How My Barber Became My Best Friend — Tejiro and Emmanuel
My Bro is a biweekly Zikoko series that interrogates and celebrates male friendships of different forms.
They met eight years ago, when Emmanuel started cutting Tejiro’s hair. In this episode of #ZikokoMyBro, these two besties talk about the relationship secret that started their friendship, navigating a significant difference in wealth and influencing each other to be better.
Our origin story
Tejiro: We met in 2015, when I’d just moved back to Port Harcourt after my masters in the UK. I was looking for a barber that’d treasure my hairline, so my girlfriend at the time brought me to your salon. But I wasn’t the only guy she was bringing there sha.
Emmanuel: This guy. Are we starting our story like this?
Tejiro: Is it your heart they broke? Anyway, I sat in the salon for a while, watching you and the other barbers cut people’s hair. By the time you guys were done, I decided you were the least likely to fuck up my hair.
Emmanuel: I didn’t notice you until you asked if you could sit in my chair.
Tejiro: I remember you smelt really nice, not like aftershave or powder, but like this quality big boy scent. I really liked it. You were also acting all serious, like the hair you were cutting was further maths.
Emmanuel: Why do you think I’m the best at what I do? Cutting hair is like painting for me.
Tejiro: Come on, Picasso. Abi, are you Leonardo Da Vinci? Guy, abeg.
Emmanuel: I noticed you were restless that day. And I wished I had a biscuit to give you so you could calm down.
Planting the seed of our friendship
Tejiro: I was one of your regulars for almost a year before we had any serious conversation. I’d text you to see if you were in the salon. I’d come in, cut my hair and bounce. Nothing serious. At least, not until you told me my girlfriend was cheating on me.
Emmanuel: I knew your girlfriend before I knew you, and even before she brought you, she’d been bringing other guys to the salon. I didn’t think anything of it because I never got to know any of them. I also didn’t know the arrangement you guys had. But the gist about her, you and the other guys became a joke among the barbers, and even though it was a risk, I felt like I needed to ask you. I just had to be strategic about it.
The week before I told you, I made small talk with you about work and life before I was like, “Where is madam? Shey, we’re coming for wedding soon?” or something like that, and that’s when you just went into the whole gist about how she’s so special to you, blah blah blah.
It was like I’d given you the space to gush about your woman, and you didn’t want to stop.
Tejiro: I was down bad for love, bro.
Emmanuel: That’s when I decided to tell you what was happening. I could tell you really liked her, and it was unfair that you’d become a joke among my co-workers. What’s the worst that could happen? You’d say you knew and stop cutting your hair with me? No wahala.
So the next time you came, I asked to see you when you were leaving and told you everything I knew.
Tejiro: I didn’t want to believe it initially, but I had my suspicions. The weirdest thing is it wasn’t the cheating part for me. It was everybody knowing. It made me feel like a fool.
I considered changing salons after we broke up. I was too ashamed to come back. But I wasn’t going to allow a woman fuck up my life and then my hairline. You were my barber, and I’d rather cheat on a girl than a barber that understands my hair.
Emmanuel: LOL. I hope all the girls you meet next read this and understand that you’re trash.
Navigating our different backgrounds
Tejiro: One of the most significant issues for us when we got to know each other was our different upbringings.
Emmanuel: That part. You were this ajebo who was used to getting what he wanted, and I’d hustled my way on the streets of PH to get to where I was at the time. We saw life differently. You were always inviting me to the club and places I’d spend money unnecessarily, and I was like, “This one no know say I no get mama and papa with millions for their account.”
Tejiro: So, the break up pushed me to a crazy lifestyle. I also felt this need to prove to you (as the person who broke the news to me) that I was handling it well. But I wasn’t. I was a mess.
Emmanuel: I’d been there before, so I had a feeling you were avoiding your feelings. But outside of that, your clique treated me like shit, and I didn’t find it funny.
Tejiro: Some of my friends at the time were assholes. They wondered how I was friends with the guy who cut my hair. To them, it was like being friends with your driver. I won’t lie; I started to look at it weirdly at some point too. But it came up in a conversation between my mum and me once, and she shut it down.
Emmanuel: I trust Mrs N. No time for rubbish. We became closer after you stopped hanging out with most of those guys and took time to get over your breakup.
You were trying to pretend like money wasn’t a factor in our friendship, but it is, and that’s normal. I can’t travel for summer like you, and I’ve accepted that there are things we can’t experience or do together (for now) because of money.
Tejiro: I’d never had a friend outside of my social class, so it was somehow. Plus, I don’t like addressing issues. I tried to pay for stuff most of the time, but your shoulder pad is too high. I respect that, though.
Emmanuel: Guy, abeg, you can’t pay for everything we do or get. You can pay for shawarma and bottles once in a while, but it’s okay to do something alone or with other people, if I can’t afford it. Shebi, we’re doing Ghana this December? That one I can do.
Pushing each other to be better
Tejiro: Where do I even start when it comes to how you’ve come through for me?
Emmanuel: I know mine. You pushed me to open my own salon. I always wanted to do it, but I second-guessed myself a lot and feared failure.
Tejiro: Look at you today with three branches. You should name one after me, out of gratitude and all. It’s just a suggestion.
Emmanuel: Get out! But seriously, these salons happened because of our different backgrounds.
Tejiro: I don’t get.
Emmanuel: Because I don’t come from a lot, I tend to limit myself, so I don’t lose the little I have. I make plans and dream, but something in my head always tells me to be “realistic”. But you? Bro, the way you make plans? You have the luxury to dream big because you have something to fall back on. Even though I don’t have that luxury, I needed some of that blind faith from you.
I don’t think I’d be this successful if you didn’t push me to jump.
Tejiro: You keep me grounded and make sure I’m not overdoing things, so I guess we’re in a “Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch your back situation.”
What I wish I could change about you
Emmanuel: Please, stop being restless, or channel it into something that challenges you. You could do a lot of cool stuff, but it’s hard to focus because you’re trying to do too many at once.
Tejiro: It’s hard, but I’m working on it.
I want you to rate yourself more. You’re the baddest at what you do, but you need some oud de confidence. Move with the energy of someone who’s a rockstar.
I want you to know
Tejiro: Outside of saving me from a shitty relationship, I want you to know you’ve changed my life in ways I could never imagine. Most of the friends I had before you were either too scared to tell me the truth when I did something wrong or just as oblivious as I was about life. You’re not like that. You’ll tell me I’m messing up even when I don’t want to hear it.
I’m grateful to know you and glad our friendship has lasted this long. I’m also happy I get free haircuts now because what’s the point of my best friend being my barber?
Emmanuel: You’ll soon start paying again.
I’m happy I know you. I’m happy your family has been warm and kind to me. And I’m excited to be that friend who’s rooting for you while you do cool stuff.
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