Dating is still a thing

Dating. Bleh. It’s not my favorite topic. So when The Black Expat asked me to write something about my dating experiences in the Netherlands, I tried to get out of it. I’d rather write about almost anything else. Well, as long as it’s a less personal topic. And preferably related to something I’m doing less wrong.

My primary defense against this proposed dating piece: I don’t have anything to write about.

My inconsistent participation in the dating game wasn’t even interesting to me – much less the jet-setting readers of The Black Expat.

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The compromise: go on three more dates, write about something, and stop being so whiny.

So I picked up the Tinder (again). Had a revelation or a few. And I wrote about one of them.

“On a deeper level, I want to be understood without explanation. On a first date, I don’t want to explain why it’s difficult to trace my ancestry beyond the United States. He could be a stranger, but he needs to understand that Prince is, and will always be the dopest. He should never question why I do or don’t feel comfortable in certain spaces or around certain people. On a shallower level, I’m attracted to brown skin, thick lips and coarse hair…”

Read Dating without Compromise over at The Black Expat.

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Back to the subject of dating

I can’t even pretend to be an expert on this subject.  As many of you know, I didn’t have much luck dating in New York.  And in searching for who is ideally the black man of my dreams, I left Oakland and Brooklyn for Amsterdam.  Not necessarily the decision of an expert, or a logical person for that matter, if we’re making these types of judgments.  But whatever.  Here I am.  A single, black woman living in Amsterdam.  Figuring things out as I go – mainly what I’m looking for, and if anyone is looking for me.

First let me be clear that I don’t plan to turn this into a dating blog.  I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of broadcasting the details of what could be a genuine source of anxiety or unhappiness for me.  I can deal with the conversation only if we’re talking in hypotheticals and theory.  Then it’s totally fine.

Going back a bit, when I decided to leave New York, it was for a number of reasons.  It wasn’t where I could see myself long-term, only partially because I didn’t feel like I had a potential partnership there.  A loner in Brooklyn would remain so.  Amsterdam was likely a place where I could be, at least for some kind of term, regardless of whether or not the life partner question was answered.  I figured if I’m going to be alone, I may as well be alone in a dope city while I figure everything else out.  Hell yeah.  And I would make the same decision in every lifetime I had to.

Rising above being single, while living and loving the life I created, was the plan.  Easier intended than done.  It’s impossible to place it completely out of mind.  Once I figured out how to open a bank account and where my classes were located, I was thinking, “where are the cute boys?”  There was no way I was going to be here for all of this time and not date at all.  Oh my goodness, I hope not.  So assuming I was looking for someone in the range of cuteness…where might he be located?

I asked around quite a bit.  In the beginning I was pretty clear about my preference for black men.  In addition to education and sense of humor, blackness has always been on my list.  This has social, political, personal, and shallow reasons behind it – all of which are another subject.  So most people referred me to de Bijlmer.  “If he’s black, he probably lives in de Bijlmer.”

If only it could be as simple as a short ride on the metro.  In addition to mapping the location of potentially cute boys, I’ve gotten plenty of opinions on the plight of the single foreigner in Amsterdam – and a disturbing plight it is.  “Dating in Amsterdam? Hmph!”  Straight women and gay men seem to agree that the process of courtship is passive at best, seeming to lack the fun part.  As I mentioned recently, men don’t typically make a first move.  They may be receptive when approached.  But if you’re the type of person who prefers to be pursued, you may just want to think about moving.  Could it really be all Dutch men?  It can’t be true.  Trouble is…it kinda seems like it’s true.

So that means I need to work on stepping up my game.  Acting oblivious (one of my previous moves) clearly isn’t going to cut it in these circumstances.  But it’s still not so simple.  The question then becomes who is pursued?  The guy I want?  Or the guy who wants me?  Which brings me to another common response I get: “you’re looking for a black man? Well, good luck. [or, ha!]”

Initially I thought my unlikelihood of finding a black man in Amsterdam was simply due to poor odds.  White people are more common around here.  And the black men who are around are usually in relationships.  That would make sense.  And it seems to be somewhat true.  But a number of sources tell me that if I wanted a black man around here, I might just have to be a little whiter…or just white.  And if I want to be with someone who is attracted to me, I should consider a guy who is…well, white.  A few black men have expressed some sort of interest in me.  But for the most part, I don’t get so much as a glance in my direction.   Could that be true?  Is it possible that I’m not as attractive as I think I am? (Seinfeld reference, sorry.)

