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A younger and hungrier chap reporting for duty

Saturday August 3 2019

saturday nation

Mariga Thoithi takes over "Man Talk" from Jackson Biko. ILLUSTRATION | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MARIGA THOITHI
By MARIGA THOITHI
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Young, hot, committed to fronting the male voice and a ‘you-guy-my-guy’ kinda of man. Is this the man you have been waiting for? Meet Mariga Thoithi, the man himself.

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I thought I was ready to take over "Man Talk", but nothing prepares you to be the successor to the King — the master of long-form and the evoker of all emotions — even the ones you didn’t think existed. Petrified is the right word for what I feel.

I feel like Oyunga Pala was the James Bond’s Sean Connery and Biko was Pierce Brosnan, and I’m the unworthy Daniel Craig — waddling around hoping to get to the end, trying to undo decades of hard work, one bad film (article) at a time.

I made the terrible decision to go online and look at people’s reactions to Biko’s departure and I was troubled. There was an outpouring of sadness and particularly pity for whoever would take over from him.

I (sneakily) joined in pitying that person online because I still do. Its performance anxiety. Will I be big enough and last long enough to see my audience happy?

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MANHOOD

People were talking about how he had defined their last decade and I couldn’t even remember where I was or who I was five years ago, much less 10. Enough with the self-doubt.

Scratch that. Ten or so years back, my mother got me to some vague event somewhere in Westlands. Her friend was studying for her master’s thesis and wanted young men to talk to.

In all honesty, I went for the food and the girls. There were no girls, so I compensated with the food. A guest speaker came to speak to us about manhood.

I was at the point in my life where I still wanted to be a lawyer because I still thought that the legal profession defined intellectual status. That is until this view was demystified on social media.

MEN'S ISSUES

The speaker was none other than Oyunga Pala. I don’t think he even remembers that day and I’d forgotten about it until I tried to think back to why I started talking about men’s matters.

So, maybe the universe set this up 10 years ago while I was busy eating. Maybe that’s why there were no girls.

Fast-forward to two years ago when I started a hashtag on Twitter, #MasculinityKE. I was bored and I held strong opinions, so I thought why not?

I started sharing my life experiences as a young man. People joined in. They shared their intimate stories anonymously. I had waded into deep waters.

I was talking to men about their wives and girlfriends (usually both). What keeps them up at night? When is the last time they cried? I got attached to their pain.

DATING RULE

That’s until the fire started. It was explosive! I gave my strong opinion on the issue of girls and drinks. You know that expectation that a man should pick the tab, for whatever drink is ordered, and for whomever the date decides to bring along?

In this instance, I had decided to walk away, rather than pick the tab.

Boom. Men gave their experiences. Memes started doing the rounds and a Twitter fight erupted. The backlash was intense.

I was blocked, abused and I got an honourable mention through a whole article by Njoki Chege. I went offline for a few days then sneaked back quietly. With no opinion and mostly scarred.

I also realised that I had touched a nerve and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I had given men a voice.

This is an interesting place to be. In my day job, I am a technical writer. This space requires storytelling. It’s an odd place to be.

READY FOR ACTION

You know, this single late-20-something-year-old Mariga who uses NGO speak for work and the You-Guy-My-Guy lingua for the mtaa.

I am that guy who thinks he can be funny, and ha-ha-ha funny when he has money.

This is one interesting move from talking at people to talking to people. I love it. I’m terrified but I’m excited. I want to talk about the things no one wants to talk about and having fun while at it.

It’s the perfect new challenge. A bigger platform for more men to be heard and a chance to get out of my comfort zone, to grow literarily, artistically and maybe even financially.

The next few months will be rough. I will figure this out at some point. Let’s create "Man Talk" together.

So, what I have been trying to say is welcome to Mariga Thoithi’s world. Welcome to the Third Reich.

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