I’m kind of back to not liking living in San Francisco.
Part of my disenchantment is probably my fault. I arrived here with big dreams I’ve yet to see realized. For one, I thought I’d fall into a good group of friends. Instead, someone I considered a good friend ghosted on me. Though I have made a few good friends whom I am grateful for, they’re from disparate circles. My social life is unrecognizable to me.
I also thought I might finally meet someone I can see a future with or at the very least someone whose company I’d enjoy more than Netflix and chillin’ solo. After all, they say San Francisco is one of the best US cities for singles. I don’t know if they actually talked to anyone who lives here because while I know many single people of different genders and sexual orientations whom are lovely, lovable people, they are not in a relationship, and most are actively searching.
I suppose if they mean this a great place to for singles if you want to remain single, that makes sense. Dating mostly takes place on apps here, at the expense, in my opinion, of people sharpening their in-person social skills. You can take your Tinders, Bagels, soul connections, rings and dings or whatever the hells and put ’em somewhere not on my phone.
When reality doesn’t live up to your high hopes, an emotional crash isn’t all that surprising.
There’s also the fact that everything here is so.damn.expensive. I think I must blackout when I pay my rent every month. That’s the only way I can understand how I continue to pay more than some people’s mortgage.
Of the people: I don’t get the seemingly dominant personality of passivity in this city. Just last week, I was at the drugstore in my favorite aisle – the candy aisle – when I noticed a woman walking toward me. As she neared me, she paused and started rummaging through her purse. I know she was faking. She walked with purpose down that aisle until she saw me. Now, I’m not very wide and I’m generally aware of the space around me, so it’s not like I was completely blocking her path. I’m not one of those oblivious aisle-blocking asshats.
A simple “excuse me” would have sufficed to get me to scoot the inch or two more needed for her clear passage. Instead, this lady acted like she had an urgent need to reapply lipstick or find a tampon. Who knows?
I could have moved preemptively, but I’ve done this dance before. I’ve been in many an aisle in this city and had this same scene go down. What is the deal with people? Is it timidity? Are they afraid to make contact with an unfamiliar human being? Politeness is appreciated, but there is such a thing as being so polite you make people want to scream.
The woman continued to dig in her purse – finding nothing because she was looking for nothing – until I finally inched forward, making sure to sigh heavily and roll my eyes at the absurdity of it all (hi, petty). There I was minding my business, trying to determine which pack of Sour Patch Kids would be the freshest, and here comes Timid Tammy ruining the experience with her fish spine.
I’ve also had people here give me that “Oh my” pearl-clutching glance because I dared speak up about something.
On the bus one afternoon, after a particularly tiresome string of hours at the day job, a budding-grey-haired woman with a folding shopping cart packed with several large black plastic bags, decided to throw a tantrum as she exited. She’d situated herself right by the door, so she only needed to make it a few feet to the steps. Each and every step she took came with a cranky grunt and dramatic muttering.
A minute later, she’d only progressed a few inches, so a kind man offered to help her the rest of the way.
“Noooo!” she shouted, mimicking the Wicked Witch of the West, “I don’t need YOUR HELP!” If she’d carried a cane, here is where she’d have shaken it at him with menace.
The defeated man backed away like a kicked puppy.
Around me, other passengers looked toward the rear window to see if another bus was coming. Nope.
A couple more minutes ticked by. The shopping cart and it’s pusher had yet to reach the steps.
Is NO ONE going to say anything? This is fucking ridiculous. This woman is holding up a bus full of people with lives because of her pride and stubbornness. Not even a peep from the bus driver – whose arm she threatened to bite off. She didn’t actually say that, but the quickness with which he recoiled like she’d hissed at him, indicated as such.
I couldn’t take anymore.
“Get off the bus!” I hollered.
A young woman across the way turned toward me with a furrowed brow. Oh stop clutching your damn pearls!
“Yeah, get off already!” the bus driver repeated, regaining his voice.
Soon other passengers chanted, some quieter than others, as the woman grumbled her way down the steps.
A few passengers clapped and whistled once the last of her landed on the sidewalk.
I hadn’t meant to start an uprising on the bus; I just wanted us to get moving. But, I bet you those people felt good taking control of their lives. We endure a lot of bizarre and sometimes frustrating encounters on these city buses.
Lastly, but most importantly, there’s the race thing. To put it bluntly: being black in San Francisco is existentially exhausting and socially isolating like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve written about that on multipleoccasions, so I won’t rehash it here.