So a white guy?  It’s not my ideal scenario.  But, though it’s likely a surprise for many, I’m open to dating a man who isn’t black.  Life’s too short for me to hold onto that one.  And anyway, Dutch men are a pretty good-looking group, which eases the pain of being rejected by the black men.  So perhaps I should be practicing making flirty eyes with white men, and coming up with my opening line – probably something like, “soooo, how do feel about zwarte piet?”

Of course I’m not limited to white Dutch guys.  Amsterdam is an international city.  Anything can happen as long as attractive men are acquiring passports.  So I’m going to stay positive, blocking out the numerous voices of Amsterdam’s perpetually single.  I’ve been learning a lot from them.  But I don’t want to be in their damn club.

Black Girl Gone on Bad Dates (round 2)

There were just too many to list in the last post. So I saved some of the best (worst) for round 2. If you can’t decide whether or not you want to laugh or cry for me, I can relate.

5) Mr. Alcoholic

I met this one through work. My boss and I had a meeting with him and several members of his team. By the time we got back to our office, he had contacted my boss to find out about my “situation.” Pretty presumptuous about my relationship with my boss. But fortunately, he was excited for the gossip and encouraged me to consider the guy.

I wasn’t terribly attracted to him. But he was really smart, an enthusiastic mentor to a young boy, vegetarian, down for the cause, traveled a bunch, and had a good sense of humor. He checked off a number of things on the list. We hit it off pretty well right away. And as I added him to my phone, I commented that I knew someone else with his exact name, so I would have to enter his full name when saving his number.

On the second date, I noticed he threw back 3 or 4 drinks without a flinch, and without seeming drunk. Strange. But not a deal-breaker.

Following that date we played a bit of phone tag. But we were definitely going to hang out again. Before that could happen, he sent me a series of text messages one night from a work event he was attending. It was a fancy sounding event, with an auction and (apparently) lots of alcohol. His texts became less and less coherent through the course of the evening. But the gist was that he had won an auction for me: a reflexology foot massage.

How nice! This guy was a keeper. With various typos, he continued, commenting that he was told reflexology would be painful. I responded with something like, “I’ve had it done before and it wasn’t painful. In fact, I really enjoyed it.” Two completely incomprehensible texts followed.

About 10 minutes later, he was calling my phone. I need you to do me a favor and imagine the most exaggerated and comical drunk person speak – slurred and draggy speech and all: “I caaaannnn’t eevvuun beleeevve whuut yuuurr sssssayun ta me right nuh.” He went on and on. But I’ll spare you the exact quotes. The sum of it was that he really liked me. But he was furious that I was sending dirty text messages to him that must have been intended for the other guy who has the same name. How dare I?  He all but called me a skanky whore.  The last thing I said to him that night: “I know you think you know what you’re saying right now. But you’re really going to regret this conversation in the morning.”

Dude was so drunk that he had forgotten that we were talking about reflexology, and remembered nothing about the content of his earlier messages.  Since he had no clue what I was talking about, he assumed the other guy must have known what I was referring to when I said “it didn’t hurt” and “I really enjoyed it.”  Drunk. Angry. Freak.

He apologized the next day. But I just didn’t have the energy to help him work out those issues.

6) Mr. Porn

Okay. I’ll admit that I didn’t think this one and I had a future. We met when I was buying screens for my pipe from his friend (that context sets the stage). He was cute and I had nothing to lose. So I gave him my number. When we went out, he was a level nine on the flirt scale. And again, I had nothing to lose. So I went out with him again. But this time we didn’t so much go out – we went to my apartment.

I was getting plenty of signs that this guy was nuts. And broke. And inconsiderate. But I didn’t have enough information to really judge him on. A few “dates” (and a face hickey) later, I decided to try him out in public again. He picked a thai place. Conversation was decent at best. Topics like his search for an apartment without rats and his frequent appreciation of porn were covered.  And as expected, we split the bill. I paid with my card. He handed me a wad of bills.

