Perspectives From the Shampoo Sink


Two weeks ago I sat with this person and they told me something very dark and beautiful about their lives. We agreed I’d write about it. And I wrote about it. On Sunday I told them I had finished writing it and it was running today. They freaked out. They said “I can’t do it anymore, Biko.”

I asked, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t think I can share that part of me with people. Please don’t run it.”

“Come on, it’s  already written. Plus I have nothing else scheduled for Tuesday!”

“For you this is about a deadline, for me it’s my life. ”

“How about then I send it to you first, read it and if you still feel the same I will can it, fair?”

“Sawa, send.”

So I sent it. (They are the only people left who still use Yahoo). Then I waited by Whatsapp, biting my nails. After 20mins she came online.

“Read  it twice.” She said.


“I still can’t do it.”

“F**k. I hate you.”

“I hate you too.” She said.

I sat there and sulked for a bit. Then I started writing Mantalk. In the middle of it I remembered this dream I once had about Carol Odero’s uhm, enigmatic hair. This was way back in 2009 when we used to work for the same employer. In the dream Carol’s hair was in flames and was chasing me. It wanted us to die together. Carol stood by the side, watching this spectacle and laughing hysterically.

So I went on Whatsapp and said, “Hey CO?”

“Hey.” She said.

“How is your health?”

“Uhm, I have a pain in my pelvic, thanks for asking. How is yours?”

“I’m in mint condition. Say, can you write for me  something about your hair?”

“My hair? What about my hair?”

“Anything. Blank cheque.”

“For your blog?”


“How many words?”


“That’s TWO of my Sunday columns!”

“Ja! By the way, Carol. I saw a picture of Ian Mbugua dressed like a cross-dresser on that fashion show of yours. Why would you guys let him do that?”

She went offline.

Anyway, she wrote something to replace what I had initially written. Bless you.

Also. About Ken, the guy from last week’s post? Tons and tons of overpowering emails from people who want to help. He’s applying for HELB as we speak and chaps from HELB promised to look into it once the application is in. I’m sure he will be just fine. BATA Shoes reached out too and said, “ We want to give this guy shoes.” I asked how many? “As many shoes as he wants.” So there, there is one signature remaining at Bata then Ken will get all the shoes he wants.

Many more of you asked if they can send him money or if they can help in any way. This was not a fundraiser, but you can reach him directly on [email protected]

Should you need to talk to him directly (yes, because as someone mention this could be my fictitious creation to beat up emotions or even fleece the public of money) please email me on [email protected] and I will share his phone number privately. Otherwise, it’s touching to see how many of you just want to help others. Viva humanity.

Lastly. OK. There is no lastly.

Gang, Carol Odero and her hair. Carol, Gang.

Gentlemen, this week you might want to read something else, because this piece will fly over your scalp.



By Carol Odero (and her hair, Carol Odero Snr)

I have a confession. I make voodoo dolls of all the people on social media who troll my hair. If you got a sudden sharp pain on the insole of your left foot, yeah. That was me and my Shaman. Now, let us begin.

Salons; those sweet-smelling, scented, compact, for some reason never really airy enough compartments of female glory. I spend hours there. My personal best is 8 hours straight. The lovely Dee at Amadiva Beauty Salon, Riverside, once set aside my imaginary bed. That’s longer than a bus ride to shags. Salons are where the creation of my persona starts, always from head to toe, an anointing of red paint ending with, “What do you think?” I’ll tell you what I think.

Last Saturday I desperately needed a rush job within controllable geographical distance. I set myself an 8am appointment with my hood stylist, Rose. And agreed to brunch with Big Bro at 10am. In and out in 2! Except, when has a salon visit ever gone predictably? First, Rose texted. She’d be late. 15 minutes. Then, I was just late. 8.27am. In my defense I was running an errand for said brother. Felicia Leatherwood’s clients know exactly how much time they will spend at the salon. It’s writ on her Hollywood wall. The transition from client A to B is 15 minutes. If you’re late, you lose your slot and must rebook. Because she’s Felicia, that’d be months away. Thank yee gods it wasn’t L.A.

