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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Does anyone meet anyone in real life these days? Offline? For dating purposes, that is. You know like:
Guy sees cute girl at bus stop.
Guy makes joke about the horrid stench wafting from a black trash bag near the bus shelter.
“Ah, the sweet smell of street funk and human waste,” he cracks.
Girl giggles. She relaxes her street defenses.
They discover they share a preference for puffy Cheetos over crunchy. “This is awesome,” they both think.
They chat animatedly as they wait for the bus, trading witticisms back and forth. He uses a word infrequently woven in conversation these days and it further endears him to her. She finds it sexy when a man has a big vocabulary and knows how to use it well.
He likes her laugh and the way she thinks.
He asks if he can take her out.
She says “Yes,” with a bashfulness he finds charming.
The bus arrives.
Only in my (safe for sharing on the internet) dreams!
In real life: men on the street say things to me so inappropriate that, if said on TV, would make the Parent’s Television Council triple their angry email writing output; or at the bus stop I’ll smile at a cute guy and he’ll look the other way, jeez; or worse I inadvertently pique the unwanted interest of a creepy co-worker who I’d often catch staring at me when I was at my desk.
When people ask me, “How’s your love life?” I’m taken aback as though they’ve asked me why I haven’t eaten vegetables in a while. Like, “Oh. Right. That’s something people do, date and stuff. That’s part of life too.” I mean, I know it happens. I kinda remember there being a time when I did things like that. I hear other people talk having love lives, but I don’t think I know what that is anymore.
This love life thing keeps coming up lately.
I went on a weekend trip with a group of a friends for one of their birthday’s this summer. I roomed with V__ (a dude) and K ___ (a dudette), fellow single thirty-somethings. We returned to our room at 3am one night and both V__ and K__ pulled out their phones to Tinder. [If you’re unfamiliar with Tinder, it’s a dating app for meeting people in your area. It uses your Facebook profile (’cause Facebook isn’t over-involved in your life enough) and I’ve gleaned from friends’ experiences that a lot of people on there aren’t exactly looking for “a relationship.” It seems like more of a shallow way to meet people given you decide “yes” or “no” on a person based on a few photos and whatever information they’ve bothered to share with Facebook.]
My friends happily Tinder’d while I interrupted them with questions about why they found it so fascinating, who and what were they texting, and who else was up at 3am?
I tried Tinder once when I was at a Starbucks and freaked out when a guy sent me a chat. “Can he see me? Is he nearby?!” Like a grandma who doesn’t understand how this newfangled technology works.
Another time, two of my friends, both of whom were in relationships at the time, stole my phone to Tinder for me, despite my weak protestations. I don’t know why I hadn’t deleted the damned app by then. Anyway, I know that really, they just wanted to see what it was like; to get a taste of the single life again for one sweet moment. I see you.
I am not one for idle texting back and forth and it seems like Tinder involves a lot of this. I can’t even figure out how to work normal text messaging, how the hell am I going to seduce someone on Tinder? Oh who am I kidding? All I’d have to do is show a little cleavage in my photos and use lots of emoticons and coy responses when I chat.
I feel the same way about online dating. I don’t want to go through this back and forth, tell me your life story, what’s your favorite color, do you like to cuddle, let’s have a pre-date phone call business. If I like what you’ve got to say in your profile and if in your communication with me you use adult-level grammar and don’t make gross sexual comments to / about me, let’s meet and see if we click. There’s no need to drag this process out. This is why I don’t understand the show Catfish. How are you “in a relationship” for seven months or a year, or five, with someone you’ve NEVER MET, and then shocked when they turn out to be a Shrek masquerading as an Efron?
I’ve given online dating plenty of shots. You might even call me an online dating early adopter. In 2003, I went out with a guy I met through Yahoo Personals. (Yahoo Personals people! Old school internet!) It was disastrous. The date went downhill the minute I told him I moved to L.A. to try to make it as an actress. He treated me like I was an airhead. Nobody likes actors in L.A. except other actors, the people they pay to like them and their fans.
I know people who’ve met and married or at least dated successfully through online dating. Personally, I’ve found it to be like a tedious a second job, as well as disappointing experience. I’m nowhere near the most popular female demographic in the e-dating pool. It gets old seeing guy after guy indicate interest in every ethnicity except “Black/African-American.”
Every boyfriend I’ve had I met through a friend, doing things I normally do, being myself and not feeling like I’m being auditioned for a starring role in someone’s life. Not only does meeting someone through your social network make it easier to blend your social lives, if there’s any of the “bad” kind of crazy in your prospective boo, your friend can give you the lowdown.
One time, ONE TIME, I agreed to a date with a guy who I met at a bar. I was young and dumb (and drunk, holy beer goggles!). The night of our date, he drove us around Hollywood for nearly half an hour looking for street parking, missing the beginning of the show at The Knitting Factory. At each light, he’d stop, look into my eyes and say something utterly fromage-y like, “Your eyes shine like stars. I could get lost in them.”
WHO SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT FOR REAL?!
He turned out to be one of those short guys with a Napoleon Complex and the associated serious anger management issues. By mid-date, it was so bad, I contemplated excusing myself to go to the bathroom and crawling out the window to freedom. I decided not to, mostly because he was my ride home and in those financially-leaner days, I really couldn’t afford the $50 cab ride from Hollywood to my place in the Valley. When I didn’t go out with him again, he became increasingly irate and left vile messages on my voice mail. I had to change my number.
I have never dated a guy I met in a bar again.
I suppose online dating hasn’t been all badfor me. Last year, I dated a guy for a few months who I met on Match. He’s a great person and I learned a lot when I was with him, but ultimately I felt we’d be better off as friends.
