FAKE LIFE

Nairobi's facade of glitzy life falling away

We are constantly trying to impress people we don't know, worse still who don't care.

In Summary
  • Circus monkeys, performing for praise, affection and relevance.
  • Only at the end of the show, instead of a standing ovation, it’s tears, debt, depression and, in some cases, death by suicide.

My father (RIP) used to say if you can make it in Nairobi, you can make it anywhere. He was referring to making an honest living. I want to add if you can stay sane and true to yourself in Nairobi, you are a rare breed.

In Nairobi, nights are long and friends are hyenas. The city where we constantly perform, seek relevance and compete. Everyone wants to be the one. The one with the latest car, best house, the most money, biggest behind, most expensive drink, never mind that you cannot even pronounce it. The competition is so bad you cannot even tell someone something before they hit you with, “I knew about it yesterday!”

This is Nairobi, where you ask someone how they are and they immediately tell you that they just moved into a townhouse on Kindaruma Rd and that their Mercedes is at the car wash but he is standing at the bar like he is lost because he cannot afford to buy a drink.

 

We are constantly on high alert, looking out for the next best thing, next best bar, trying to impress people we do not know, worse still who do not care. I had thought this was something we would have left in high school. I am 41 and I see so many of us still stuck in the performance stage.

Circus monkeys, performing for praise, affection and relevance. Only at the end of the show, instead of a standing ovation, tears, debt, depression and unfortunately, in some cases, death by suicide.

A gentleman walked into a drinking establishment one afternoon and ordered whiskey and cognac (bottles, not tots my friend) for friends and foes. He easily spent Sh30,000. When it was time to pay, he unleashed a gold credit card. The men clapped and laughed at his stale jokes.

The ladies seated next to him endured his bad breath. The waiters and managers jumped every time he bellowed. People said he was a “kind” man. “He is rich,” another said, “he always throws raos!”

Circus monkeys, performing for praise, affection and relevance. Only at the end of the show, instead of a standing ovation, it’s tears, debt, depression and, in some cases, death by suicide

A brother said something to me the other day, “If you are wealthy, your circle will be rich (not just monetary rich). You can’t be a rich man and you hang around bars buying broke (I know you want to get offended) people drinks. There is something wrong with that equation.”

They say if you hang out with five fools, you are the sixth. So I see where he is coming from.

Addicted to the applause and the false sense of importance, he showed up day after day and paid with his credit card and now he is paying for that alcohol with his life. The interest keeps piling. The stage keeps calling, it is a greedy master. The card, he keeps swiping. The hyenas they keep laughing. He thinks it is acceptance. He smiles, the kind of smile you plaster on your face when you knock your kneecap in public but pretend it does not hurt.

The need for acceptance and applause is felt by women too. We want to make it because we want people to envy us so we lie that we are happily married. No sentence goes by without, “My hubby did this” but neglect to mention you paid for it. Or “If you were a married woman like me you would relate”. Meanwhile, she is married to Mike Tyson’s apprentice. We must be seen in the right bar, next to the correct people and drinking THE drink. Hair must be so so, never mind that we have a balance of Sh30,000 on the weave and we are playing hide and seek with the lady who sold us the Sh20,000 handbag. We look good, that is all that matters.

Sadly, everything has a shelf life. Many were managing the facade until Covid-19. Things are getting real now. There are a few horses still struggling to kick, but the signs are all over. It would be a shame if we would survive this pandemic to come out on the other side the same. Let us be better friends. We are adults. You cannot let a friend spend the equivalent of a mortgage payment in a weekend when you know he is renting. I know people who have money cannot be advised. State your stand and remove yourself from that fiasco if they choose to continue.

Then let us just be ourselves yawa. You were not put in this life for anyone, why do you want to kill yourself for people who do not even care about you?

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