A lot of things only make sense when you can afford them and others cease to become valuable. In my younger years I remember walking through the Nairobi CBD with my brother the lawyer. Back then he was a young professional already well on his way to a “love cushion” (spherical belly filled by a wealthy lifestyle). I was a skinny kid in second year of university well on my way to a stress-related break down. We walked past one of the jewelry stores on Kimathi Street and he stopped and looked in the window.
“That’s a nice watch”, he said eyeballing a chrome “timepiece” (because they aren’t called “watches” after a certain price value). I looked at the watch and then at the price tag. “The only way I will spend ten thousand shillings on a watch is if it comes with a monkey who puts it on me every morning”, I replied very snippily. “Dude, you need to start putting higher value on yourself or you never will. I want a nice watch so I am going to get a nice watch, don’t worry, someday you will understand”, he said. We walked into the store and he bought the watch and put it on, then spent the rest of the afternoon asking if I wanted to know the time.
Lately I find myself celebrating my elevation to KRA’s highest tax bracket with some additional luxuries. The things which made no sense to me are beginning to. For example the cheap hair cut characterized by a methylated spirit bath at the end has been replaced with an hour long pampering process involving multiple devices, a shampoo wash and temple massage at the end. Even the magazines in the barber’s shop have changed from old copies of Insyder to old copies of GQ and Esquire. Maybe soon I will be in a barber shop with fresh copies, who knows?
I will admit I have also been paying a lot more attention to the things I wear. I have gone from a uniform pair of everything for everything to a specialized pair of everything for individual “everythings”. But I still dress like a writer (“rugged” but a higher quality rugged). I should not brag too much though seeing as I still have not began to grow spherical in the belly area like my brother. These days, I find myself being more restricted by responsibility than cost. I look at an item and think, “It’s not necessary!” As opposed to the bitter tasting, “Not even if I could”, I expressed in the past.
There is a stereotype in this country that the men from my tribe (Luo) are more generous than other tribes with finances. This is as far from the truth as Isiolo is from civilization. We are as financially uncertain as everyone else, especially lately with this “cowboy economic climate” we’ve been having. The only difference perhaps is the same thing my brother was trying to teach me. “If you are the best at what you do, you will always make more”. I am STILL not buying a ten thousand shilling watch. But it does feel nice to have the option.