During a recent lunch with one of my college roommates who met her husband of three years on eHarmony, she talked about why she’d decided to give eHarmony a try. She said:
“I knew I was ready to meet my husband and I made it a priority. You have to make it a priority.” I realized then that it wasn’t and hadn’t been a priority to me for quite some time. Somehow, I’d forgotten about having a love life. I guess I’d been busy with other life things, like figuring out what to do after I got laid off and realized that once and for all that I need to make a career change.
The subject of my love life arose once again in the form of an email. A friend of mine is currently off in Europe on a sabbatical of sorts and recently started up a hot romance with a strapping Nordic man. She’s happily enamored with him and inquired, “Have you met anyone interesting?” I stared at my screen, puzzled, “Met anyone? Interesting? Men? How would I even do that? How do people meet people offline to date?” Some of the ideas I shared for making new friends are applicable to meeting people to date. And I have tried them. But, you can’t force these things.
It’s been almost a week and I haven’t responded to her email. I don’t know what to say. I would love to meet someone interesting, but I’d like for that to happen offline. Is that too much to ask?
An ex-boyfriend of mine loved fantasy sports. He had fantasy teams for baseball, hockey, basketball and football. Almost year round, he dedicated a not insignificant portion of his focus to tending to his fantasy team(s), football especially. Initially I found his fantasy hobby curious and amusing. So, this is what some of the male species spends their time doing? Fascinating. He’d get so passionate watching a football game – though I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t seem to root for one team consistently. “I don’t really have a favorite team. I just need my players to score me points!” Uh, ok. Mostly, I busied myself with other activities when on Sundays or Thursday evenings he watched football games, or when he’d take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to update his fantasy lineup – before and sometimes after games.
I never cared one way or the other for football. My dad watches it and I have many a memory of him posted up in front of the TV on Thanksgiving days. If forced to pick a favorite sport to watch, I’ve often chosen basketball. I grew up in the heyday of Michael Jordan and I understand basketball. Your mission is to throw the ball in the net. If you make a basket from outside the arc, you score three points instead of two! It’s simple with fast-paced action and points scored often. Football, on the other hand, mystified me. This, despite the fact that I went to high school and college in Texas where for some, football is a religion. Football puzzled me even though friend in college, who played football in high school, spent time drawing me a diagram of stick figures and lines, patiently describing to me various plays and positions.
“But why the hell does it take so long to score?”
He explained that the offense has four chances (downs) to advance 10 yards. If they advance all four downs, they get four new ones, with the goal being to reach the end zone, score a touchdown and dance. I don’t recall much else from that afternoon football lesson, but I figured I knew enough to get by. College football games were especially fun since our team was pretty good at the time and tailgate parties are no joke. Still, I continued to feel neutral about the sport.
Gradually, I grew to mildly resent the imposition of fantasy sports in our relationship, especially football. We scheduled many an outing around my boyfriend’s fantasy schedule. Fantasy draft days turned into two or three-hour ordeals with my boyfriend cursing every once in a while at the screen when he didn’t get the players he wanted. Of course, on Sundays, he had to watch the games, which are on all day. I wanted to go to brunch; he wanted to watch the games.
Bored and feeling ignored, I’d tell him, “I’m gonna go home.”
He’d put his arm around my waist and say with a look I had a hard time saying “no” to, “Aw, but I want you to be here. I’m just going to watch this one game.” One game would turn into two. He’d promise to act more attentively, but inevitably he fixate on the screen again, chatting with me and attempting to be attentive during commercial breaks.
Eventually, after a couple of years, I found myself mildly dreading the start of football season. During the season, I hated the din from the TV during games: the clamor of the crowds in the stands, the shrieking whistles of the refs after each play; the grunts and thwacks of players.
Sometimes, I’d try to goad him to get his attention, to at least have a bit of real interpersonal communication, like a child bugging out for their parent’s gaze:
“It’s funny that they make such a big deal about gay men in the NFL when this is probably one of the most homoerotic sports you can play. It’s like these guys find any excuse to smack each others’ asses, bump chests or jump on each other.”
He’d cross his arms, throw me a look of pleading exasperation and return to the game.
When we broke up, I wanted nothing to do with football. That is, until a couple of years later when a co-worker asked if I would like to join the company fantasy team. I considered that football is one of the most, if not the most popular sport in the country and maybe I should make peace with the sport. Additionally, a grand prize of $600 with a $50 buy-in appealed to me. I like to try new things and a few of my other friends were in the league, so I told him, “Ok, I’m in!” Out of 12 “owners” – as players are called – only three were women. I relished the opportunity to take on the smack-talking dudes who teased that the girls would choose players for our teams by uniform colors and player hotness.
I researched player and team stats on sports sites and fantasy blogs, strategizing my lineup; I watched football on Sundays, I rooted for my players and dutifully updated my lineup each week. That first season I came in seventh out of 12 teams, one slot shy of making the fantasy playoffs. The guys commended me on a good first effort.
The next year I was determined to at least make the playoffs. I also joined another fantasy team with a different group of friends – again, only three girls were owners in this new league – to increase my opportunities for winning cash money. I thought to myself, “If my ex could see me now. I have not one, but two, fantasy football teams!” That year, I won most of my head-to-head competitions, leaving the previous year’s champion to question, “Do you have somebody helping you?”
“No,” I answered honestly. I insisted on doing this on my own, as I quickly realized, listening to other people – as I did a few times my rookie season – proved more harmful than helpful.
His face registered disbelief as he said, “Uh, huh. I bet you got some guy at home giving you tips.” I took his insistence on a mystery helper as a compliment: he viewed me as legitimate competition for the throne. That season I landed in second place in that league, winning $200, for a net profit of $150. I rewarded myself with a Kindle Fire. I’d officially became a fan of fantasy football.
