My issues with dating have mostly to do with semantics. It’s like the minute what I know to be hanging out is labeled a date I become a bundle of wretched wretched nerves and things just end all confused.
I’m not much of a date person. Well, date in the traditional sense. I’m not one of those people who have to be out with a different person three or four times a week to feel like I am out there. I always figure I’ll just do what I normally do and chances are if I connect with someone I will gravitate towards them or vice versa.
Scenario One: The Mute
After being told to stop over thinking everything and being overly dramatic with the whole date label thing I decided that it couldn’t be so bad, right? If as people say my hanging out with some guys could technically be in the dating category I decided to have a change in attitude. No more arbitrary boundaries. So, someone asked me out for drinks and I was like O.K, twende basi. I am labeling this a date and its all good.
A few hours later he and I are on our way to happy hour and I realize, haki I have never heard this dude talk. Like, he is in a group of people as they talk but no contribution to the convo from him. I’m like haiya-ye what in the world did I get myself into. Cos im there talking myself hoarse and he just nods sagely and I’m thinking holy crap, SPEAK goddamit! Contrary to popular opinion I don’t like the sound of my voice enough to keep yapping to myself for endless chunks of time. It’s why they call it “beating” stories: participate! On cannot be in a fight like this all by their lonesome.
Anyhoo. We get to the place and still silence. He just sits there looking at his beer and me and nodding and answering questions with sentences that contain less that ten words (I didn’t even know that was possible – I have a hard enough time tweeting and this dude summarizes with no effort … the mind boggles). I always thought small talk was easy to make. Keep away from things like sex religion and politics and we will be good, right? I mean, so many things to talk about. We are both transplants from other countries in a foreign land – tell me about where you are from. We met at a place where we both volunteer – what motivated you to give up some of your time a few days a week? Do you like sci fi? Lets talk about that! I swear, I tried everything. Just more nodding and staring and me the more nervous I get the more I blather on and on. A few gin and tonics later it was like I was on auto pilot. Somewhere, there is a story being told/tweeted/blogged/facebooked about the time he went out with this Kenyan chick who would not.stop.talking!
The one weird moment was when he reached out and touched my locs. Just randomly and me I’m left thinking I really need to get one of these cos you don’t just go randomly touching peoples hair, how rude! I was told later I might have been misreading his gesture maybe those are his special moves but I don’t think so. Who just grabs a fistful of someones hair and then lingers? On a first date? In public? Methinks he was just curious to see what the hair felt like and he couldn’t help the impulse.
It doesn’t help that I really am a shy person and it takes a while to open up to people. Even though I am an introvert at heart having parents who are extroverts by nature has cured me of some of my self consciousness. They are always like, there are 6 billion people in the world, no one really cares that much about what you are doing, they have their own lives to live. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to hide in a crowd though. There are times where one on one conversation may seem like the easiest thing in the world and other times the hardest. And for those times its hard a buffer zone is needed to stop things spiraling into something like a very awkward scene from those crap romantic comedies.
Scenario Two: The Asshole
We all have asshole tendencies. Even Mother Theresa must have had a few off days, its just the way humans are wired. Thing is, we keep it to a level where interaction with others is not a painful, drawn out experience.
I go for a bbq one weekend and I walk in and I’m told ooooh, there is someone here who would be perfect for you! Come and meet him! I was thinking whatever. No way can any interaction be anymore awkward than the one with The Mute. After telling them that no, hooking me up with your friends/cellotape relatives is not the way to go (knowing older Kenyans tends to end up in a lot of these moments for some reason where they feel its up to them to play matchmaker. Why, I don’t know) I get my drink and decide to be polite and talk to him a while and then move on to other people.
After I say hi he goes like “is that drink for me?” I’m like, uhm say what? The cooler is over there with the beer and if you want a stiff drink they are all in the kitchen. He gives me a look and then goes and gets one himself. So we get talking about random things and again, he asks some lady walking by to get him yet another beer and I was wondering, whats wrong with him? Like is he in pain when he walks? Why only send the women for the drinks and not the men? So, I asked cos I was curious. His reply? “It’s how Kenyans do things, the women wait on the men”. I didn’t hear the rest of his little speech about how women should cater to men’s every whim cos I was too busy thinking aaaah, that’s what all the looks were about when food was ready and I came back with one plate for me. I was supposed to fix him a plate even though its self service and his legs work fine. Also explains how he kept saying his roots were important to him (trust me, the only roots he meant were where men got their food before everyone else) and a whole bunch of other statements I had just brushed off.