Salons, bless, have the capacity to make me feel pretty even at my least attractive. I mean, if a post shampoo female at her drippy finest in the incandescently deadening fluorescent lighting does not look at herself in the mirror, is she still flawless? That’s why staring at my straw-copper hair under said lighting I thought, “Damn I’m hot,” – said no one ever. Rose suggested a colour refresh. Said it would only take 30 minutes. Has anything in the history of hair ever really taken only 30 minutes? Since my hair apparently has a community independent of my head, of course I said yes. I have a minute. Or 407. Also, a stash of expected books with respectable public covers like Chimamanda, Stephen Covey and Malcolm Gladwell – completely unreadable inside the perpetual electric buzz of a salon but hey – who cares. Throw in WiFi and executives with laptops and it is no time to crack open Nancy Friday.

Meanwhile I was fending off a very patient man on WhatsApp. Big Bro has an advanced degree in Women Salonery. He is married and wifey has a magnificent mane. Here’s how our conversation went at 17 minute intervals.

Big Bro: Tell me when you’re done so I can know what time to leave the house

Me: I’m running late!

BB: Duh

Me: Ok. Let’s make it 10.30am

BB: Eye roll.

Me: Ok. For real this time, let’s move it to 11am. I’ll be done!

BB: Side eye. Feeds the family cat. Ok they don’t have one, but they are far more likely to find and adopt than I am to make it at 11am.

Me: 11:30am! Promise! (Inserts about 11 running man emojis)…

BB: *crickets*

I summon Uber because, Mombasa Road. I like being Zen on Saturdays. It makes me a nicer person on air. The kind that namastes the tweefs, “constructive criticism” and whatever Faceboook wars are called. Yes, I’m talking about you uncensored pages and yes, I totally went there. Soon as I hit the ground, the tepid, unpredictable sun highlighting my red head, burst into Java and ta-da!! Honey, I’m … erm… here!! At which point my ridiculously good looking buff brother (it’s my story and I can say whatever the hell I want) arches a brow, pins my hair with a sarcastic look and says — “that’s what I’ve been waiting for?” Parenting books practically make it a requirement that older siblings rib younger ones. Besides, I completely get his perspective. So let’s rewind.

This meet was supposed to happen in March. At 11am. At my confirmation. Except, you guessed it, I was at The Salon. From 9.30am. I was done at 2.27pm. I checked. Because I texted him and he fake-gasped.

Also, he has another sister and a mum.That’s why he stays in his PJs awaiting my confirmation, unimpressed by declarations of being an early bird client. Allow me to clue you in just how delicious salon sunrises are. Blow driers haven’t pumped up the heat, kids are still home with mummy, my butt isn’t on anyone’s face when I move, I promptly have a drink thrust in my hand, sink is mine, air is crispy and everyone refreshed and sweet. Basically, the crank hasn’t set it. What I had not known was how much patience man requires to wait out a salon visit. It needs more than a list of interests and hobbies and a bunch of fun stuff to get up to as nails get filed. The consequences for dudes can be summed up quick:

  1. Do not ever wait at the salon reception
  2. Never believe her when she says “this won’t take long,” I will only take an hour at best,” – I’ve used that one a few times – “I’m just getting a blow dry,” or “Pick me up at 3”
  3. If she is a Naturalista you simply have no Saturday/Sunday/WheneverWashdayIsDay
  4. Don’t ever rush her. Yes. It applies everywhere.
  5. Eat
  6. Drink water
  7. Always carry your charger

When I spectacularly blew into Java, framed by the beauty of the midmorning – ok ok – noon sun – all Big Bro saw was this – two big fat thick lines snaking down my scalp. And not much else. These, he is very obviously thinking, did not just take you close to 4 hours!! Two Godarned lines (Biko told me not to cuss…) – traffic, errands and wait time notwithstanding. So my hair smells nice, it’s neat and it’s RED. Granted it did not look like this previously on Fashion Watch – big effing deal. What’s with the time suck?? He would be right. The transformation is at best interesting, but I didn’t exactly turn up in a long, purple weave and tattooed eyebrows.