Walking out of the restaurant, as if he had x-ray vision, he went straight for the trash can on the street. Diving his arm into a brown bag in the trash can, he pulled out a dvd case.  “Look! A porn!” He was so pleased, smiling and seeing such a bright future for himself. A small part of me was happy for him. The rest of me was horrified. “Are you seriously keeping that?”  To which he replied, “hell yeah!”  We got on separate trains and I never saw him again.

When I got home, I counted the wad of six $1 bills he handed me to pay for his $15 dinner.

7) Mr. Foole

Alright. This one is my favorite. I’ll be 75 and still telling this story. It’s a long one. So I’ll summarize.

I met him on the subway. He was carrying a cd he made a month or so earlier (it was dated), including a poem about me that was set to music. Apparently he had seen me before and hoped to see me again. I know what you’re thinking – but the poem really was about me.

I emailed him only to say “thank you,” telling him I had a boyfriend (lie). But after he lightly persisted for a month or two, I went out with him. And I had a good time. Oh, but wait, I should mention that the morning of our date, I ran into him on the train. But it was an unusual train for me and an unusual time.  Although it was around the same time of day, we were both far from the train where he saw me at least twice.  Something was strange about that. Anyway, on our date we talked about where we were from, our families, our jobs, lots of stuff. We had lots in common. I was definitely going to see him again.

A little while later, before we went out again, I received an email from my co-worker/friend saying, “I have gossip.” She forwarded a chain of emails she exchanged with a guy over the course of a day. She met him 9 months or so earlier at an event for my job. He had just returned from London and was excited to reconnect with her. His name was Xavier Poole. She didn’t remember Xavier. But he seemed cool, so she was letting it unfold. As I scrolled through the emails, I noticed he worked for the same organization as my guy. And he was also from Atlantic City. And he also lived in Brooklyn. And he also had a twin sister. Hm. That’s unusual. In one of his later emails, he signed “Michael,” as in Michael Poole. Did I mention my guy’s name was Michael Poole (please note I don’t give a damn about his anonymity)?

Okay, so she calls him on it. But Xavier is his middle name. He knows the other Michael Poole, but describes himself very differently. Different hair, different phone numbers, different heights, different neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Totally different guys!

My friend and I rode emotional roller coasters for a couple of days, hearing various stories told by our respective Pooles. Not knowing what to believe, with our whole office now involved, we called the main number for their organization, testing the phone directory.  Sure enough, there were two separate Michael Pooles. Now we were the fools. We laughed and laughed. And then we planned our double wedding to the Michael Pooles.

A few days later, we relayed the story to another friend, who is also a co-worker. She uncovered a hole in the story: there’s no way Xavier could have been at that work event where he claims to have met my friend – she knew the guest list. And doesn’t our job have photos and explanations of all of our events online?  Any person crazy enough to invent two identities to cheat on a woman he barely knows with a woman he likely never met (women who work for the same organization) is capable of going online to find photos of strangers and place himself at events he’s never attended.  It’s unlikely, but possible.

We called the phone chain again to ease our minds. But this time we went further.  Turns out one of the extensions was dead. There was only one working Michael Poole extension.  Now we could only go by the voice on the voicemail, which sounded exactly like my Michael Poole.  We compared it to the voice on Xavier’s personal voicemail.  It was pretty clear. There was only one Michael Poole.  Freaked the frig out, we watched our backs on our ways home that night.

Xavier was pissed and Michael was sad. But both of them were dumped.

People ask me why I’m still single?  I ask them why I’m still sane.

Black Girl Gone on Bad Dates (round 1)

I’m going to a good friend’s wedding this weekend. And now I have men (boys) on my mind, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. In fact, I’ve pretty much steered clear of them for over a year now. After my first two years of dating in New York, I figured it would be wisest to take a timeout.

Since I only have about three months left in the country, I seriously doubt I’ll be dating anymore in NY. But I thought it would be fun (sad) to reminisce about a few of my more interesting (tragic) dating experiences. More than once I’ve been told, “I’m pretty sure this is the type of thing that only happens to you.” And for every other woman’s sake, I hope that’s true.