With all of that said, I do not regret moving here. It’s still one of the best decisions I’ve made. My life now is incredibly different from the life I lived in Los Angeles. If I felt stalled in L.A. and wanted to push past the stagnancy by trying a new city, I got what I asked for and more. I’ve evolved in ways I never imagined. I believe moving here was a necessary step for my personal, emotional and career growth.
Barring some freak joyful miracle, my time in San Francisco is nearing its end. I had hoped this might be a place I could stay put for a long while, but I want to get out before I am driven completely mad. I also fear becoming one of the passive. That works fine for some people, but it gives me the itchees.
There’s only one US city next on the list. I’m not quite ready to reveal it yet as I’m still planning. I will say that it’s not happening this year, but if you’re a regular reader, you can probably guess which one it is.
October will mark 3 years here. I think I gave it a good shot.
Have you ever lived in a place you didn’t like? Also, if you are a passive aisle-passer, tell me why please, I’m curious.
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My concerned dad, seated in front of me in the booth, waited to hear whether I was self-sabotaging my romantic possibilities and thus crushing his dreams of seeing more grandchildren. Grandchildren from his firstborn. No pressure.
I’d returned to Houston to visit my family for the Christmas holiday. My dad had kidnapped me from my parents’ house, where funnily enough I’d been regaling my mom with dating horror stories. He’d returned from running whatever errands dads run and whisked me away. He didn’t tell me where we were going. I didn’t know until we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. I guess we’re eating then.
I knew I wouldn’t escape this trip without one conversation with my dad about my love life. I know he just wants me to find love. Of course, what’s amusing is my dad spent a large majority of my existence trying to keep the male species a universe away from me. He’d warn me: “I know what boys are like, Keisha, I used to be one.”
Once in high school, a boy called our house asking for my older sister. Unfortunately for him, my father answered. I couldn’t hear the boy, but I did hear my dad’s booming voice sternly admonish,
Young man, when you call to speak to one of my daughters you first
say, ‘Hello, Mr. ___, how are you?’ Then you ask to speak to my daughter. Do you understand me?
No doubt by this point, the kid was shitting his pants and “yes, sir”ing up a storm. My dad has a way with words and a voice that rightly suggests you best not mess with him. He hung up the phone on the boy. My sister was teenage-d pissed, which is pissed with a large injection of crazy-hormones. To the four girls under his protection eavesdropping upstairs my dad yelled, “Don’t be having none of these knucklehead boys with no manners calling here with some foolishness!” My whole family is full of “articulate black people”, but get us worked up and the blaccent suddenly makes an appearance.
Decades later, here we sat, dad and daughter, released from her cage years ago. My dad was essentially asking me what was wrong with my pimp game.
I hate this assumption that single women past a certain age are single because they have unrealistic expectations. That may be true for some, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. Trust me, I’ve done the self-reflection.
I sighed, as respectfully as possible, before answering, “No. I mean, unless you think wanting someone who is gainfully employed, ambitious, open-minded, clean, socially conscious, knowledgeable about current events, has social skills and likes to travel, is having high standards. Even then, someone can have all these great qualities, but for some reason, there’ll be no connection.”
“For instance, dad, I have a guy friend who told me he wants a basketball team full of kids. First of all, nobody in this area,” I said, while pointing at my “womb” region, “wants anything to do with five babies. Second, I wasn’t then and am not now young enough to be popping out all those kids. There’s not enough time! So, needless to say, he’s out. He’s a good guy, but I don’t want five kids.”
He nodded, pensive, and asked curiously, “What do you mean by ‘social skills’?”
I thought back to a Match.com date I’d gone on last spring.
His appearance was fine enough, but you know how “they” say that a woman knows within some number of minutes of meeting a man whether she’ll sleep with him? Upon seeing him, sex-repellent particles filled my body with a rush. No way it was ever going down with him. But, I thought, who knows? Maybe his personality will change things.
We met at a cafeI suggested because although he asked me out, he had no plans to offer. I’d been in San Francisco all of four months at that time, so I had a limited knowledge of date spots. My criteria were simple: Yelp-approved food, on a bus line and alcohol available. Ain’t nobody here for a first date without the option of loose juice.
He arrived before I did and I’m perpetually five minutes early to places. Points for timeliness!
The conversation was a bit stilted. He was a little awkward, more than “first date jitters” awkward. If he looked like he wanted to fall asleep while telling me about his job, you can imagine how I felt hearing about it.
“You’re really pretty. You must get lots of dates on Match. How many dates have you been on?” he asked.
A proper compliment (yay!) and an odd followup. “Thanks! This is my first date actually.”
Are we supposed to talk about this? Like comparing war stories of the online dating game? Show our battle scars in the form of baggage and skepticism?
