Philip Mwiti’s innocent jibes at one of his closest friends earned him a black eye and a trip to the hospital. Speaking from a pub in Kiambu, where he was enjoying a live English football match, the lanky Philip recalls the event of two months back vividly.
He went to the same high school and college with his best friend, and they would spend many evenings enjoying roadside delicacies like tripe. Time and employment would separate the friends, and when his friend relocated to the same neighbourhood Philip lived in, they tried to rekindle their friendship.
“I guess things had changed. I find his habits a bit unbecoming, like when he came to my house, did not remove his shoes and stepped on my carpet with dirty shoes,” says Philip, adding that even though he lived alone, every time his friend visited him he would leave dirty dishes all over. “I think he is used to someone picking up after him, which is not how I remember him in school,” Philip notes.
One day his friend refused to take tea. Reason? He does not like tea that has been put in a vacuum flask. “I found that funny. I mean, this is someone who used to survive on food from the campus mess and now here he was talking about how he cannot take tea put in a flask,” he wonders. Philip attributes this “new tastes” to the fact that his friend is now married for two years.
“Getting married has spoilt him and he thinks it is our work to look after him; it is like he carries his home with him,” Philip charges and adds that it has nothing to do with wealth since he actually earns more than his friend. It is not unheard of to meet these kinds of people. There is that mzee at the local who starts complaining loudly that he hopes to find good food, “not the beans they cooked the other day”, once he gets home.
They have become so used to people doing things for them that they leave toilet doors open and when everyone washes their hands at the sink, they expect to be brought for warm water in a bowl. They will quickly dismiss anyone who is single because “they do not know life”, even when the person is probably older and more experienced in life than they are.
Fred, an advocate and bachelor in his mid-30s has had a fair share of these experiences even with clients. “Because I do not have a wife, they do not expect me to be broke and even ask me where I take my money. I have fallen off with clients who tried to make me ‘understand’ that they had school fees to pay,” he says of clients, some of whom he went to the same school with.
When Solomon moved in with his former classmates who shared a flat in Nairobi after being called for an interview, they did not foresee the scenario they were getting themselves into. “We used to share chores in the house and because we had just started off and had little money, we often cooked dinner and then washed the utensils. Well, he only used to eat,” recalls Kamau, one of the roommates.
Even worse, he would go out of the house with his food and leave the plate wherever he was, forcing the other roommates to follow after him and pick the plate. Despite all this, he often complained about the food and how it was cooked.
Peris Wambui, a mother of two has been married for 18 years and she has watched her husband transform in front of her eyes, becoming more absurd with each passing year. According to her, his campus chum has become irritating by the things he demands of her.
“These days he does not wear anything that has not been carefully pressed out into straight edges,” she says, adding, “Even his handkerchief. Yes, that tiny thing has to be ironed.”I ask Peris why her husband’s tidiness irks her. “When I first met him in 1996, when we were university students, he was skinny, unkempt and broke as hell. He always wore creased promotion T-shirts. This new ‘style’ came up just the other day, and it totally irritates me,” she says.
According to Peris, her husband has on more than four occasions caused a scene because his shirt or trouser had not been ironed the way he wants. In fact, he would not wear anything that anyone else apart from his wife had pressed. “And to think it’s I who introduced him to well-pressed clothes and smart dressing,” she recalls, perhaps regretting waking up what she calls “a dragon”.
Martha also married a man who acquired exotic and fancy tastes as their marriage thrived. “His warm bathing water is always filled with fragrances and herbs. This is the same man who never showered before going to bed when we got married. It was always an issue to get him to take a shower, and now he must use herbs,” she explains.
Martha intimates that her husband has been hanging out with the bosses from his office, and she thinks he picked up some of the demands from guys who went abroad twice a year for holiday. “He thinks he is in a Thai spa in my house.” While some of the wives and friends of these men are irritated by the change in tastes, others feel disrespected with the spoilt brothers’ disregard for simple etiquette.
“I have a cousin who will never clear the table after he is done taking a meal,” says Peter, a cyber café operator in Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street. They met during a male cousins’ weekend over at his place. “When it first happened, we thought he had just forgotten his plate but after a full weekend of him doing that, we realised his wife had made him a stupid man; he eats then walks away.”
An irritated Peter explains that in his cousin’s mind, someone else was expected to clear up after him, the cousin forgetting that his wife was not there. “He is a guy we grew up with in the village and shared chores and all the embarrassing episodes of torn clothes, walking barefoot and thick accents. Everyone had a role to play because we lived in one house and to see him leave his plate on the table time and again was so disappointing. What else do these wives do to their husbands?” he asks.
These are the same fellows who would expect their wives to cook their favourite tea flavour at a funeral they are attending, because they cannot go a day without having a cup. Mind you, the wife is also a visitor. “I know wives who walk around with aromas and herbs in their purses when they are travelling with their husbands, because the man has to be happy,” Martha reveals.