Let’s cross over to my side. Again. Because this is about me. I know guys wonder, what the hell – heck – whatevs Biko – do you do in the salon, why does it take so long and why does it cost so much? Well. You know how when you go to a barber, one person drapes a towel over your shoulders, and sometimes it’s not the same one who flicks and Velcros you into that smock, right before the main act, the barber, turns up with all the requisite importance and another minion will wash – because men don’t get shampooed apparently – your head/hair/scalp?  It’s exactly the same thing, only women have more moving parts. Our army aka Glam Squad tend to a cross section of needs.

My hair for instance was done by 3 different people through various stages of tending, never at the same time. Once, on my epic 8 hour day, it involved a rotating line of 7 people. However, during overwhelm, serial saloning is sometimes transformed into a polyamorous affair. In such cases a woman is surrounded by a steadily working swarm – I mean team – from hair, brow, fingers to feet, all trying valiantly not to take too many breaks or too many calls. This is exactly why wee hour visits are such a treat. Tempers will rarely flare at 8am, mostly, the client’s temper, specifically, my temper. Also, not all salon hissy fits – other people’s and mine – are created equal. It depends on fixability, time and hunger levels of all the parties involved. Yet another reason men sense intuitively that women need to go away to the salon, just so that they can come back. Mellowed. Primed. Preened. An unhappy salon service has a vicious ripple effect. For salon owners, keeping clients calm and fluffed ranks right up there with world peace, one strand at a time.

Big Bro didn’t give a rat’s bum (Biko, can I say ass? Bum is so Disney), but, Rose and I tried out a new colour, prior to my visit I had to WhatsApp 3 different photos, each with 3 different angles showing her exactly what I wanted and which specific shade of Marley braid I needed. When I arrived these plans had to be reestablished and confirmed. You can’t just take it for granted. I could have had a dream. So could she but since it’s my head my dream trumps her dream even if it was the same dream. I had to undo my previous do, condition my hair to detangle it, shampoo to clear off product residue, colour, shampoo post colour, detangle post colour, condition, moisturise and finger comb for braiding, braid, then Rose swoops in with her final touch. No babies cried in the making of this hair. Because Big Bro was waiting, I skipped the whole nailing it affair.  And so I arrived, my African scalp savouring the cool, caressing fingertips of the wind running it’s gentle hand through my tangle-free kinky red hair. The moral of the story: absolutely none. I do think however some pins might be coming unhinged and need a little push back in.

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    1. Yo! Cherono mami, what did we say about this first comments? And what they hell is numbari? Ebu go down there and write something about your hair! Btw do you have long curvy hair with the natural black look and that falls effortlessly over your back and that when blown by the wind looks like the one in the Miadi advert and in which case will cause me to overlook your comment? If yes marry me if no get your ass down there and comment something else 🙂

  1. Read up to where Biko says “Gentlemen, this week you might want to read something else, because this piece will fly over your scalp”. Now I am reading old texts (I had hoped to use this time to read Biko’s) as I wait for the gang’s comments to pile up then I come back and see what the hair thingie is all about 🙂

      1. You have described precisely how she writes. I guess it’s
        like the Classical Music of writing. It’s niche market swear by it.
        The rest of us just don’t appreciate it.

      2. Thank you. I love how she writes…beautifully vivid & smooth.
        Biko shouldn’t have asked for 2,000 words though. 800 words max would have worked for her style.
        That said, I love the camaraderie she has with the Big Bro. And she is right about Salon sessions having he feel of an expedition. 8 hrs? That is a killer for me.
        I do 2 hrs max. And I actually time how long I’m under the drier (I get nutty if its more than 20 mins).
        PS: Carol, loove the hair. Could channel my inner X-men with that kind of mane.

  2. I was always fascinated by CO’s hair I think it takes a special kind of person to pull it off from head to toe and she does!!

  3. Well i have not read this piece, truth be told… NIMEFIKA HAPA >>>> Gentlemen, this week you might want to read something else, because this piece will fly over your scalp. Looking forward to the next article.

