alexa I dated men across the races; this is how it's like - Daily Nation

I dated men across the races; this is how it's like

Saturday October 5 2019

interracial couple, black ad white, couple

The idea of dating a man from a different culture seemed so bizarre at first. PHOTO | SHANIQUE WRIGHT | UNSPLASH 

MERCY KAVUTHA
By MERCY KAVUTHA
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The idea of dating a man from a different culture seemed so bizarre at first. As the editor was briefing me all I could think was ‘Is this actually becoming a reality for me?' I was open to the idea though, after all, at 23, and being a student, the world is one big lobster and I can afford to take the risks. I could pull it off, yes, just for some reason, it seemed so ‘unreal'.

A 2014 OkCupid survey on mix-gendered participants concluded that all the women polled preferred to date men of their race, with black women approval rates at zero percent on white men, -11 percent on Asian men and 16 percent on fellow black men. Interesting.

I reflected on the plethora of the bad dating choices I'd already made, and it was surprising that I had never considered dating out of the country's boundaries. Does this mean that I, just like many other women, have been somehow socialised to stick to their own kind? Is it a matter of exposure? Or is it a comfort?

The more I contemplated my assignment, the more plausible it seemed. As a ‘woke' independent Kenyan woman, I was aware of how tiny the dating pool had become. When you put aside the woman-haters, aka hoteps, playboys, party freaks, self-proclaimed good guys and the ‘you up'-ers, the chances of finding a man worth spending quality time with, let alone be your life partner are next to nil.

Taking how common toxic relationships have become, I decided my editor made too much sense. It was time to bring Mercy out of the shell and open her up to continental love.

The sweet man with a few rough edges

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Bolulaje Owoh*, 34 years old, Business associate, Nigerian

"So when's dinner?" was the first DM I received from a match that captured my attention on Tinder. If you're anything like me, not beating around the bush earns you several points. I study part-time so we set the date for the next week's Thursday evening. Bolu, as he very-sweetly requested I call him, was a 34-year-old divorcee with a nine-year-old daughter and ‘was doing business with the government'. He was a short stout man, with absolutely no hair and adorned in the usual slightly-under fitting formal shirt under a pristine blue suit. My best friend would have described him with the now popular phrase, ‘kijana mfupi, nono, round' I stifled a chuckle as he came out of the building to pay the Uber driver. He tipped him. "Wow, so this is Mercy" he quizzed in a heavy Nigerian accent as he smiled and opened the door. I couldn't help but notice he smelled of sweat but I assumed it was due to a busy long day. Still, he could've freshened up, hygiene, you know?

We had been chatting on the app for several days before we exchanged numbers. He was a patient man. Before he called me he made it a point to text first, I'll admit I was taken by this. I however never allowed video calls and kept phone calls to a minimum. As I said, he was a patient man.

Bolu had the whitest teeth and even though he had a certain funk, he exuded a certain level of luxe and pride. I liked that about him. As a woman, it is important to date men who are at your level or higher, as my mama always preached.

He took my hand and didn't let go until we reached our table, all the while taking short slow strides babbling how he had been yearning to get a Kenyan lady to explore the beautiful locations with. We were at the Two Rivers Mall. ‘What kinds of malls do they have in Nigeria kwani?' I wondered. ‘And why is he holding my hand so firmly?'

I had let him know it was going to be a short, get-to-know-you type of date, but the restaurant felt a lot fancier, I was severely underdressed and my confidence took a hit. Upon arrival, I found a table (it took ages) for us. Bolu immediately ordered my food without even asking me. To be honest, at that point my freedom had been violated enough and I was ready to take my leave. However, for the sake of science (since it was a mere experiment by now) I soldiered on. ‘Maybe he isn't a misogynistic douche, maybe I'm being sensitive.' However, while I do like fish, I just needed some long islands and maybe wings on this day. I was exhausted long before the date even began.

I had already established that he was a chatterbox from our daily phone calls but I had no problem with it since I am more of a listener myself. The most irritating thing that happened on the date, is that Bolu seemed to time his questions precisely with the moment I was about to put some food in, making for plenty awkward silences as I hastened my chewing speed to offer him an answer. He ate with his mouth open too. Needless to say, I did not finish my meal.

However, despite my initial repulsion, I liked Bolu. We had plenty of undeniable chemistry from our previous chats and he never failed to make me roll down with laughter, it was ridiculously enjoyable. He later explained that he was pulling a practical joke on me, timing his questions with my chomps. He was a laugh bot and I decided I liked that. He paid for my meal as well as my ride home. In hindsight, I thought, what I perceived as an infringement on my freedom to choose, was him trying to impress me rather than exert any authority over me. I planned to see him again; he just needed a little fine-tuning.

