Mbaba ni Wewe!

Why would anyone call me a mbaba? It totally beats me. Is it because I’m tall? Or because I’m an adult? Maybe it’s because I have a beard or do I look old? According to me, mbaba is an old man, especially one that you don’t know. I’m not old yet. I’m barely in my mid-twenties. The word mbaba can roughly be translated to ‘a father.’ I know you can be a father even at the tender age of thirteen but with all due respect and fairness, I haven’t sired anyone yet. At least none that I know about.

When I was a small kid, any man dressed in a pair of cotton material trousers coupled with a beard or moustache and/or a big tummy was a mbaba. In fact, we used to call those trousers ”long’i ya wababa.” My younger brother and I did not like them. We would refuse to wear them except on certain Sundays while going to church. They were detestable. They belonged to old men. We prefered jeans or corduroy.

With that in mind, I fail to understand why I would be viewed as a mbaba yet I rarely wear cotton trousers, I shave my beard fortnightly, I have a flat tummy, I don’t have a balding head, I don’t have clearly visible grey hair, I am young and I definitely don’t have kids. I’m not even married yet.

If a girl has an affair with a man who is way older than her, especially a married one, it is usually said that she is going out with a mbaba. I therefore find that title disapproving and offensive when used to refer to me. I also don’t like being called ”mĂșthuri”, the Kikuyu version of mbaba, although it’s considered respectable.

I was recently walking on the streets when I came across small boys playing football. When a ball randomly comes rolling your way, you instantly become a Cristiano Ronaldo. Your instincts instruct you to kick, juggle or do some footwork tricks with the ball even if it came from strangers. So I kicked the ball back and continued walking. Then I heard one of the boys saying, ”Huyo mbaba ndio ameigonga.” I just sighed and said in my head, ”Mbaba ni wewe!”


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