I began to lose interest in fantasy football as my life got busier. During the first few games of the following season, I was on the other side of the world in Tanzania with fantasy games the last thing on my mind. Shortly after I returned, I moved to San Francisco, which came with it’s own sets of challenges. I cut back to one league, finding management of two teams too much. Though, I ended up joining the fantasy league at “Fancy Startup” last year, in an attempt to get to know some of my new co-workers better. I played halfheartedly that season and committed the great offense of basically handing a game to my opponent one week by not updating my roster when one of my player got benched because of an injury.
On top of that, the year I placed second, one of my good friends and fellow leaguer, E___, told me about a story he’d seen on 60 Minutes about the long-term effects of concussions and other brain injuries on football players. I watched the segment online and it saddened me to hear the stories of formerly strong, capable men suffering from debilitating depression or early onset dementia, their families struggling to adapt and care for them. I’d heard of boxers being “punch drunk” and any fan of the Rocky series knows that Rocky’s brain got a little mushy from all that knocking around. It makes sense that football players and other athletes who sustain repeated blows to the head are susceptible longterm, irreversible brain damage. The NFL seemed to drag its wealthy feet in publicly acknowledgingthere might be a connection between players being hit by 200lb+ men running at high speeds and brain damage. Further, the NFL reportedly made it difficult for retired players who claimed brain injuries, to qualify for the appropriate health coverage, leading several players to sue.
I felt torn by my participation in fantasy football. Part of my entertainment relied on guys getting bashed in the head repeatedly. And for what? Doctors are even finding evidence of brain damage in football players as young as junior high school age, in addition to high school and college students. It doesn’t sit well with me.
When I saw the video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancee. I didn’t need to see the full tape to decide that the way he hit her and then cavalierly picked up her limp body as though she were a rag doll he didn’t give two shits about, to decide that the NFL’s weak punishment of a 2-game suspension amounted to an insult and undermining of the seriousness of domestic violence.
So, this year, when E____ asked if I’d be playing in the league again, I decided I was done. I am not interested in supporting the NFL enterprise at this point. If things with the game and the league change in the future, I may revisit my stance.
E____ argued, “Does this mean you are boycotting Chinese made goods because of their human rights violations, not listening to Kanye because of his wife, and not travelling to countries like Brazil due to their government induced social issues?
Fantasy football is just a game using the statistics from real games. It does not support the NFL at all.”
While I understand his point, as I told him, “I have to pick my battles and this is a pretty easy one.”
I just got off the phone with my dad. A 45-minute conversation.
Our conversation went something like this:
“I just tried calling you. Your voicemail box is full.”
“Oh, ok. Yeah, I never check it.”
“Someone might want to call you and leave you a message. Gotta check that.”
The only people who call me and leave messages are Walgreen’s pharmacy with an automated message letting me know that my prescription is ready. That’s it. So, not even a person.
“Ok, I will.”
Every conversation with my dad these days involves at least three themes: reminiscing about old times (and asking me if I remember them), commentary on current events & society (“Facebook is not an adequate means of communication. Your generation likes that. I don’t do that Facebook thing. Texting is not talking.”), and objections to the insane weather in Midwest, where he works.
He continued. Thoughts rolling out like waves. The only words I got in edgewise were:
“Uh, huh”, “Yeah,” “You’re right, dad,” “OK, dad,” “Oh, yeah, that is weird,” “I know I should go back to school and get my Master’s.”
With a college professor’s cadence, he touched on everything from the legacy he wants to leave in life, to explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to me (a concept with which, when he asked, I said I was familiar, but he explained it to me anyway), to how Seahawks’ Quarterback Russell Wilson got married “a tad too early” at 23. However, 49ers’ QB, Colin Kaepernick, can strut down the street with Beats headphones on and be a stud to women ’cause he’s single and therefore potentially attainable.
What is this conversation we are having?
I felt my inner teen threatening an appearance, eyes ready to roll all the way up in my head, familiar thoughts resurfacing in my head like, “God, dad! I’m not a kid, I knooooow!”
I hate that I regress like this. I’ll be 50 years old, eyes all the way up in my head, like I’m 13, thinking: “Daaad, I’ve been alive for 1/2 a century now. I know!”
Then he was told me about the shows that film in Chicago like Chicago Fire. Honestly, I was half listening; we were 25 minutes in. I have had a very
busy and stressful few weeks at work and had Ratatouille cued up because my brain couldn’t handle the mentally taxing reality of non-animated fare. I tried watching the latest episode of The Vampire Diariesthe night before and I couldn’t even follow the story; that’s how mentally exhausted I am. You know it’s a real “I need to metaphorically lobotomize myself” kind of weekend when even a teen drama about hot vampires is too much.
And then I heard him say, “My buddy and I saw, who’s that guy, from that movie…Magic…Magic ‘Something’…Mike…Magic Mike?”
“Magic Mike? CHANNING TATUM?!”
I wanted to squeal and church dance. My dad saw Channing Tatumin the flesh! I had so many questions. What did he look like? What was he wearing? I hope a tight blue t-shirt that made his eyes shine like the sun and did serious justice to his pecs. What did he smell like? Was he tall? Were there little singing blue birds trailing behind him? He’s so not my type. And yet…
How has my dad seen Channing Tatum and I haven’t?! That is why I moved to L.A.! To see hot male actors in the flesh! (Oh, you thought I had legit reasons?)
I didn’t squeal though. I kept it chill.
“Oh, him. Yeah, that’s cool.” I mean, ain’t no thing. OMFG! Channing Tatum! My friend, E, just saw him on her flight last month. Why is everyone seeing Channing Tatum but me?
“So, what are your thoughts, Keisha?”
