The evolution of the (Nairobian) female drunkard
Alcohol consumption among women in urban places in Kenya has come full circle. Gone are the days when women mostly subscribed to soda and coffee in the up-market restaurants. Women who took hard liquor were generally considered spoilt, social misfits, and at worst loose. Gone are the days when women who insisted on hard liquor woke up in unfamiliar settings and awakening realization that they had been violated the previous night. Alcohol did more harm than good to their social lives, health and general societal perception.
Today in any given joint, you will find women having it from the brown bottle. Scarcely a decade ago, most women gave beer a wide berth. Beer was bitter and sour. It tasted awful for the first timers and almost invariably made many throw up. The taste of beer was sufficient to draw a monstrous grin on their faces. They always went for something sweeter and with low alcohol content.
But in a decade or so, women have undergone a tremendous transformation. So much for the freedom, economic empowerment, the demanding urban lifestyle and the free will that has become a part and parcel of individuals in this millennium.
Any casual observer might have observed that it has taken four phases for women to fully opt for beer and other hard stuff.
1. Era of coffee and soft drinks
Long time ago, or 2000 if you like, women liked it in Dorman’s and the Javas of this Nairobi. Coffee was the in-thing for the urbanites. It was an era where many women were ladies in the Victorian sense. Dates were equivalent to coffee in the overpriced cafes in town. If women went partying, majority opted for soda and other drinks non-alcoholic drinks. Those liberated enough opted for something sweeter, if it had to be alcohol.
2. Era of softer-alcohol drinks
Let us go into olden times, or 2002-03 and thereabouts. Alcohol manufacturers on realizing the newly financially empowered woman, decided to increase the supply of alcohol drinks that were female-friendly. With good marketing and the selling of the idea that alcohol-intake is the only way of cooling off on a Friday night, women discovered that the manufacturers had their best interest at heart. Canned Reds and sweeter brands were all the rage. Young college women breathing the air of new freedom after emancipation from tighter grip of parents for the first time took to these brands with an unprecedented alacrity. Nairobi was just about to usher in an era of unbridled alcohol consumption that broke any sexual or age-related barriers imposed by the society.
3. Era of expensive liquor
In the period leading to the 2005 national referendum on constitution, expensive rum became the only thing worth drinking. The low-alcohol drinks were left for starters and other equally naïve women. Fashionable, working class women took to Amarula and other expensive brands courtesy of their pockets or men who took them out. The price of one such drink could afford a round of drinks for the boys at the table.
Expensive liquor defined style and class. They carried home the drinks from the supermarket. At the poshier joints, these brands were clearly advertised by huge posters that made those drinking something else look not only bad but completely out of place. Cheap and uncivilized. Expensive liquor was the mark of independence.
Those who could not afford made sure that the men who took them out forked out all their money to feed their sporadic epicurean tastes. Funny enough, if a man’s pocket was not deep enough, they could take anything that he could afford. As I have observed many women’s tastes are purely dependent on the depth of the pocket of the man footing the bill. They can eat and drinking anything from chips-chicken to pizza, or cheap alcohol to expensive wines. The creed is, ‘show me the depth of your pocket and I will show you my knowledge of various tastes’.
4. Era of Beer.
There is something surreal, exciting almost unbelievable about a woman drinking it from the brown bottle. It is the ultimate mark of independence. And defiance. A perfect insult at masculinity. It is coldly threatening at the glimpse it opens into the future.
After the expensive liquors, women decided to let go their guard, and asked for beer. At first they grinned. They mixed beer and soda, to neutralize the ‘appalling’ taste. Before we could say ‘wait!’ they abandoned that childhood stunt of mixing the two and instead chose the undulated beer.
Somehow they found it refreshing. Men have become less forgiving. And at home having their Tusker, as she gulps her GK (Guinness Kubwa.)