Look, I know all about entitled African men in general and Kenyan ones in particular. My dad is one of them. A lot of my uncles and older cousins are part of the “the world revolves around me” set. Usually this is balanced by women who frankly just don’t care (my mother is one of the “I wont change my name cos I am my own person” career women) or indulge them just enough and draw a line somewhere. Me I have no such illusions. While I don’t plan to be a ball busting bitch please understand that I will under no circumstances “wait” on a man my age cos he feels its my duty to do so. Kubaff. And when he was saying ati its how Kenyans do things there was this look of disappointment on his face as he looked at me and I was like its on.
Since I know these kind of men so well I know what horrifies them. Women who drink and smoke. The ones who declare they have no interest in cooking or finding a man and so on and so forth. So that day I drank shots with abandon, lit my cigarettes with relish and went on and on about how I don’t even know how to akisha the stove in my apartment and how kids = ew. I did go a bit overboard (ok, a lot) but maaan was it fun. By the end of the evening he was keeping 30 paces from me and tsk tsk-ing me from a distance as he asked his cousin why she thought we would be a match. Apparently I’m not the nice Kikuyu girl he had been told I was.
In this case fine, I was probably an asshole too. But if you are 25, living in the 21st century and act more entitled than my father who is almost 60 and was the only boy out of 6 children then sorry, there is no redemption.
I guess what really gets to me about a date is that sometimes, it seems like all a façade. I mean, you dress up a certain way and you have the right repertoire of info about yourself to make you sound intriguing and just enough funny stories to make you seem exciting and … I don’t know. Sub consciously we all do it, right? It’s not like when you meet someone, anyone, you go ahead and tell them everything bad that’s about you first. For them to accept the truly horrid parts of you they have to know what your redeeming qualities are first. But … I don’t know. It seems heightened someone when you are out on a date. At least for me it does. It may all come down to semantics but I am way more relaxed when just hanging out with someone and there is some flirting going on and while on a date and I feel like I’m being inspected. I’m not sure if the difference is coming across. Cos a date is a time you get to know someone and they get to know you and that’s what it boils down to, whether I call it dating or hanging out or whatever. Man, this made so much more sense in my head.
Scenario Three: The Quasi-Christian
Another group of people I tend to know very well is the religious (i.e Christian) folk. My father is Pentecostal and very much into it, my mother is Catholic and devout and I have family members who belong to every sect imaginable (it’s the law of averages. Have an extended family big enough and eventually, you will see it all). So, I speak the “language” and know where lines are drawn for both them and me. I have no qualms about dating/hanging out with religious people, just leave my spiritual path the fuck alone is my motto. You do you and I do me. And sometimes, it actually works. We may not end up together but I have made very good friends and met some awesome people.
Ok, this dude I have known a while and I start hanging out/dating. No big deal, neither of us is looking for anything serious. He is quasi religious which is something I will get into later. We have fun, we talk and do random things together and yet, no pressure. So one day we go for a birthday dinner which of course runs long cos its one of those resturants where they say “the party cannot be seated until everyone has arrived” and Kenyans and timing … anyway. Club hopping ensues and at some point we end up arriving earlier than everyone else at some random place. So, in the middle of things getting physical he pushes me away and says “come to church with me tomorrow.” I’m too stunned to even squeak out an “ati?” cos I’m not understanding. A back and forth about this ridiculous notion that I will accompany him to church begins. I ask why, he says just cos. I accuse him of trying to sabotage the night for reasons I wont bring up here and he’s like no, I’m serious. He kept persisting, even after I told him I wont go to church and if I were to go, I’m going for mass and you aren’t catholic soo … give it up. At this point I’m pissed like you wouldn’t even imagine and I’ve decided to get drunk since 1.the moment/mood is gone 2.its clear this dude has issues – he wants to sin on Saturday night but be cleansed on Sunday morning and take the heathen woman he was with so as to score further redemption points. Needless to say, he went to church alone the next day and it was a few weeks until he figured that I didn’t appreciate his trying to make me have a come to Jesus moment in a club when we are both tipsy and he stopped calling.
Ok, considering the past summer, not all of my dating experiences were bad. I actually had fun even though I am more of a hanging out kinda person and not an on the hunt kinda girl. The whole doing what I do and I will gravitate towards people or they me has worked out pretty well for me and there is no need to mess with a winning formula. And the above are not the worst times I had out but they stood out a lot for some reason, I’m not sure why. And while I’m sure I’ll keep being told that it’s all semantics when it comes to this subject, for now, my approach works and that’s cool.