1) Mr. Demanding

I met this guy during an event at an art gallery. He was attractive, pleasant, and seemed smart. So I threw caution to the wind and took him up on an offer to join him and a group of his friends at an after party. I had a good time. He even paid for my taxi home. And since we worked in the same neighborhood, I agreed to have lunch with him the following week.

After a decent falafel lunch, I thought I might actually have an opportunity with this one. Walking me back to my office, he wanted to make plans for the next date. For some reason I couldn’t make concrete plans at the time – maybe I was going to be away for a few days, or something. But less than an hour later I received an email trying to firm up the plans. Now although I don’t remember why I couldn’t make plans at the time, I do remember that an hour didn’t change the circumstances.

I ignored his email and his follow-up phone call. Later that night I made plans with him for a later date (maybe a week). During the course of the week, I received texts, emails and phone calls – all with the presumptuous tone of a boyfriend. It became uninteresting and stressful. His emails were constant. He was upset with me for not immediately returning his phone calls. He barely knew me, yet he wanted me to make a commitment to him. I canceled the second date before the week ended.

2) Mr. Privacy

Not too much to say about this one. He was married. But the reason he didn’t tell me right away: he didn’t talk much about his personal life.

3) Mr. Insult Meany Pants

This one was a set-up. I haven’t been on too many blind dates. But I’m pretty sure this was the worst. Before we met, we spoke on the phone. During the course of the conversation he told he was shocked that I had never met anyone with his name, since I was “afrocentric” and all. He made fun of me for having a car. And he made countless assumptions about me because I was described as being “natural.” He said, “oh, I have you all figured out.” There’s not much that I hate more than being put into a box and prejudged. And if he had actually figured me out, he would have known that I already hated him.

Against my better judgment, I still met him in person. We met in Brooklyn and I drove, agreeing to pick him up from some corner. As I looked for a parking space, he commented, “it’s probably going to be hard to find a spot since people like you all bring their cars from California.” Was that supposed to be funny?

Against my better judgment, I got out of the car with him. But since I hated him even more now (and also was not attracted to him), we didn’t have the greatest conversation. It continued. But it was forced. At one point I mentioned having a sister and remarked that we have the same sense of humor (she’s hilarious). To which he responded, “oh, you have a sense of humor?” Finally giving into my better judgment, I ended the date and we never contacted each other again.

4) Mr. Flask

This guy I liked. We went out a few times before I invited him to my place. We were going to watch something. So I was prepared with snacks. I told him to bring something to drink.

The tone was immediately established when he was upset with me for not having dinner made for him. “I thought you were going to have a big spread ready for me.” Now since I barely cook for myself, I’m not sure what gave him that impression. But he ended up combing through my fridge and cabinets to come up with some crazy plan for a veggie burger. And though he briefly stepped aside expecting me to make it for him, I made it clear that he was on his own with the project (I was too busy counting down the minutes for him to leave). After creating his veggie burger, he pulled out a flask and fixed himself a drink. Only after he sat down with his drink and burger in his hand did he motion to his drink and say, “oh, did you want some of this?”

Through the course of the evening he told me I didn’t know how to correctly take care of my cat, mistook a beautiful abstract painting of a heartbroken woman for Prince (we all know I love Prince – but I still don’t get that), and indicated he expected me to give him a ride home. In retrospect, I wonder if these were all jokes. He couldn’t possibly have been serious.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he made a brief reappearance recently. After a couple more dates, it ended after he told me a story (laughing) about his mother abandoning a cat in a parking lot because she thought it was ugly. Now I hate him and his mother.

 

There are a few more to get off my chest that fall in the category of worse.  I’ll save those for round 2.

 

Okay Alone

Being alone is not easy. I don’t know anyone who would tell you otherwise (other than maybe someone who has never been alone?). Perhaps some moments are more difficult than others. But in general, it’s just not easy. Yet in seven months I’ll be living in Amsterdam…alone. Although this would never frighten me, it would normally raise some flags of worry. Moving to a city where I know no one and where I don’t speak the national language is setting the stage for a pretty lonely situation.