Damn! In my Channing reverie I’d checked out and hadn’t realized he’d continued talking. In my fog, I recall hearing the words “cold,” “sub-zero,” and “damn heavy jackets.” I guessed the topic had shifted to the Midwest’s cold weather.
“Oh yeah, that’s really cold! We’ve actually been having an unusually warm winter here. It’s been like 65 and sunny. It’s actually…” I was going to say that we actually finally got some much-needed rain, but he interjected with:
“65. Ho ho! That’s like telling a starving man you had a buffet with steak! 65!! What’s the high?”
“Um, that is the high. It doesn’t get that hot here.” I laughed, but it’s actually not that funny. I’d like to wear shorts once in a while too, you know, and not have to worry about rushing home to change into pants before nightfall arrives and the temperature drops 20 degrees. Like I’m Cinderella or something, dashing home before she turns back into a fake ugly girl.
“65! I tell you….”
I could tell he was happy to be on the phone with me. He didn’t outright say that, of course. He’s not the type to skywrite his feelings or Oprah-ize, though he’s certainly become more sentimental with age. Jokes aside, I appreciate these conversations with him. They are endearing. Frustrating at times (and whose conversations with their parents sometimes aren’t?), but endearing. As I get older, I become more aware of my parent’s mortality and I value the time I have with them to get to know them as adults.
“…find someone you have things in common with. If you marry a slob and you’re neat, it’s not gonna work. Don’t believe in that ‘opposites attract’ business. You understand what I mean, Keisha?”
“Uh, huh. Yes, Dad. Often it’s those little quirks you think are ‘cute’ at first, that become the most annoying or tiresome.” See? I know things!
“Right. Speaking of dating: how’s that going?”
Did I say our conversations revolved around three themes? Well, make that four.
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 marathoned season one of The Mindy Project during the summer television drought. I developed a girl crush on the lead character, Mindy Lahiri, almost immediately. She’s me. She’s my friends! Mindy’s an educated, single, professional woman in her early 30s, living in Boston. She’s a relatable blend of endearingly awkward, at times second-hand-cringe-inducingly awkward, feisty, ready to go head-to head with the funniest of dudes in a battle of quips, unabashed lover of pop culture, with a fabulous style exhibited by her flyass enviable wardrobe. And she’s brown! She’s a brown girl on TV, Indian-American to be more specific, and her brownness is not the focus of her character’s life. She gets to be “normal.”
Mindy, much like the Rachel McAdamses, Reese Witherspoons and Sandra Bullocks of the romantic comedy films she adores, is steady meeting cute dudes in random places, like the elevator. Elevators are like a goldmine for hot dates in her world. I remember in college reading stupid articles in Cosmo with titles like, “How to Get Him to Notice You,” which they seemed to repackage every issue using similarly uninspired titles and not dissimilar content. [How many different sex positions could Cosmo possibly find in the almost 50 years of its existence? They are either making shit up, inventing new and uncomfortable positions or slowly parsing out pages of the Kama Sutra until they run out.]
As Cosmo explained, eligible single men are everywhere! That cutie in the grocery store eyeing those cantaloupes? He’s hoping you’ll make the off-color joke about the large melons he’s checking out. The hottie at the gym who’s grunting like a warthog as he bench presses 500lbs? He’s just trying to get your attention. Do a little booty shake as you do your lunges and he’ll drop those weights and make a beeline for you. Or there’s the good ol’ elevator. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with that handsome stranger in the business suit! He could be your soulmate.
I don’t know where to find these magic elevators from the Cosmo world, because most of the tech dudes in my office building act as though they fear exchanging words with females. “Have boobs? Won’t speak.” Furthermore, nobody wears suits in this city and if they do, they stand out like a contraband plastic bag in the grocery store.
Yesterday evening, I had a Mindy moment!
As I walked out of my office suite into the elevator bank we share with the company across the hall, a guy asked me, in a way that made me think his own question surprised him, “How was your day?”
Was he talking to me? I looked around. Yep, juuuuust me.
I smiled with hint of confusion and answered, “It was pretty good. How about yours?”
He was wearing a faded-red shirt and jeans. The shirt wasn’t faded, red as in “bled out in the washer”, but a distressed shade of red. The distinction is important. A messenger bag hung from his shoulder. I decided he was cute, his voice appealing and best of all, age appropriate.
The elevator arrived (“Doors opening,” announced the disembodied voice who for some reason has a British accent) and we entered. I figured the conversation would naturally die as others were already in the car.
“I’m leaving at 5:30,” he continued, “so it has to be good.”
“Oh? Is that not normal?”
“Nope, I usually work until 8:30. There are only four of us, so it’s not like anyone is forcing us to work late. We just do.” He seemed bemused.
Am I actually having a conversation with this dude? Like for real?
We exited into the lobby. I thought, say something funny!
“Haha. I wonder why that is. Maybe the force of the…(blah blah blah not funny, you fool!).”
Were he not present, I would have slapped myself upside my own head.
I added, “Haha. I don’t even know where I was going with that theory.” Like a damn fool who doesn’t know how to have a proper conversation.
He chuckled. “No, I think I get it. Haha. You’re probably thinking, ‘this guy is weird!'”
Uh, no. Not at all.
We were on the street outside now. A few feet away was the intersection. Now what? Are we walking the same way? If we are, do we keep walking and talking? What if he was just being polite and wants me to stop babbling at him? If we’re going separate ways, should I pretend I’m going his way anyway in case he is chatting me up? This is what I hate about being single at my age. You’re always second guessing your natural instincts because even though you know you do “put yourself out there” and “present yourself as open and receptive to attention” and all the other repetitive phrases with undercurrents of unintentional judgment from helpful loved ones who want to see you boo’d up and not end up a crazy cat lady, you can hear their words in the recesses of your mind. By this point, Mindy Lahiri probably would have rattled off three or four cute quips and scored a date. Yes, I am aware she is a sitcom character.
