An anniversary, a milestone, and more to come

The one-year anniversary to mark my arrival in the Netherlands came when I was in Greece.   I sat in a cute little restaurant in Athens, avoiding returning to my temporary dorm-like residence, getting a little tipsy on wine.  At that time I attempted to write the 100th post for black girl gone.  Most of it was about the journey that brought me here – a journey that began far longer than a year ago, as evidenced by this blog alone.  But it was a ho-hum of a post, with the weepy sorrows of years long gone.  I can get plenty of that with a quick scan of old posts.  So fortunately, a dead battery and a failure to save resulted in the loss of what I had written.

Beyond acknowledgement of a challenging path, some really smart decisions, and a newly found trust in my instincts and distrust of expectations, I think my one-year anniversary and 100th post should focus on what’s next.  The year, and whatever else ahead…

1) Genealogy overload

I went almost completely dark on my personal family research well over a year ago.  And last year I picked up the projects of several others in Amsterdam, researching family histories that stem largely from Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.  But I’ve even fallen behind with them.

No more of that.  Re-opening my own research, while furthering and creating noise around the local genealogy project will be a priority.  My family research has left plenty of unanswered questions.  And the local interest and passion for family history is certainly enough for me to gain more momentum for the project in Amsterdam.   For this reason, you can expect somewhat of a shift in this blog.  Expect more family history and genealogy-related posts.  Accept it, my friends.  This will be a defining aspect of my life.  In the longer-term, I expect it to take me back to the southern states of the U.S., Salt Lake City, Cuba, and southern Africa – at least.  I expect to earn the title of genealogist.  And I can’t wait.

ancestors await...

2) Write a Master’s thesis

By August.  I want to (and I will) finish by August.  Is denial of access to one’s family history a form of social oppression?  It will be some type of a comparative study of black Dutch and black Americans, as descendants of survivors of slavery, and their perceptions of identity, as potentially impacted by a (lack of) knowledge of ancestry.  Or something like that.

study habits

3) Suriname

It’s there.  And I don’t see why I shouldn’t be.  So I’m setting my sights on creating a plan to spend a few months moving a genealogy research project forward in Suriname by the end of this year.  This will require support, funding, and a more concrete idea.  But my instincts are telling me this will be important.  So before I understand it so clearly, I’m going to work on putting a plan into place.

Suriname census

4) More traveling; more writing

I continually taunt myself with the cliché, “life is short!” But hell if it isn’t.

I enjoy traveling.  And I enjoy writing.  I need to do more of both to spend more time enjoying this too-short life.

the look of travel

5) The fellas

I’ve gone back and forth on this issue, to dramatic degrees.  All resulting in very little.  Dating/not dating/white boys/no boys/single lady/ cat lady.   I’m putting all of it away.  To be honest, this is less about some level of personal growth, and more about simple boredom with the subject.  Look, folks. I’m human, okay?  Of course I notice that most of my friends are in stable relationships that are leading to marriage and/or babies.  But that doesn’t mean any of this knowledge occupies a significant amount of space in my mind.  It shouldn’t.  And it doesn’t.

This year, whatever happens with the fellas will be fine with me.  Let’s just leave it at that.

"I don't like any of these boys..."

I enjoyed last year very much.  And it looks like, more than ever, I’m in control of the year ahead.   So I think I’ll enjoy this one even more.  I hope you’ll continue to join me!

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.

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?