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!
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?
This is part II of my trip to Zanzibar. Check out part I here.
Bright and early I met up with the group of 20 other snorkelers and divers at the pick up point for our guided trip on a dhow. The hyper crew had us all introduce ourselves by name and origin. The group of six from my hotel were aboard, along with two white South African girls. The rest of the group hailed from places in Europe like Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Poland. I was the lone person who lived in America. I was also one of only two solo-ers and the only black person aside from the crew. Thankfully, no one directed a shocked exclamation of, “YOU ARE BY YOURSELF?!” my way.
We stopped in the middle of the Ocean twice to snorkel and let the divers do their thing. I had to use a life jacket because though I can swim (as in do proper strokes, even backstroke) I still cannot tread water. Having almost drowned twice, I just cannot relax enough to let the water help me float. One day…
The coral were “reach out and touch someone” large. I could swear one tried to grab my leg. Our guide made sure we all stayed together so no one got lost or taken by coral or lost in the frigid, choppy water.
The problem with guided snorkeling is everyone must enter and exit the water together. If you decide you want to stop – say if you’re chilled to the bone and wish you’d accepted a wetsuit when offered – you have to tell the guide and then everyone must return. Even though I felt like my legs were going to fall off and it’d be 127 Hours: Indian Ocean edition, I opted to grin and bear it. I wasn’t going to ruin the trip for everyone else.
Once back on the dhow and still freezing, I climbed up to the top-level to catnap. Shortly after I laid my head down I heard a male voice say to me:
“Dada (miss), do you like the trip?”
My eyes were closed, so I pretended I didn’t hear him.
“Dada, you are from America?”
Alright, I’ll play, but I’m not sitting up. “Yes, I am from America.”
“Ah, America. I like to visit there one day. Where is your simba?” Hmm, simba means lion, so is he talking about a man?
“I don’t have one.”
“I don’t believe it. You are too beautiful to be alone.”
“Yep, I am here by myself.”
“How old are you?” I told him.
“Nooo. I think you are 23, 24. You are very beautiful. I am 42. I am looking for a special lady. Dada, I am going to play you a song.”
He pulled out an empty Tupperware container leftover from lunch, turned it over, began drumming on it with his hands and sang,
After three weeks in TZ, I’d heard the beloved 80’s Kenyan pop hit so many times I could play it myself. He asked me to join him in playing. I could see the South African girls peeping over curiously.
“Dada, I want to take you dancing. I think you probably dance like Shakira.”
I guffawed. “Uh, maybe if I have some pombe (beer).”
“I’ll take you dancing at the club where the local people go. We can have some drinks and dance. Cost no money.”
My gut told me that as nice as he seemed, going off with a man I just met in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home, where I can barely speak the language, is an unwise idea
“I’m sorry, I am going to stay home tonight.”
“Dada, we will have fun.”
“Noooo, I’m sorry.”
“Dada, why do you break my heart? I think you are lying and have a simba at your hotel.”
His tenacity and earnestness was admirable (and amusing). Tempting. He wasn’t bad to look at: Wesley Snipes choco with short dreads and very fit from his day job.
“Ha! I really don’t. I leave tomorrow and I want to go to bed early tonight.”
“Ok, we will go dancing early. 10 o’clock.”
“10! That is not early!”
“The people do not start dancing until 11.” I shook my head no.
“Dada, why do you reject me? What is wrong with me? I am going to sing another song. It is about a man with a broken heart.” He launched into a sad melody and looked at me forlornly as he sang. Is this really happening? I fought the urge to laugh. Everyone on the top deck eavesdropped without subtlety.
Dejected and rejected, he left to attend to his captainly duties.
We neared the shore where high tide had rolled in, bathing the beach in ocean water. The captain and his assistants navigated the dhow 100-feet from shore and anchored it.
“Ok, ladies and gentleman, you will have to swim. We will pack your things.” Is he for real? I can’t swim that! I can swim in a calm, contained swimming pool next to toddlers diving and synchronized swimming. Not a angry-waved, freezing ocean. Embarrassingly I had to ask for help. Of course, who else but the broken-hearted captain also doubled as lifeguard? Now I felt like I owed him. But, not enough to reconsider going dancing. Once we hit dry land, I thanked him profusely and said goodbye. He threw a last sad-puppy face my way.
Later that afternoon, I headed to the bar at the hotel to have a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the ocean view. I introduced myself to the bartender, Bakar, who’d met my friend J earlier in the week.
“So, you are friends with J_, yeah? He is my best friend!” This tickled me. People seemed to get attached quickly in TZ.
“Yes, he told me about you. You like hip-hop, right?”
He smiled widely. “Yes, I like Tupac!”
We made idle chitchat for a bit and he shared, “I would like an American girlfriend.”
I asked why.
“American women have independence. African women want you to have a job and then buy everything for them. They depend on you.”
I laughed, “So do some American women. They like men with money and nice cars who will buy them things.”
“Really?” he asked, surprised. “But, in America, you have a job. You can pay for yourself. Here? The woman wants you to buy her things that are simple, like bras. And they ask you to help their family too.” I could see his point.
