Catch up with the rest of the Woke Men Only series here
“Then he just said: ok, I’m going to go now – abruptly. Just like that,” I shouted over the din synonymous with Saturday night at a bar. It’s a best friend’s birthday. And in lieu of a present, I’ve brought stories instead.
I got a chorus of responses – mostly concern freckled with cringing.
“People are the worst.”
“Damn, I was actually going to get OKCupid myself because you really sold it. Liked the sound of it.”
I’ve deleted my account.
Arrogantly, at work in 2016, I said I didn’t need OKCupid because I met people IRL (although of dubious quality). I was young and outgoing. I went to parties. I loved meeting new people. I lived in the greatest city in the world. By late 2017, this was no longer true – bar the last point. I did not anticipate that adulthood, like thrush, would appear unannounced, cause me great discomfort and never really go away. It was easy to keep my promise to not date white men until at least 2018, because I was either at work, ignoring my Facebook messages or socialising with people I had known for over a decade. So when wanking wasn’t cutting it – I got OkCupid.
But I had also avoided it for so long because I was afraid. I had seen the storm surrounding the release of OKCupid data and knew black women didn’t do so well on the site. White supremacy – the gift that keeps on giving – meant all races ignored us. As robust as my self-esteem is, I didn’t know how much potential rejection I could manage. Feeling I was bossing all other aspects of my life, now was the time to take the risk. Under guidance from my old colleagues, I lit the sight with my personal likes and dislikes and filled out a lengthy survey to make sure the algorithm got rid of any closet racists or right-wing pundits with a fetish. I can attest it is a very effective algorithm.
I found out quickly that if you put your full name as your username, and write articles about bad dates and relationships, there’s a chance, someone, somewhere, on the site might have read them. But luckily it was a positive message!
Like searching for truffles, OkCupid was mostly sifting through infinite, endless, awkward chats until you find the gems scattered amongst the foliage. Thirst trap black guys with six-packs and bookish white guys seemed to be my receptive audience, which worked for me. I was buoyed by the number of messages; a self-esteem crisis averted. But still essentially the commodification of courtship, conversations die out quickly due to intense competition and the paradox of choice. So when asked out for a drink, I accepted.
He was nervous, which he announced at the start. Which instantly made me feel uncomfortable, but I tried to mask it to prevent a spiral into a stilted conversation. Luckily alcohol, always the midwife that delivers flowing conversation, saved us from ourselves. We talked about 90s RnB. We laughed. A lot.
“Would you like another drink?” he asked.
“Sure. But I’ll get this one.”
Fifteen minutes later, at barely 8pm, I had hardly finished my drink when, without warning or any prophetic social cues, he announced: “Ok, I’m going to go now.” As I mentally raced through all the possible ways I could have acted strangely, I was warmed by the fact that at least, for once, racism wasn’t the ingredient that ruined what was otherwise a perfectly good thing: like adding fruit to a delicious cake for no reason. This time, I was just unbearable company. I got up to leave too.
Our conversations from inside the bar continued outside the bar for another 20 minutes in the drizzle. It didn’t make any sense. You wanted to leave so badly – why are we still stood here? I was hungry and my hair was not in a protective style. Enough was enough.
“Ok, well, I’m going to get some chips,” I said, confused and hungry. Then he kissed me.
“You’re really small,” he said.
“Yes, I am.”
And then again. Nothing made sense. Did he feel obligated to? Tragic.
My sleep was interrupted at intervals, consumed by numerous ways I must have done something wrong or ridiculous. All the ways I had failed. Days and days later, what should have been an irrelevant mishap I could unpick with friends and laugh about, was still dominating my thoughts and disrupting my day. Why could I never get anything right? And I knew it wasn’t ‘normal’.
Insomnia. The eye twitch. Constantly dogged by the fear of failure or threat of exposure as a fake. Throwing up before starting my Masters because I clearly didn’t deserve a place. Obviously the least intelligent person at my job. I looked through my search history over the past five years: having a panic attack and you think you might die, anxiety-induced insomnia, anxiety and nosebleeds, anxiety and eye twitch, high functioning anxiety, imposter syndrome. And just like that, an awkward, strange date ended up in a referral for CBT.
I never heard from him again. And I never got my chips.