I could see our bodies subtly moving in opposite directions. We were headed different ways.
“Well, I’m this way,” I tried to say as brightly as possible with a subtext of “I am open to more conversation possibly over a drink, but not in a desperate ‘make me your baby mama’ way.”
“Ok,” he replied. I couldn’t decipher his expression. He smiled though and said, “See you tomorrow.”
Will we? See each other tomorrow? I don’t recall seeing him ever before. This man from the elevator who talks to humans who have ovaries. Will there be more to this story? Who knows? At least I got an elevator moment! Well…kinda. No date. No soulmate (I don’t even think I believe in that). An elevator conversation with someone cute? I’ll take it!
Last year, while walking to lunch, a male co-worker and I got into one of our usual tiffs when I declared:
“I want a dooooooog!”
My interest in getting a dog had grown greater and greater over the years and deepened after I bonded with a stray in Costa Rica the year before.
He scoffed and threw me a pointed look, “You already have two cats. No guy is going to want to date a woman with two cats and a dog!”
I and my female co-worker (and close friend) gasped in disagreement. This was a common occurrence. Our male co-worker would nonchalantly drop a statement we’d find incendiary and a heated debate would ensue, often in the lunchroom, hilariously, with others joining in and sides forming along gender lines.
[Ex: One guy complains that women only want men with money. Another chimes in that he’s had to buy former girlfriends designer bags only to have them break up with him and then be out the cost of five-star dinners and Balenciaga bags. I say something like, “I don’t specifically look for a guy with money.”
Male: “Yeah, right. You guys want expensive dinners and gifts.”
“I like to travel. I want a guy who has money to travel so we can travel together. I am not interested in being anybody’s sugar mama. If I want a Balenciaga bag, I’ll buy it my damn self.”
The women would respond with a chorus of “Yeah! I bought my own Chanel bag!” or “I took myself to dinner at Bazaar!” or “I have my own money!”
The men would protest in disbelief. Ah, I miss those lunches.)
I sighed heavily with exasperation, “What? First of all, I’m not going to plan my life around what some nonexistent guy may or may not like. Second, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog. I just said I want one. I am not ready to own a dog right now. And what if I did get one? I wouldn’t want to date some guy who would dismiss me because of my pets!”
He looked dubious. “Ha! I don’t know what guy would be like ‘She has two cats and a dog, cool!’ Most guys will just think you’re weird. It’s bad enough you have two cats.”
I rolled my eyes. “I said ‘I am NOT GETTING A DOG!'”
It’s “bad enough I have two cats?” Nobody asked you, bruh.
He’s not the only one who feels that way though. The “crazy cat lady” cliche has survived for decades, to torment innocent single women who’ve committed no greater crime than taking in a feline or two. I almost have to choke out, “Yeah, I have two cats,” when someone asks if I have pets these days. I have noticed some visibly wince or wrinkle their nose with distaste at my response. “Oh! That’s…nice,” they’ll say falsely as if I missed their judgy-faced expression. I secretly want to add, “But, I’m only temporarily single! I have had boyfriends before! I am not a ‘cat lady!’ Don’t judge me.”
What is with the species-est attitude against cats? They are perfectly fine animals. The Egyptians knew what was up. They revered cats.
Enter many Chinese novelty shops or restaurants and you’ll likely see at least one small statue of the good luck kitty with the raised and sometimes, waving hand.
Cats are cool. There’s nothing inherently crazy about owning a cat and having XX chromosomes.
You know who does seem crazy sometimes though? Dog owners!
Let me tell you about (some) dog owners and their quirks. Here is just a sampling of the oddities dog owners get up to:
1. Dress their dog up in silly costumes
Why don’t you dress yourself up as an alligator or 3-headed alien? I have never put clothing on my animals. I don’t think my cats would be amused to be dressed up like a pumKitty on Halloween or SantyCat on Christmas. How undignified! And if it’s true that owners become like their pets and vice versa: my cat can give major side-eye. You don’t want to be side-eyed by a cat. That look says, “I’m coming for your face with my claws, bitch!”
2. Push their dog around in a stroller
The hell? The dog is made to walk, sans shoes, padding already built in. You push your dog around?! You just got served! By your dog!
Related to that:
3. Carry their dog around a purse
I can’t. I really can’t.
4. Bring their dog everywhere
Are you so co-dependent on Virginia Woof that you can’t leave her at home when you go to a restaurant, the beauty salon, the bank or the therapist’s office because you need her there for moral support? (I don’t know actually know if that happens, but I’m 75% sure some Tupperware-faced lonely housewife in Beverly Hills has done this at least once.)
5. Take their dog to dog socializing events
Not for the people to socialize. Haha, that would be absurd! No, this is for the dog to engage it’s social skills. There are dog parks, dog play-dates, dog hotels, doggy daycare, and dog agility camps. The dog probably has a better social life than the owner.
6. Claim their dog is vegetarian
I’m sorry did you mean to buy a rabbit? Dogs are DOGS. They eat meat. In the wild, many of them are skilled hunters. They hunt other mammals. Our sharp teeth that we use to bite through tough things? Those are called “canines” for a reason. Put a hunk of beef on the floor next to a bowl of carrots and grains. Which do you think Sir Barks A Lot is going to make a run for? It sure as hell won’t be those damn bunny stalks.
7. Moon over their dog, some even claiming their dog is their best friend
Do you know how crazily people would look at me if I said my cat was my best friend? People would be whispering, “No wonder that chick is single!” However, it is seen as quite acceptable for a person to say their dog is their BFF, ace boon, road dog, ride or die bitch.
Some dog owners will blather on for days about how talented their dog is. “Waggy Simpson can sit!” Big deal, my cat can leap buildings without breaking a pant. Now, that is some impressive shit!
