Bad dates with academics are enough to erode the most beautiful woman’s confidence.
Being single in academia oftentimes means dealing with men who are too busy deconstructing gender to let you know that they think you’re beautiful. A grad school date could be a strangely coded invitation to a Judith Butler talk. Afterwards, you and your new boo might drink cheap wine while talking about your research. You’ll wish that you were out with some hood dude, who might have been crass, but offered you twelve compliments in the time it took your fellow scholar to describe his project.
After a few years of dealing with academics, I was overdue for a break. One of my good guy friends told me how to meet (regular) guys:
“Just walk outside in jeans and sneakers, and smile! That’s all you have to do.”
I tested his theory on a lazy Saturday, while walking to the library. Before I could collect my books and get back home, one man had stopped traffic to tell me how good I looked, and another asked me out. Of course, you can never meet a good man at the library (or on the street–they’re all crazy). But still, I was now armed with the knowledge that I didn’t have to look drop dead gorgeous to meet anybody. My newfound skill ensured that I met plenty of interesting men–drug dealers looking to get out of the game, a small business owner who wanted me to go motorcycle riding with him (I declined), truck drivers who offered me an engagement ring, or Ciroc (my choice).
The problem with these men is that they came with their own Louis Vuitton luggage set of drama. When a date gets canceled because a man’s cousin got shot, it might be time to reconsider that potential relationship. When a man shows you his phone, which has 50 photos from other women, and pictures of his children, it might be time to run out of the restaurant. When a man recently broke up with his girlfriend and has 5 cats and an unfurnished house, it is time to climb aboard a spaceship and go to another planet.
I teetered and tottered between the world of academia, with men whose words were bigger than their wallets, and the “real world”, where men had more money and more problems. (May Biggie rest in peace).
As of this moment, I opt out of all of the above. I’m fine with being single (for once). But I didn’t know how to shut down the interest I was still receiving from men. I had to learn how to smile differently.
My trial by fire was the other night, when a young white man with 1990s hair tried to talk to me. His hair was long. He was nice, but I was uninterested. He persisted, however, in bragging about himself, as though that would change my mind.
So I was polite, but my eyes were like closed shutters. I think he really got the point when I twisted my lips into a smile that was tighter than a Victorian grandmother’s.
And that, my dears, is how you smile at a man when you want him to leave you alone.