“I’ve been on a few,” he shared. “The girls are pretty cool. Lot of people who seem to want to go do all these crazy, adventurous things though. I’m more of a homebody.”
The sex-repellent particles buzzed in my body like crackhead tics, reminding me of their presence.
Nope, no sir. Been there, done that. Not looking for a homebody! I am sure he will find a compatible quiet girl who wants to be home with him indenting the sofa, but I’m not that girl.
I sifted through my arsenal of conversation topics, attempting to the keep the conversation lively, pulling a little too hard on my beer. If I drink it, this will be fun.
Out of nowhere he asked, “So are you really 3_? A woman I went out with from Match told me she was 36, but she was really 38. If I had known she was 38, I wouldn’t have gone out with her. I mean, I have to think about having kids. She said she gets more hits when she says she’s 36. I didn’t ask her out again.”
What in the? I sympathize with the woman; I’m younger than she is, but not by much. I could be her in a few years: single and increasingly worried about aging out of the window of much male interest; feeling the weight of my declining fertility. But, I don’t lie about my age, or at all, really. I have spent the majority of my life having to convince people that I’m not as young as I appear. When I was 13, my parents tried a few times to buy me the 12- and under ticket at the movies to get the discount (“Keisha, just pretend you’re 12 if they ask.”). I would expressly and proudly tell the cashier I was 13, thankyouverymuch. My parents couldn’t be mad; I’d told the truth. My truth cost them two extra dollars.
The idea that I would age myself down made me chuckle. He sounded a touch paranoid. “Yes, I am really 3_.”
“Can I see your driver’s license? Haha. I’m just kidding.” He totally wasn’t kidding. I pulled out my driver’s license to humor him (I covered my address; I am nobody’s fool).
“See? 3_.” He nodded, satisfied.
“So, do you want to go on a second date? he blurted. The only thing is, I don’t drink during the week. But, I drink on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Who said anything about drinking? I know I showed more affection for my beer than for him, but I still had a third of a pint remaining! And what’s with the rules? Drink or don’t drink, that’s your prerogative. But, to have a rule about when you’ll drink it? How very opposite of fun. Rules for what days of the week you will and will not drink seems rigid to me. I don’t do well with rigidity. It makes me feel…confined. What about Thirsty Thursday? No drinking on weeknights? Get outta here with that crazy talk!
We didn’t go out again. He was nice. Nice isn’t a positive descriptor though. It’s just there. Sitting. Being nice. Doing not much else. Nice doesn’t light anyone’s fire. Nice doesn’t wiggle eyebrows. There was nothing wrong with him, he just wasn’t right, for me. He was nice though.
I concluded the retelling of this date to my dad with, “I am a social person. I like to meet people, I like to learn about people, I like to entertain. I cannot be with someone who will be on me like a boil if we’re at a social event. Following me around because he can’t make conversation on his own. Fearing what words might come out of his mouth. That will get old fast. He told me he’s a bit shy and a homebody. I wasn’t interested. He was nice enough though.” I don’t mean nice in that “women always reject nice guys for bad boys” way. No mature woman with sense is still chasing “bad boys.” I mean nice as in, neutral.
My dad made a noise I can only describe as a cross between a huff and grunt – a gruff – indicating he was absorbing my words and ready to move on. We were done…for now.
There is no great answer to the question of why I am single in my 30s. I didn’t choose a career over love or any of that nonsense posited in silly articles berating women for their single status. I didn’t push away great catches. I wasn’t tossing Idris Elbas or even Stephen Colberts (smart and makes me laugh? *swoon*) aside on the regular.
I dated around in my 20s, with some difficulty at times (thanks Los Angeles), and eventually dated someone for a significant part of my 20s, but things didn’t work out, for which I am actually quite grateful, though at the time it devastated me. We broke up a couple of months after I turned 30 and I recall thinking with a heavy heart, “I am now a 30-year old single woman. I am that stereotype. I will never find anyone now. Couldn’t we have broken up when I was 28? Nobody wants anyone after 30.”
I’d fed on a societal diet of sexist, limiting, defeatist, panic-inducing, judgmental, regressive, unrealistic views of female self-actualization and dating. I’d internalized a lot of it. I know better now. Those woeful thoughts have long been expelled, like the absolute crap they are, and I have a more measured and optimistic view of my dating life.
I am single because I am waiting for the right person. Unfortunately, I only have so much control over when and how I may meet the right person for me. It may be cliché, but I do want to be with someone I feel like I can’t be without and not just someone I can tolerate.
I would rather wait for the right person than be with someone I know I’m settling for because it eases societal pressure and judgement. I fear ending up in a bad marriage or relationship more than I fear ending up an “old maid” with cats.
