Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Faces of the City

One of those hella long days that suck the soul out of you. I am leaning on a family bank ATM door somewhere along Tom Mboya Street. No one goes in or out of the ATM for a while and so I don’t have to move. There’s too much activity around. Concodis shouting themselves hoarse, hawkers sprawling everywhere, young exuberant Nairobians trotting home from work or school or wherever they spent their day, beggars making the best of the rush hour traffic. I notice all these, but I also don’t. 

I was waiting for Mathree, two came and went but I never boarded because I loathe pushing and grabbing just to secure a seat – too much work. I also don’t want to queue because Kenyans voted and agreed queues suck bigtime. If you wait long enough the crowd always recedes before it builds up again and that’s how you secure a seat without breaking a sweat.  

I momentarily became oblivious as my mind wandered off to Shangri-La sorta places. Then I slowly fell into the realisation that I was staring at a particular face. It was a young woman in what I’d imagine was her mid-twenties. She was standing to my left, sturdily putting her weight against a power pole behind her. I should have been staring at her for an embarrassing amount of time. I didn’t care though – it was unintentional. I feigned a smile just to brush off the awkwardness. It was another one of those make-up faces. Now, was she offended? Was she amused? Hard to figure out as her face remained emotionless. She didn’t look away; she kept staring back as if she were studying the contours on my face, or communicating a secret NASA message by blinking occasionally, or almost the I-know-you stare, it got uncomfortable. I wanted to look away, or to tell her to stop. I also wanted to touch her face with my fingertips; to see how deep the make-up ran. I wanted to rub her eyebrows off and see if they’d come off. I wanted many things.

Sitting by the window in this loud city bus cruising at ungodly speeds along Thika Super Highway, other than say little silent prayers every time I heard an engine rumble signifying more acceleration, I couldn’t help imagine what I would say to her. Not that I wanted to but what would I actually say if my knee-jerk reaction was to make conversation? Hey, can I touch your face? Nice to meet you and your face? I swear I wasn’t staring at your face? Nice face? Is it actually legal to tell someone nice face? Like nice face buddy? I don’t know but sounds like something a face collector would say! But then my chest stiffened with certainty. I had the answer. I knew I wouldn’t ask anything because I am painfully awful with first impressions. I remember the first time I met someone that made my heart happily skip a beat. The context doesn’t matter but whatever I was doing I reversed and stepped right on her about three well-manicured small toes with my then newly-bought Timberland boots (Oh the swag days!). 

“Sorry”, I said. 

“Ouch, ouch, OUCH!”

“Aki pole”, I said again after realising I was still stepping on her despite saying sorry. 

“Nice sandals”, I added for no apparent reason.

“Kwenda uko!” she looked down, “Aki umenitoa nyama”. She exaggerated it of course.

I didn’t say much afterwards because I would be making it worse.

See bad with first impressions.

I am starting to wonder whether I am still writing about faces of the city. Let’s go back to that.

Now, Dames en heren, this write is because I have seen my fair share of incongruous faces in this town. I beg to ask what did make up do to us?

See that chic I was staring at earlier on? Let’s name her Anastacia. Her make-up was terrible.
I wonder where Anastacia thinks her beauty comes from. Does she find it in the little brushes of the kickass red lipstick she uses? In the Bobby Brown skin foundation tube? In her Kabuki eyebrow drawing kit that she bought from Jumia? Will she feel more beautiful if she buys eyelashes and shaves off her natural ones? I don’t think she used eyeliner though. As to whether that made her less beautiful perhaps I should see her use eyeliner. Are they all important to her? Does she really need them?

Before I get crucified, I know make up is a lady’s armour. Figuratively and well just figuratively. 

*Right about this point I realise it’s hard to write about make up. Where thou art Ivy. I should’ve consulted you*. 

Actually I would have wrapped this article there and mouse-dragged it to the incomplete box but hey man, my mom never raised a defeatist!

Anastacia’s face is the millionth face I might be seeing in Nairobi and for the umpteenth time another disappointing female face. Now here is the deal dudettes and niggarettes, if you are going to wear make-up please do it right. I don’t go out of my way to try and find mistakes in people's faces but if you have shaved your brows and drawn Nike ticks above the eye I will definitely see that and frown at it. If your lipstick doesn’t complement your skin tone the way Ovacado does rice then priss leave the poor colours alone. If your eyelashes are okay just let them be, and why do you need fake lashes? Like why in the world? But what do I know about those anyway, I am a dude. And then this foundation thing, well I don’t know much but please don’t paint yourself into different shades. Pink cheeks on black skin? Nope that more like using sauce on chapati, both are awesome but not a good combination.

That is about the much I know about make up but trust me the faces in this city tell it all. You can almost point out who bought their first kit last month with their first salary.

Maybe is should have said something about dudes that pimp their faces and that are not Larry Madowo or Nick Mutuma who spend half their lives staring into cameras with cameramen staring back. Who bewitched you? The narrative of an African male as far as face make-up goes is at least Arimis and at most Vaseline. 

Anywho, have you ever thought that maybe our sparkle finds its way from greater depths than make-up? That our faces are puppets of the pure and authentic springs that lie within us? I want to think that girls shine not because of the alluring gloss on the lips or polished nails or glittering chains but rather because of virtue and strength of character founded on certainty of identity and generous batches of hope that life hands each one of them. 

So next time you stand before the mirror and make up a face for the world, work on the inside first. Work on the lips but find the smile first. Learn to draw the brows but gain sight of your depths first. See the foundation on the outside would mean more if the inner foundation of the girl is rock solid. And the red lipstick is lustrous much but what beats a warm charming heart of someone who knows their way? Nothing.

I bet if y’all did this and men kept their Arimis thing going, our faces would make more sense. Genuine smiles. Intentional stares. Likeable too. 

Likeable faces in the city.