I almost never talk about my cats unless prompted and even then it’s usually in a sardonic way: “Does anyone want my bitchy scaredy-cat? That dumb cat had the nerve to hiss at me for trying to feed her. I’ll put her ungrateful catass out like Dino!”
8. Walk their dog according to the dog’s schedule
I know my neighbors’ dog walking schedule. Twice a day, morning and evening, their demanding barky mini-dogs who snort like pigs, get walked.
Some people have to plan their day around their dog’s schedule. Or they leave places early to go walk their dog. Sorry you missed it when President Obama walked into the bar at my birthday party and karaoked to 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song” (“It’s your Birthday/It’s Your Birthday!/Bad bitch contest you in first place!”). I hope Arf Garfurkel enjoyed his midnight walk.
Hey guess what trick my cats can do? They walk themselves! They have litter boxes; they know how to use ’em. I will come and go as I please.
9. Pay astronomical amounts to groom and primp their dog
Some people even take their dogs to acupuncture!
Actually, I have to admit: I saw a poodle dyed orange and black last year when the Giants were in the World Series. It was cute. But still, really? Does Pug ‘n’ Whistle really need her nails polished? That is like some Kim Kardashian “everything in my house must be white” level of foolishness. (Please don’t ask me how I know that bit of information.)
Now, read the above list and tell me who is “crazy”?
I have never made food for my cats. How about some of you dog owners? Mmhmm. Buying special raw meat for L’il L’il Bow Wow. I see you.
Where’s the “crazy dog lady” stereotype?
I actually love dogs. My boss brought her dog to work one day last week and all my professional composure went out the window.
Which brings me to the fallacy of the “dog or cat person” bifurcation. It’s silly. I can only like cats or dogs? Well guess what? I like both! They are entirely different species, a different genus. It’s like asking if I prefer chimps or humans. Of course, the answer is chimps. At least they know how to respect their elders.
Then again I’m also neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m an ambivert. I’m also ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I am not bisexual. I feel like dating women would be much easier than dating men. I think I’d be into feminine girls, so if I found someone my size, I could wear her clothes. Double the wardrobe! Anyhow, maybe I am unusual in not having a strong preference for cats or dogs over the other.
You may wonder why I have two cats. It’s not because I want to begin a life of cat hoarding. When I used to aspire to be on TV, it wasn’t to be looking all wild-faced, with cats prancing all over my malodorous-looking home, showcased on A&E. It creeps me out seeing hordes of cats together. I shuddered just writing that. That’s disgusting.
Contrary to popular belief, some cats are social and my Maine Coon is one of them. For the first four years I had him, I lived with roommates who had their own cats. He loved playing with them and asserting himself as the alpha kitty. I enjoyed this, as well. I don’t want any weak pets.
When I started living alone, I felt guilty leaving him home by himself all day, so I got the second one. She is absolutely useless to me, but she does keep him company and lets him be in charge. So, she stays. For now. Which I’ve been saying for 7 years now. Damn bitchy cat.
People who don’t understand cats often make assumptions based on stereotypes or brief negative exposure to one mean cat:
“That cat I ran into in the street while it was eating tried to attack me! Cats are evil.”
“Once when I was little, I pulled our family cat’s tail and she bit me. Cats are mean!”
“Cats don’t show love. When I try to squeeze my friend’s cat with a love hug, the cat yelps and runs away!”
“Cats are too independent. [I am needy.]”
Well, when I was a kid I saw Cujo – the movie about the rabid dog that tries to kill its’ owners – it terrified me. Not too long after, I encountered a snarling, drooling German Shepherd that chased me down the streets of Brooklyn for blocks as I pumped my little legs as fast as I could on my bike. I was scared to death of dogs for ages! I thought dogs were vicious animals ready to attack unsuspecting little girls. Thankfully I eventually got over that and learned many dogs are really sweet. Also, rabies shots are legit!
There are weird cat owners, just as there are weird dogs owners. Nobody has the “crazy” pet-owner market owned except maybe those animal hoarders. Who lets a house full of animals shit all over their place? The hoarders aside, let cat owners be. Not every single woman who owns a cat has got the crazy eyes. Dog owners can be just as nuts as cat owners.
If you haven’t watched the hilarious web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube, you need to get on it! Issa Rae plays “J”, a well-meaning, feisty-but-lovable, often awkward, twenty-something dating, working, and trying to navigate her world in Los Angeles. She hilariously narrates the awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes cringe-worthy moments many of us encounter in our daily lives. Watching that series helped me let the gunk out after long, shitty days at my recent lifeforce-sucking job.
My awkward moments often involve men. I turn into a babbling fool around men I find attractive. I wonder: can a hot guy can peer into my soul and see just how hot I find him and how much energy it’s taking me to keep it together around him? Stop looking at me with those hot eyes; I may melt under the pressure!
There are some beautiful men in San Francisco. I don’t mean surreally good-looking like Rob Lowe or an “ordinarily I wouldn’t be into him, but he’s so damn charming” Channing Tatum kind of beauty, or in an “only in my wildest dreams”, Idris Elba kind of way. Rather, these men are beautiful in an “unassuming, I’m a 21st century man so I may use some male moisturizer, and try to present myself decently and think about what I wear (just a little), but I’m more focused on my career and the world around me than my pecs”, kind of way.