Speaking of “Old Maid”, I played that gameas a kid. It occurs me to now just what a horrible game it is. What a message to send to young girls; nobody wants to end up with the loser Old Maid card.
Kids, look at this poor old wrinkled lady. She’s ALL ALONE. She can’t possibly be happy ALL ALONE! BEWARE, this could be you one day if you’re not careful, girls! ALL ALONE!
I date. Of course I date; I’m a young female with a pulse who isn’t a dog. It isn’t all that hard to find someone who will take you out, well, kinda – the quality may be questionable. With some people, I get the impression they think I’m sitting at home many nights, deciding whether to knit or cross-stitch, sullenly dreaming of a Prince Charming scooping me up, self-pitying my life of solitude. If I even so much as acknowledge I think an adult human with a penis is cute, it’s “Oh! Is he single? Did you talk to him? Are you going to ask him out?” It’s all said with a great sense of urgency, as though men are high-speed trains running on a tight schedule and I need to hop on the next one coming before it’s too late and the train makes it to the final destination, marriage, without me. It’s not that serious. Like, damn, I didn’t say I want to babymake with him. I am out living the best life I can and having a damn good time doing it! I already have many colorful stories to share along with the accompanying memorable experiences, and I have, I hope, decades remaining to create even more, with or without a romantic partner.
When in I was in my 20s, out at bars, clubs and restaurants, as I often was, I’d observe a subset of women in their 30s & 40s and their intense pursuit in search of “the one” before the clock ran out. The pressure came from everywhere. They were constantly talking about men, dating men, looking for men, talking about ways to attract men, places to go to meet men. Their eyes would automatically scan any room they entered for eligible bachelors as they halfheartedly listened to a friend prattle on about what she learned in the latest self-help dating book You’re Single Because You’re a Smelly, Toad-Like Nice Girl (but too slutty). There’s Still Hope For You! You’re Not a Total Loser!
It saddened me for them, but I also saw these experiences as cautionary. Some women truly did seem desperate, which is attractive to few; others were just earnestly hoping to find “the one.” I never wanted that to be in the desperate class. I have better things to do in this short life than obsess over men.
I don’t really share my dating life with many outside of a small circle. People are at times nosy, gossipy and easily jump to conclusions when it comes to the dating life of a singleton and I’m not here to be anyone’s live episode of Scandal. Save it for Olivia Pope. There’s still a double standard in societal perceptions of the dating lives of men and women.
There’s also a tendency of some to second-guess your behavior, to try to help you avoid coming off as a bad catch, or to give you unsolicited dating advice, because obviously what you’ve been doing isn’t working. I appreciate the advice random co-worker who probably last dated in the ’70s. Unless you can tell me how you’d handle a guy requesting you text him photos of your its ‘n’ bits after one date, I don’t need to hear it from you.
My dating life is none of anyone’s business and it’s not fodder for others to live vicariously through. I’ve had coupled up people say to me, “I have to live through your dating experiences!” No you don’t. If you want to be entertained by dating experiences, date, shake up your own relationship or watch Maury. Single people aren’t here for the entertainment of the paired up.
I’m doing what I’m “supposed” to do. I date against my “type”, I try different avenues to meet people, I get out of the house, I smile, I keep clean, hone my feminine wiles, etc. There is nothing more “wrong” with me than the next person with flaws. Married people can be crazy as hell too. It’s just there is only one other person being subjected to their crazy.
I know who I am. I like who I am. I enjoy my own company and the life I’ve built for myself. I can make myself laugh hard. I’m not on some “I don’t need a man” trip. But, I am not going to invite someone into my life if they aren’t going to enhance it or
complement it, that goes for friends or more than friends. I am fortunate to have much love in my life between my friends and family. I don’t lack love.
I ended 2013 happier than I’ve been in a long time. And I ain’t even got no mans! So, I’m cool. Don’t pity single me.
My dad sweetly said to me during one of our now regular discussions of my dating life, “Don’t get frustrated Keisha; you’ll be fine. You’re a [our last name]. You’re gonna be just fine.” Awwww, daaaad.
My parents had a couple of friends over one afternoon while I was in Houston. My parents don’t entertain as much as they used to, so when my dad told my sister N__ they were “having friends over”, my sister joked, “You have friends? Having people over? Who are we? The Winslows?”
I left my parents and their friends to their conversations and hung out with my youngest sister, C___. It felt like we were kids again. In a different room from our parents, the grown-ups, as they did grown-up stuff. My dad called me into the kitchen where they were grazing on tasty appetizers.
“Say Keisha,” my dad began, “we were just talking about having more grandkids…”
I wrinkled my face and silently walked right back out of the room.
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.