I dined solo at dinner that night and continued reading my book. I ordered fish for dinner mostly so I could share it with Mwezi, the hotel kitty. I went to bed early in preparation for the next day’s activities. The hotel manager had helpfully arranged a spice tour and Stone Town excursion for me.
In the morning, a driver picked me up and me to a local farm where a guide awaited me. I thought I’d be joining a group to tour the farm, but I had my very own guide! I loved my guide; he was very knowledgeable and sweet.
The spice farm is community owned and they all share in the profits (including the dog I saw eating the fallen fruits). As we visited each plant or tree, an assistant would tear off a leaf or slice into bark for me to smell and guess what spice is derived from it. I sucked at the game. The only thing I was able to guess was the scent of vanilla.
I enjoyed seeing the origins of the spices we use for cooking, medicines and to scent things like candles and perfumes. Also of interest was hearing how the locals use spices recreationally. As my guide told me,
“Ginger is an aphrodisiac for men. It gives them power.”
Later, “Nutmeg has many uses. You can make it into a tea to help with your nerves if you are like, a singer. But, it’s also good for women as an aphrodisiac. If a man takes ginger and a woman takes nutmeg, it’s like a boom! You don’t know who will win.” He pantomimed an explosion with his hands. I giggled.
Near the end of the tour I tried some of the tropical fruits grown on the island: mangoes, green oranges, orange oranges, jackfruit, papaya and a couple of different types of bananas. The guys serving up the fruit in a open-air hut, were listening to Drake. They spoke barely any English but were jamming to “Forever.” The one who cut my fruit flirted with me via my guide. I didn’t need him to translate though. I’d learned the words for “beautiful,” “(not) married,” and “American” quickly. I loved that the men I met in Tanzania were so upfront (but respectful) about their interest. It was refreshing and flattering.
My driver waited for me (with my luggage) during the hour and a half I toured the farm. He then drove me into Stone Town where another guide was waiting to take me on a tour of the city. My driver let me know he’d return for me to take me to the airport in a few hours. This kind of personalized service would have cost me so much more in the States. In TZ it was affordable and I felt like I was helping employ people who needed it.
The people of Zanzibar have an interesting ethnic makeup due to colonialism and trade with influences from all over Africa, as well as Britain, India, Oman and Portugal. This diversity was especially noticeable in Stone Town, the hub of Zanzibar. Ninety percent of the population is Muslim, 7% Christian and the remaining 3% of other religions include Hindu. Many of the women dressed in traditional Muslim coverings and the looks I got for showing the bit of leg I did in my capris did not escape me. I found myself scandalized when I saw two female tourists wearing booty shorts and tank tops. Put on some clothing, you harlots!
You can also see the varied cultural influences in the architecture. There are the Arab-inspired narrow streets and open air markets; the ornate, heavy wooden doors with rounded tops reminiscent of India; and its own native influence with buildings constructed from crushed limestone and coral, hence the name Stone Town.
Zanzibar is more of a tourist destination than Moshi and I observed a distinct difference in the treatment of visitors in each place. In Zanzibar, the locals greeted visitors with “jambo,” which I’d learned soon after arriving in Tanzania, is a greeting used for tourists. Having been in Tanzania for three weeks, I was taken aback by the number of “jambos” directed my way.
My guide clearly took his job seriously as he rattled off historical facts in rapid succession. I love history, but I found myself becoming mentally fatigued. I can’t keep all of these Kings straight!
We visited the site of a former slave market where a Christian church now stands. Left intact is the cellar where slaves were held until auction. The cellar was dark, windowless, tiny and at 5’1” even I probably wouldn’t be able to stand upright without hunching over. The captors chained people up in this dungeon with no access to food, water or even a way to relieve themselves.
Outside is a tree that stands as a marker for the old trading post. Near it is a monument to peace with messages in four different languages. There is also an art installation depicting five African slaves chained together by their necks awaiting sale at auction. The chains are from the originals used on the captives. Taking all of it in, I felt the same sobering, heavy feeling I got when I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Sometimes I hate people.
Freddie Mercury, of Queenfame, is Zanzibar-born. My tour guide told me, “He is the king of rock ‘n’ roll.”
The museum was disappointing. Aside from a plaque outside and a handful of newspaper clippings, I’m not sure what made it a museum.I didn’t actually see anything about Freddie Mercury inside. It seemed like any other souvenir shop.
After we visited the open-air markets, we headed back to our starting point where I overheard three youtsspeaking in English about their prowess with girls with some of the foulest language I’ve heard since Eddie Murphy’s Raw. I gave them a look that said, “I can hear you motherbleepers and I know and you know, the ladies don’t love you like that.”
I liked Stone Town, but a few hours touring the city was enough. Perhaps at another time I might like to try some of the restaurants and maybe spoil myself and spend the night at one of the expensive rich-folk hotels, but I enjoyed the quiet and ease of Nungwimore.
Right on time, my driver picked me up to take me to the airport. A male passenger was with him. The passenger introduced himself to me, asked me a few questions and then said,
“I just met you, but I will already miss you when you leave.”
I knew I would also miss the men of Tanzania when I left.
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.