Bolulaje scorecard

Personality/charisma     7

Honesty               8

Choice of location            2

Impression before the date        8

Impression after meeting            6

Overall Score     7

*Scores out of 10, where 10 is excellent and 0 is poorest

Easygoing, loaded lad who is not Team Beyonce

Jay Patel*, 30 years old, photographer, Indian

When I matched up to Jay, I felt immediately elated. His display picture was a man sitting atop a dusty Land Rover (the kind used for game drives) bonnet, Nikon camera on hand and a shy smile on his face. I sensed a level of adventure that I recognised in myself and prayed he'd message me. I was so excited! This assignment was proving to be the most interesting part of my days now and I looked forward to meeting all these enthralling men. His first message was short but sweet asking me how my day went.

Our conversations were fluid and not an ounce felt forced. It is embarrassing to admit it, but I gave him my number in a matter of hours. Jay was a 30-year-old who took on photography as a hobby.

He didn't have to, as I later was to learn, as he came from those loaded families.

At first, I was a bit hesitant about dating an Indian man because of the horror stories I had heard concerning racism, but he gently put all that to rest, after literally quoting Nelson Mandela. Our ‘dating' was in a word, calming.

Jay picked me up at school after an evening class. He was right on time. As he got out to open the door for me I was met with a big bear hug that felt a bit too close for comfort.

He was extremely tall but he smelled enchanting. While Jay was never the one to talk much and our conversations were not like the never-ending stand-up jokes of Bolu, our silences were comfortable. He took me to a popular pizza place at The Village Market which was perfect as the arrangement was meant to be simple and casual.

Sitting at the courtyard, feasting on pizza and Merlot, he talked about growing up in Mumbai and his family's decision to move to Kenya at the age of 14 to take upon the extended family's business. We bonded over art and travel, he didn't seem intimidated by my ambition and willingness to go over the top to make it, and neither did he make me feel silly because he was rich already. We did, however, have our differences when he insulted my entire religion by pretending he didn't appreciate the genius that is Beyoncé- THE QUEEN BEYONCE!

He picked the tab and off we set for a short walk, sightseeing, window shopping— the works. I should add he got me an Ankara bracelet which I liked. As it was getting late he offered to drop me home to which I politely declined and he graciously got me an Uber instead. Jay was the most easy-going date I ever went to. He even agreed to teach me French, which he was fluent in.

Scorecard: Jay Patel

Personality/charisma     8

Honesty               9

Choice of location            10

Impression before the date        9

Impression after meeting            8

Overall Score     9

*Scores out of 10, where 10 is excellent and 0 is poorest

The one with the dark past and some fetish

Jon Taylor*, 41-year-old, investment banker/traveller, Australian

I actually didn't meet Jon on the dating site; he walked up to me at K1 Klub House on a starry night and in a light Australian accent asked for a date, right there and then. It was quite daring of him and I was so impressed. I gave him my number instantly. He was tall— actually lanky— had short dark brown hair and deep-set brown eyes, and he was white so it was kind of comical to me. Our texts weren't frequent maybe two or three texts a day and a few phone calls, brush overs, never getting into details of our lives but I assumed with time the chemistry will start brewing.

Two weeks later over brunch, I learned that he was a 41-year-old investment banker, an atheist, a dad of one and with no marriage in tow. He had only had three relationships that spanned less than a year and spent the bulk of his life single, which set off several of my alarms. He also proceeded to tell me about his dark history facing rejection after rejection in his home country which was interesting, to say the least.

We spent a good amount of our time discussing places we both had explored. Despite his foreignness, he often caught my cultural references and even knew several Kiswahili words and phrases. I was beginning to have fun. In spite of that, Jon watched me as I spoke and I had a nagging feeling that I was in a sense, his specimen. Now, stories about black women fetishisation in the west are not new, but those women have a sort of ‘look', so to speak. That is the #BlackGirlMagic crew one, with the bright blue lipstick, flawless dark skin, beads, and a bald head aesthetic. I am in essence just an ordinary slay queen. So why was he ‘observing' me so keenly?

It didn't take long before the cat was out of the bag. "I like how smart you are. When I saw you that night I had to say something to you. Truth is I'm around for another week and I was hoping you'd be the nice lady who would help me with shall I say a memorable goodbye? "I smiled but I was reeling. For a moment, I just wanted to be back at home. My second royal screw-up. I made up a fake headache story and after politely rejecting several coercions to be taken to the hospital, he finally called an Uber. Communication was halted immediately.

Jon Taylor Scorecard

Personality/charisma     5

Honesty               8

Choice of location            8

Impression before the date        7

Impression after meeting            2

Overall Score     3

*Scores out of 10, where 10 is excellent and 0 is poorest

*Names have been changed

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