  4. how could you let the lady dissuade you from posting ..lemme dress like a cross-dresser and read through the comments.

  5. it did fly over my scalp alright!, some where close to the outer space to be precise.Hope the guys aboard the ISS enjoy it!

  6. Biko started wellooooh, and it was flowing until he
    intro this hair stuff…. i read one line and
    then i could not continue, sorry honestly i could not.
    Some other time..

  7. “You can’t just take it for granted. I could have had a dream. So could she.” WOMEN ARE SO FUNNY.

    Hahaha!!! I just relived all of my salon days, as the odd guy out among a full room of women. This is legit, LOL.

  8. Hey carol, whenever i grab a sunday nation i make sure to read your column. I can only imagine the look your broh gave u

  9. Was this a masterpiece or something she came up with in a huff? like seriously she has red hair and that’s all she brought? I’m disappointed! please stick that pin on my voodoo heart help me explain this pain!

  10. Love the fiery red ‘hair ablaze’ look. Absolute stunner! But wow..meeting your brother on a ‘hair day’ is a no-no Carol. Hair days should just be that..a day given to the salon, and if you see there’s hope for finishing up on time, then you call your brother up..*two birds one stone*
    I guess most of us women love to spend time at the salon, not only to boost appearances, but as well it’s therapeutic..nothing screams bliss like having someone else’s fingers massage your scalp or wash your hair. I can’t stand ‘the-seven-people-on-the-head’ feel as each one tugs a braid in different directions resulting in sleepless nights the first few days as as you test the limits of pain you can handle while searching for a comfortable place to lay your head on the pillow. Of all the hair experiences I’ve had, I think stumbling onto a barber’s shop in Kuala Lumpur was hand’s down a winner. Not only do they trim the hair good, but they give a scalp massage that feels like light chops on the head, continue to massage the neck, shoulder and arms..absolutely out of this world if a lady prefers the bald look. 😉

  11. Now gentlemen, you should also learn how to fake it. Kurudisha mkono. The chics have been doing it for so long. Just say something like “that was refreshing”

  12. I find CO sassy, witty and suave and I watch Fashion Watch just to listen to what she has to say, her column too on Sunday Nation does not disappoint. I totally agree with her that nothing in the history of hair has ever taken only 30 minutes.

  13. I know how torturous a sharp pain on the insole of my left foot can be therefore I shall not troll Carol Odero Snr
    but methinks 8 hours in a salon is insane

  14. Ok let me pause…Breathe breath..does this article have commas? what did i just read…haki i cant finish its like am eating hair like tangles and tangles of hair..those ones that fall on a salon’s floor

    1. Another petitioner. And since today people are matching and chaining themselves to gates, Biko whats your address?


  15. Wueh!CO makes reading look like work.Biko refund us the time wasted by posting what you initially ought to have posted

  16. Not sure what this story is about, where it’s going and what the point is but nice photo! Love the fierce eyes… Until next time, I will make do with posts za kitambo

  17. People, this is a very good piece. CW just posted it to the wrong audience. Most me n can’t appreciate this article obviously, coz it doesn’t resonate with them ( and some women too)

  18. I almost thought i am the dumb one until someone commented the voodoo doll pierced her heart. This one pierced my english knowledge. Naona nirudie fee yangu kwa shule zote nilisomea hii English. Didn’t get a thing

  19. For those of us who read to the end and thinking we shouldbre-read to find the point.Well at the end she said’moral of the story: absolutely none…So yep,today there was no article for us.Biko I want to share my story

  20. The hair story… The writing style….Ouch! I got a migraine reading this. I have never read her articles and if this is how she do then clearly am not missing much.

  21. Got bored somewhere in the middle. I hope my hair affair does not bore people like this. I kind of expected this to be about reactions she has had about her hair, interesting guy she met who was attracted by her hair (if married, please scrap that bit off). Anyway, truth be told, i struggled to complete the read.

    Biko, maybe you should be having a back up copy of your own do whenever you are planning to post one of someone who might change their mind on Monday morning. You’re welcome.

