An Afternoon With A Nairobi Manicurist, Men’s Bad Nails, And The Comeback Of An Expiring Progressive

Why can't men just bite and cut their nails with penknives anymore?

Why can’t men just bite and cut their nails with penknives anymore?

For as long as I can remember, my daughters have denounced the state of my nails. They have accused them of “bringing shame” upon the family, and generally setting back human civilisation.

It is all because I have cut my nails much the same way like many distinguished blokes have done for millennia; by biting them, using my penknife, and the discarded nail cutters the girls in the house throw away as useless.

Then some time back my barber entered the fray; partly of course to get me to give the shop more business, but he also seemed to think my nails were generally letting men down. Every time I went for a haircut, there were many guys having their nails down.

Hard as it is might be to believe, I was once a fairly well regarded member of the Progressive Club. Those days I held firmly that things like manicure and pedicure were the height of  bourgeois decadence.

An aversion to manicure is one of the remnants I carry forward from that progressive period. Today, though, I decided to explore. The day was slow, and I had gone to chat with my barber and get a haircut while at it.

Business was also slow at the salon, so I agreed to give the manicure a try. The busty manicurist was a good-natured woman, although she showed enough cleavage to last me well into the New Year.

A manicure box: Punch for punch, it rivals a dentist's.

A manicure toolbox: Punch for punch, it rivals a dentist’s.

However, faced with such things, I resorted to a tactic perfected by my grandfather, that he passed on to his son (my father), and that my father in turned handed down to his children – the art of supercilious indifference. I just went through the manicure without in the least acknowledging the distractions that were two feet from my face.

Anyway, I was able to learn that manicure is a whole art and, even, “science” (in some countries you need a certificate to be a manicurist). My manicurist had more small buckets and tools than my dentist. And cleaning, filing, smoothing, and polishing a battered set of nails took longer than filling a cavity!

I flatly refused any varnish to give the nails a shine, I thought that would be taking the adventure too far.

I saw clearly that you just couldn’t walk out of the house and set up as a manicurist.

Some good came out of it. By the end I had respect for what manicurists do. Secondly, my nails were for the first not carrying around germs.

So will I go back? To the salon for a haircut, yes, but not for another manicure. I am afraid it will be back to the penknife and nail bite for me. My nails will not look elegant and I will continue to embarrass my daughters yes, but that is easier to live with than the guilt of having to pay someone to cut them.

•twitter@cobbo3

7 Comments on “An Afternoon With A Nairobi Manicurist, Men’s Bad Nails, And The Comeback Of An Expiring Progressive”

  1. Bilal Dadar
    December 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Hongera, Obbo!

  2. Ahmed Ayuvb
    December 28, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Ohhh Good old Charles.These matters that you so seem to solve with your pen are just amazing.Kudos

  3. Tomi
    December 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    This is interesting for me as someone who grew up in Northern Nigeria where men don’t play with their nails. When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see manicure shops set by the roadside where men could get their nails manicured. And the manicurists were always men too.

  4. Agaba Rugaba
    December 29, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    HEhehheeh…cleavage just 2 feet away.

  5. Peter
    December 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    i so agree with you, i simply don’t get it when men go to the salons to get their nails done, ok i do use a nail cutter each time i come across one……

  6. David Kitongo
    January 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Use the manicurist, they certainly have a trick or two about keeping your nails.

  7. Tsegaye Girma
    January 8, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Well written.

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