I’ve had more than a few women here, upon finding out that I’m new to the city and single, ask me: “Have you been dating online?” Not “Have you been dating?”, but rather “Have you been dating online?” As though online is the default way of meeting a potential mate. Erm, ok. People don’t meet each other through friends, classes, the grocery store (stupid articles that purport to give tips on dating always list the grocery store as a great place to meet men. The only men hitting on me the grocery store always seems to be missing teeth and a sense of smell) or just happenstance? You know, the “normal” way? This is how things go in this tech-centric city, I guess? I thought it odd, but after a few months of not meeting anyone, male or female, and feeling like men wouldn’t even make eye contact with me on the street, like I am a succubus or something ready to steal their soul, I decided to give online dating a shot again. I’d tried it a few times over the years in Los Angeles on several different sites and ended up wanting to stab myself repeatedly, effed-up-Criminal Minds-style. It was painful. I ended up meeting the guys I dated through offline methods. Imagine that.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that online dating here is soooo much simpler…at least for a woman. Holy eligible men, Catwoman! It seemed like every dude’s profile was some variation of: “When I’m not working at my [bragworthy job] I am snowboarding in Tahoe [with requisite photo of them in snowboarding gear, on top of a mountain, looking rugged], traveling to locales unexplored [along with various photos of them in front of recognizable world landmark], eating at Michelin-starred restaurants [yuppies love good food!], running marathons barefoot in the wild, rescuing orphaned puppies from mangy, rabid bobcats and mentoring impoverished children from under-served communities in Tantakistan (yes, I made that country up, don’t go looking for it). I also have my Masters in Only Super Smart People Study This subject.” Are you kidding me? Men like this exist in real life?
Of course, I also had men my dad’s age reach out to me, despite my clear age limits (I gave a good 12-year range, with my own age slightly higher than my minimum). I don’t mean to seem ageist, but I am just not interested in dating someone who could be my dad’s buddy. And I don’t think my dad would care for me to bring home a new pal for him either. It just weirds me out. Interestingly, more than a few twenty-something guys contacted me too. These young dudes are digging the thirty somethings (for what, I am not sure I want to know).
Even the men who aren’t hot-at-first-sight become really interesting and appealing once you hear about their experiences, their travels, their knowledge of the world around them, their stints in grad school, their love of dogs (my hope is find a man with a dog so that I can play with the dog and he can continue his responsibly of taking care of it, mwahhaha) and their passion for their careers. Looks are only a small part of what makes a man attractive to me.
This morning, while walking from my bus to the office, I ran into a guy from ____. We both had headphones on and for a moment I had the awkward “Are we going to walk together and chat or just say hi and go back to our music as we awkwardly walk in the same direction?” I was awkward, but he coolly took off his headphones and put them away. I followed suit. This guy is goooood-looking. He’s not usually my type, if I have one, but he’s so unpretentious and easy to talk to that I can’t help but be drawn in.
I am not usually one to go on and on about blue eyes. I’m more of a chocolate-brown eyes kinda girl. However, some people have these piercing blue eyes that come alive when they wear the right colors. I met Justin Timberlake once – in a highly embarrassing encounter where I made a straight fool out of myself and wasted my opportunity to talk to him by saying something absolutely ridiculous – and I will never forget how bright and clear his blue eyes were.
This guy had those kind of blue eyes and was wearing a deep blue jacket that made them stand out. He’s relatively tall and looks like a lacrosse player. I don’t actually even understand what lacrosse is, he’s just what I imagine a lacrosse player looks like: masculine and like he smells good even when sweaty. I felt so awkward during the five-minute walk to the office. Five whole minutes! Was my face oily? Am I talking too much to avoid awkward silences? Am I making myself sound like an airhead trying to keep things light and fun? I went to college, why have I suddenly lost the ability to form a complete sentence aloud? Omigod, I haven’t even seen if he has a ring on or not! When did I regress to 15-years old?
I made it to my office (he held the door open for me. Eeee!), we parted ways, and I let out a huge sigh of relief. Ohhhhhh, so much awkwardness! Had I been holding my breath for the past five minutes? Does every guy here go snowboard in Tahoe? He does. He also has his MBA and I’m betting volunteers with ethnic lepers on the weekends. If he has a dog, I don’t know what I will do with myself. Where do these men come from?
For the first time in a long while, I’m enjoying being single and dating. With so many fascinating men to meet, who can blame me?
I’ve been thinking about my weight since I was 13.
One day I ate everything I wanted with abandon and the next, the size of my thighs were cause for angst.
Thirteen is about when I started working out. My mom had a catalog of Jane Fonda videos from the 80s and I was Jane Fonda’s devoted follower. Those videos work!Jane still looks hot today. It’s unreal. I also became a fan of Joyce Vedral and her fat-burning workout. I thank her to this day for my interest in being fit and toned.
Once, upon being presented with “soaked in the deep fryer” chicken for dinner, I whined to my parents with dramatic horror:
Fried chicken?! Oh.my.God. Do you know how much fat and salt is in that, mother?!
(I learned from watching white teens on TV that if you are angry with your parents you refer to them – with the disgust only a teen can muster – as “mother” and “father”. See: Brenda Walsh). My mom would reply with something like: “You don’t like it, you can get a job! Sit your butt down at this table. I don’t have time for this. And do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“Mo-ther! I am not eating this!”
In college I gained the “Freshman 15.”
I’m short, so even an extra five lbs becomes noticeable. That first year, I steadily free-fed on dorm food – bovine-style. My frequent meal-buddy and I would even stow away bread rolls and whatever else we could easily hide for later consumption. It felt deliciously decadent to have dessert with every meal. Then, the summer after my freshman year, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and my rounder image horrified me. My face was fat(ish), like a burnt chipmunk. I was wearing a crop top with a fat roll muffining its way out. Who was this schlub?! Well it had to stop.
I went on a superdiet.
I greatly reduced my caloric intake and worked out like I was training for The Olympics. My weight quickly came down, and down, and down, until I looked like a chocolate Tootsie Roll pop. I’d gone too far. I lost my butt. As the ever-wise Lil Wayne says about women with no ass: “You ain’t got shit.” Or as his labelmate, Tyga raps: “If you ain’t got no ass, bitch, wear a poncho.” When the ass goes, you’ve overdone it and misogynistic men won’t give you a second glance. What will you do with your life then?