  22. Biko, kindly understand, when most of us come here, we do it to read your style. Anything short and you get what you’re seeing up here. Please don’t repeat this!!! {insert angry emoticon}

  23. I loooove CO’s (look at that, made me feel like we could already have brunch lol)writing! It was sassy different free-flowing prose. Also the grammar is to die for! I’ll start reading your articles from now on. Go CO! *grins*

  24. Looking at the comments. Haha nasty spirits reign in here. Carol is getting slayed, and chopped to pieces. Biko, I doubt you read it to the end yourself…Man! Even the ladies are bored. And whining as I am

  25. Never have I ever tried in vain to persuade my brain that somewhere along this piece, there might be something worth reading.

  26. Maybe I’m the only gentleman who read through. Though I couldn’t grasp a thing about the subject matter, there’s something intriguing about the style…something that reminds me of Toni Morrison, especially her style in the novel ‘Paradise.’ To those who are dismissing this piece I’d say, like Toni, CO is for the serious reader. Hope I didn’t offend her hair!

    1. Please tell me you have read past the Foreward of that book coz the only similarity her writing has with that of ‘paradise’ is the Foreward and the numbering of points which also, only happens in the Foreward.

  27. if its about women and their hair………just count me out …..I knew I won’t get anything!but thanx u shared that man’s email we can always get in touch with him.

  28. At some point I thought I was the only one who found this hair business boring,(mayb cz I keep short hair n spend 300/- and 30mins at the barber) got lost in the 2nd paragraph n decided to read comments instead….Biko please give us something else worth capturing the minds of the intelligent Gang.

  29. I think CO should make movies or something. This reads like a gay salon scene in a bad chic flick … Biko kindly confirm articles before Tuesday!!!! No more excuses

  30. Ok…hush people…hush. What do you look for in life? I hate salons and have cut my hair in protest, but CO is an awesome writer. I loved it. You don’t have to be Biko yo-yos. Just because he said you might miss the point doesn’t mean you have to. Done.

  31. Are there people who read such? Biko surely, this is high school, not some PhD class where people invent words and shit. This is shit!

  32. Glad that Ken is progressing well. As for CO, the article was a bad hair day! I doubt that there was a connection with the gang. Once you start using an iPhone, it’s painful to go back to a Motorola C13. Biko, we forgive you on this one but should it happen again, then the small council shall punish you for treasonous tendencies. Check out the penal code on Game of Thrones.

  33. Biko si you’re still bald? How can you let someone write this many words about hair? What’s next.. pedicure tips? Feeling emasculated

  34. I literally hopped, skipped and jumped through the piece. I should have taken the advice to do something else. I hope you ladies enjoyed it though.

  35. Abdullah omar I saw what you did there.
    CO, your article was a little difficult to read but there were some good sections in there. I would definitely get tangled in your hair story again. Wesh, your long curvy haired girl never posted back. Maybe it’s your hair. (runs and hides)

  36. the super speed & complexity how her mind works along with multi tasking is reflected in her writing…interesting but hard to read

  37. Biko after that deep thoughtful blog last week about Ken, this one just feels superfluous and shallow, however you spell that word. I got bored after Amadiva Salon.

  38. The comments did what the article didnt i will keep reading her column on sunday nation though.please Biko take done’s advice and invite Baraza JM tuesday moja am sure the gang will appreciate.

  39. Biko, The GANG has spoken!!! We got tangled up in this hairy article and request that you get to work on another article FOR US, YOUR GANG! Yes, Chocolate man, yes?

  40. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz you lost me on article about hair….
    ***p.s you need a yahoo account to subscribe to blogs, register for Facebook, twitter and other social sites that fill your inbox with constant notifications you do not want to know about or read. Viva yahoo

  41. I love your writing Carol, and 30 minutes is never 30 minutes! I’ve taken 6 hours before.
    Two reasons why some didn’t get the flow of your writing,
    1. They are used to simple English, Biko (I didn’t say your English is bad), but let’s be honest, CO’s writing is so deep, its for people who READ!
    2. Its about hair, the men just switched off before reading it.

