 year old girls call their dolls.
Why do boys need pet names anyway? Are you trying to make your sons more adorable or what? These spoilt brats are the types who threaten suicide if their duck face selfies do not gather sufficient likes on social media. Giving the boy child pet names may be the reason the male population is feeling so overwhelmed and under-empowered.