The problem is that even though I was too thin, I received a lot of compliments about my size: from men (“hey baby!”) and women (“please share your secret!”) alike. I learned: skinny = validation.
When I graduated college I was ill-prepared for the shock of the real world. I went from constant partying studying and working, to what seemed like days and days of endless, routine boredom. I came to understand that this is called “working for a living.” The novelty of ordering office supplies for my desk quickly wore off and the reality of working in corporate America set in: this shit is boring.
So, I ate and my weight crept up.
One evening I went out with my roommates for a much needed bout of drinking and dancing. While walking into one of San Jose’s “clubs” (the city was boring as all hell) I bumped into a cute, slender Asian girl about my height. Having already thrown back a few, I gushed to her: “You’re so cute. You must be a size three. I used to be a size three.” She looked me over – I was probably no bigger than a size six – and with her voice dripping in bubbly judgement replied:
What happened to you?!
Her reaction stunned and hurt me. It also saddened me that a size six is considered worthy of disgust. I should have been fine with my size. I was healthy and within the right range for my height. But, by this point, my body image was so distorted, I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I also wasn’t getting the skinny validation I’d gotten in the past.
Then followed an intense battle between my body, my mind and my other mind.
My body insisted on stowing away fat for the winter that never comes in my part of California. My mind wanted to eat everything in sight to soothe my boredom and loneliness. My other mind wanted to be thin.
I started bingeing and purging. I’d go crazy eating cookies, chips and soda in one sitting, feel ill and disgusted with myself, and then run to the bathroom to throw it up. I only did this for a short time. It’s not effective and it’s too much damn work. Do you know how much work it takes to stick your fingers down your throat and force yourself to vomit? Who has the time? People are starving all over the world and I’m eyeing food with a mix of lust and hatred. It’s also bad for your teeth and I like my teeth. Not to mention, if anyone catches you in public, you have to explain why your feet are facing the wrong way in the bathroom stall. Either you are barfing or you have a secret penis. My dance with bulimia ended within a couple of weeks, never to be revisited again.
A few years later, I was in Los Angeles. I’d started dating an actor (warning: don’t do it). He said to me one day while we were phone-flirting:
You got some thick thighs, I like that.
Well, I sure as hell didn’t like that! Thick?! Why the hell had I been going to the gym?! He meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a reason to go annihilate myself at Bally’s. I replied with a hesitant “Uh, thanks.” That relationship crashed and burned miserably (I said not to date an actor).
Another couple of years later, I’d worked my weight down to my “normal” (for me) size. I went to visit my feisty grandma. She took one look at me and said matter-of-factly “Keisha, you’re too thin. Men like women with a little extra padding.” I’ve heard more than enough times from others that men like more “cushion for the pushin’”. Grandma knows. My grandma is no “oh my, golly gee, let me bake you some cookies” granny. She tells it like it is, she keeps it real and you can bake your own damn cookies. I laughed and told her how awesome she is.
Then I got into a serious long-term relationship.
For at least a year, I maintained my weight. Boyfriend liked my body and the “thick” thighs were just the right size. Then came year two. Happily in love, I spent less time at the gym and more time, well…none of your business. By year three, I’d grown faaat. I mean, actually fat. I was clinically overweight. I had never weighed so much in my life. I comforted myself with the thought: boyfriend will still love me anyway, right? But, I didn’t love me.
I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. Not only did I feel bad about how I looked, I felt bad physically. My body wasn’t used to carrying so much extra weight. I didn’t know how to dress for my new size. What looked good on me? So, I tried to lose weight. Then boyfriend and I broke up. That was the kick in the pants I needed to get my fat ass back in the gym. It’s the depression weight loss plan.
I couldn’t shake the weight, no matter what I did. I figured it was because I was nearing that age where people say your metabolism slows. Since, I was also having problems sleeping and breathing properly, I visited a specialist to check things out. He said to me,
“You’re too heavy! That’s why you can’t sleep.”
That was his expensive doctorly wisdom: you are a fat bitch. Well, fuck you very much doctor dickhead. The issue did turn out to be medical and once pinpointed, the weight started to come off. I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable weight (for me) since then.
I straddle two worlds: one black and one mainstream.
In the “black world” depending on who you ask, I am either “just right” or “too thin”. One of my younger sisters is very slender. She once had a black boyfriend tell her she was too skinny and that she needed to start eating some cornbread. I marveled at this. A free pass to pig out on cornbread? I’m sold! Does he have an older brother?
In the “white” or “mainstream” world, the view of what constitutes thin has shrunken over time. In Los Angeles, some women probably think I’m “big.” To those types, if you’re larger than a size two, you’re a tub o’ Crisco.
I would love to say that I no longer care. That I don’t think about my weight and that I don’t have days when I just want to say “Fuck it all, I’m going to eat some motherbleepin’ ice cream and then a big ol’ tub of movie popcorn and be fat and happy!” But, that’s not the case. However, after several low-carb diets, starvation diets, weird heart patient lemonades, and flirting with bulimia, I’ve learned to allow myself to enjoy food. I can eat well and be healthy. I’ve also learned to appreciate my womanly figure, including the “thick thighs”, and pay less attention to my clothing size.
What happened to the days when women with a little bit of belly fat were thought of as gorgeous? Can we go back to that? To the figurative days when having extra pounds meant you were fortunate enough to have plenty of food to eat? We aren’t meant to starve ourselves into stick figures. Life is meant to be lived and food is part of living (and too damn good to be chucking in the toilet). So, live, eat, and love your body!
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.