  42. Biko, yes we do spend time in the Salon…like that story should have been 7 words long! Why waste our precious time? Cant get the flow and I agree with CO- Moral of the story; none!

  43. Biko, who is that chatacter who says you want to fleece the public?

    Don’t they have even an iota of humanity ledt in them.

    You’ve touched Ken’s life and changed it for better. Take the opportunity to highlight more of such stories and believe you me, people will come out to help and make the world a better place. God bless you for blessing others.

  44. Lost track of the story at this point…Gentlemen, this week you might want to read something else, because this piece will fly over your scalp.

  45. Hehe I liked carol writing but it was too long. It ought
    to have been short. I had long hair for years now
    I just visit the barber.

  46. Carol is definitely smart, well spoken, interesting piece which is not meant for people from Muchatha, like me. I consulted my dictionary a couple of times. My only concern is the heavy use of vocabulary, which at times I felt was wrongly used, like the word polyamorous, but then again, mimi ni wa Murang’a. She definitely is well spoken though.

  47. I totally enjoyed this. Her writing is different from Biko’s (complex); I guess that’s why Le Gang is complaining so much. I found the piece witty and random, no different from my thoughts.
    Good job Carol. Here is a toast to coloured hair- (mine is gold)- and keeping people waiting or even cancelling while at the salon.

  48. I don’t think the piece is bad.
    I think Chocolate man just has us hooked on his unique stylistic penmanship.
    We expected whisky but got brandy.
    Msitete sana.

  49. all i can say is it is never boring in here. if the article is boring the gang will make it worth while. enjoyed the comments and was laughing off my seat!
    Biko abeg! dont do this to us again

  50. Confession; I have never liked CO on the show or rather given much attention to her on the show. But after reading this, she can have all my attention all she wants! I love the piece, it’s beautifully written. Plus I totally relate. A date planned on salon date ends up in the list of ‘Things to postpone’.

  51. I jumped off a cliff when reading this. I strangled myself with her kinky hair, and still I did not understand why she was all over the place 🙁 I get that it’s her writing style but I didn’t enjoy this. Maybe it’s me, I don’t know.

  52. I was eagerly waiting for Carol’s response on that blouse that Ian wore…lol Also gave up after the 8hr thingy, doesn’t make sense to me at all! Wish she could have indulged you on why Ian chose that outfit, now that would have been juicy!

  53. Weekly like the watering hole we come here to crack some ribs, add flavour to to the week. Id rather your quibs on weaves (angle gabs God n nija weaves). I think this is Ethiopia (medical conference)

  54. I tried being patient with Carol’s writing style but I gave up. Writing is not about big words but having the reader’s mindset. My two cents. sorry!

  55. CO, please don’t make a voodoo doll of me, the headache i got after reading the article was punishment enough. I love CO Snr(the hair) but not a 2000 word article about her. One that does not seem to head anywhere. I don’t read for the moral of the story, i just want to get the story. And anyone stating that the English was too complex for some to understand, it was not.But the long winded tale that had me running in circles was “complex”. Nice introduction to the piece though. Am making a voodoo doll of you, just in case. Disappointed.

  56. Kama sikusoma set book, hii nitadecode aje?
    ” drippy
    finest in the incandescently deadening
    fluorescent lighting does not look at herself
    in the mirror, is she still flawless? That’s why
    staring at my straw-copper hair under said
    lighting I thought, “Damn I’m hot,” – said no
    one ever. “

  57. I read it to the end. I liked
    it, especially the way the article was all over the place. The image is awesome too. Thank you for your 2,000 words Carol. If you had a blog, I would follow it.

    And ha! hadn’t thought about it that way, 8 hours in the salon equals 1 trip from Nairobi to Kisumu. Lol.

  58. I started being the new blog reader, where I come in late to articles and just binge-read them. And I’ve been loving it, because sometimes the anticipation, waiting from week to week, is too much. This one here though, almost put an end to my binge-reading career.

  59. I thought i was the only one who gave up along the way. Maybe fashion is not my thing as much as i try to dress up.

    I only enjoy life and people read.