First I should clarify what I mean by “alone.”  I’m not referring to a life of complete solitude. Family and friends matter a ton, and I have the benefit of both. Amazing friends and an incredibly loving and supportive (though small) family. Living in Brooklyn has even brought the benefit of living closer to family than I have in a long time. And that has certainly made a difference in my happiness factor. What I’m talking about when I say I’m “alone” is defined by the time of day when I get home and there’s no one looking forward to seeing me (my cat, of course – but no human), no one to ask about my day, no missed calls, and no one there to make things even slightly easier. That feeling actually lasts all day. Of course I enjoy socializing and doing whatever I want to do without having to check-in with anyone. But I can’t deny that it would be nice to know someone cared enough to ask me to check-in. And when extraordinary circumstances arise, like sickness, moving, or trips to the airport, being alone becomes most apparent and even hurtful. I love to travel and appreciate every opportunity I have to get on a plane to somewhere else. But when I drive myself to the airport, park in long term parking, and have only my car to greet me when I return, that’s just awful. I have actually returned home from really incredible vacations, picked up my luggage, taken the shuttle to the parking lot, and cried in my car before focusing on paying and driving myself home. Been gone for over a week, had a great time, dragging heavy bags to a dusty car, tears streaming down my face, and no one there to give a shit. That’s what I mean by being alone.

Being alone got old for me way back in 2003. And I’ve been fighting it, resisting it, and denying it ever since. So why in the world am I now embracing this potentially exponentially lonely situation without hesitation? Well, I think I finally get it. Or rather, I think I’m finally okay with it.

Not only have I recently stopped fighting the lonely bug by searching for a relationship, but I’ve actually felt just fine alone. I know, it sounds like I’ve been reading the self-help books about embracing the power within myself and rejecting the notions that happiness comes from external sources. And while that may be the case, it’s not really about any of that. It’s more about time and breathing. You know how sometimes you’re in a stressful or uncomfortable situation, whether it’s an interrogation by the FBI or some really serious stomach crunches, and you realize a few minutes into it you haven’t really been breathing? That’s essentially what I had been doing for the past few years. So anxious about solving this “problem” of being single and alone, never realizing I had been denying myself some basic, personal happiness…like air and peace of mind. After I had my heart broken (again) late last year, I decided to take a step out of the struggle and ignore the pains of being alone. It was an incredibly painful time that brought me to this, and I didn’t quite know what I was hoping for. And initially it was all talk: “I just want to be single for a while.”  I was mostly trying to convince myself that it actually was okay that I wasn’t in a relationship. And also trying to avoid the questions of who I was looking for, and how I was looking for him. And even worse, the looks of pity and dry statements of false encouragement, like “don’t worry – you’ll find someone.” I used to entertain these conversations. But now that I’m not trying to find someone, they just make me cringe.

So it took some time to grow into the role of being happy and single. And now, after that time has passed, I have actually stumbled into genuine peace of mind.  I no longer catch myself counting rings on fingers on the subway (am I the only one who does that?). I don’t want to talk or think about boys all the time – though I’m happy to talk about the ones in my friends’ lives.   And I’m no longer offended by the sound of most songs (even some Tracy Chapman songs had begun to grate on my nerves).  It just seems to come up less and less.  Folks have graciously removed all or most curiosity about my love life from their thoughts.  And who knows what kind of pity they may hold for me in their hearts?  I just sincerely appreciate their silence on the subject.  I have been allowed to experience being alone without having to constantly explain myself and justify my (lack of) actions.

But the true test of my satisfaction with just -me- came earlier this week when I got really sick. The kind of sick that even made my face hurt. The kind of sick that made me irritated with my typical homeopathic remedies and yearn for the real drugs. The kind of sick that typically would make me sick of not having someone to take care of me. But only after two days into crazy sickness did the thought of someone else being there for me even cross my mind. I had been irritated by having to make myself food, clean dishes, and all of that. And of course it would have been nice to have someone swoop in and solve all of those problems. But I never had that, “oh whyyyyyy meeeee???” moment.  So there actually is a place in my brain that allows me to function through a ‘better-suited for a couple’ situation without obsessing over it.  Incredible.  Moving to Amsterdam will likely force me to face tons of situations like this.  My newly found skills certainly will come in handy.

So that’s where I am right now.  But not where I plan to be forever.  In the meantime, at least I’m living on the bright side of whatever they call this place…a queendom of one?