by Zahra Barnes
The night was going excellently. I was at one of my favorite bars, I had an absolute wrecking ball of a Long Island Iced Tea in my hand, and my best friend and I kept yelling “Rusty Cartwright’s here!” at each other because he was and we were (perhaps a bit too) delighted by his presence.
Then A* came up to me. His impressive height was only emphasized by his spiky hair, which I kept wondering about. Did he wash it before he went to sleep at night? He didn’t look like the type. Wouldn’t his pillowcase get gel all over it? Pressing questions.
Within the first minutes of our conversation, A’s eyes took on a laser-like focus as he asked me if I “like white guys?” I’ve dealt with this question many times, so I gave my typical response: “Haha no worries, as long as you’re hot I’ll love you, promise!” He laughed and asked if he could get me a drink and insisted that he buy one for my friend as well. “Is it okay if a white guy buys you a drink?” he grinned at me. “Haha!!! Um. Yes,” I responded as I thought, I’m a broke 21-year-old. It’s okay if anyone buys me a drink. As he spoke to the bartender, I turned to my best friend with and was all “WTF!” and “Ugh” as I explained his obsession with him being white and me being black. She was like “Free drinks! We’re poor!” And I was like “You win,” so I turned back to A, who was smiling at me. Just smiling and staring.
Later on, he kind of redeemed himself by moving on to subjects besides the difference of melanin levels in our skin. But when he brought it up again, my Long Island and I rationalized that maybe he was too drunk to realize that he was kind of harping on the subject. How many times must I tell myself to never make excuses for a guy? HOW MANY TIMES? It obviously only ends in disaster.
During our conversation, A asked for my phone number. I gave it to him (WHY) and he said, “I’m going to call you now. Are Caucasians allowed to be in your phone?” Oookay, dude. At this point, I decided to run, free drinks be damned.
I spent the rest of the night darting around the bar, trying to escape this race-obsessed man. On principle, I don’t want to be with someone who’s so focused on the color of my skin. The only way I see that ending is in slave/master role-play, and I am So. Not. Down. A started trailing me, interrupting my conversations with other guys, or you know, just standing behind me in a completely normal fashion so when I turned around he could pretend that instead of him following me, it was fate bringing us together yet again.
He also cornered my best friend multiple times, demanding to know what I had against white men. She assured him that my avoidance of him had nothing to do with his race, but more to do with his reminding me of one of those men who likes bedding black women to convince himself that we deserve hatred since we’re sluts. “But I spent TWENTY DOLLARS on her!” he shouted.
I do understand this on some level; I chatted with him, accepted his drinks, and gave him my phone number. This doesn’t mean I owed him anything, but it’s the standard bar mating ritual, no? I was still somewhat new to this, having just left behind the world of sticky-floored college bars where your options are either the kid in your Stats class or the bro you see every time his fraternity has a kegger. There are very few circumstances under which these men will buy you a drink, as they are poor and do not generally want to spend money if you’re not a sure thing. This night taught me a vital, real-world lesson: Do not accept a drink/give out my phone number/act at all interested unless I actually want to get to know the person in question. Otherwise, there’s a high chance the night will end badly for everyone involved.
He started glaring at me. Actually, glaring is too weak a word. Chopping me up with his eyes, maybe? This was also when the texts started. At 1:46 a.m., I got: “Your bogus” Uh, my bogus what? Over the next two hours, A sent me over 50 text messages. Here are the ones that particularly delight me when I reread the conversation, which I most definitely do not do on a weekly basis.
1:51 a.m.: “Your missing out, being honest” I am now flooded with regret.
2:03 a.m.: “Unbrliaravable” Yes, I am unbrliaravable. You, on the other hand, are completely normal.
2:05 a.m.: “Smdh” This means “shaking my damn head,” in case you didn’t know. Stereotypically, black people use it; maybe he thought it would be best to speak to me in my own language? I dunno.
2:11 a.m.: “Racist as fuck” Yes, me insisting that I have no issue with anyone based on race means I am racist.
2:16 a.m.: “Smdh you bogus as hell man” This has become a staple in my daily conversation.
2:34 a.m.: “Buy you drinks and you just act Hollywood smdh” I act Hollywood?! I have arrived.
2:37 a.m.: “Guess that’s come to be suspected from a racist” 🙁
2:56 a.m.: “Unbelievable, last time I buy you drinks” But… I already dropped out of school because I thought you were going to support me and buy me all the Long Islands I could ever drink. Ever.
3:01 a.m.: “Thought if you treated you like a queen you’d be nice” Why. Why do men think because I’m black they need to convince me they’ll treat me like a queen? More specifically, a Nubian queen. WHAT?
3:13 a.m.: “Last time I’m ignorant” Oh, sweetie. I doubt it.
My best friend and I spent most of the next day reading these texts out loud to each other in angry voices and rolling around on her bed with stomach cramps from laughing so hard. I was convinced that he was reading the texts again as well, but instead he was SO embarrassed by himself, right?! He was probably doing that thing I’ve never had to do, ever, where you daren’t read the previous night’s texts because you’re sure the humiliation will burn your eyes off and then you scan your texts really quickly before letting out a sigh of relief/horrified wail. I imagined him lying in bed, the sad next-day deflation of his porcupine hair only worsening his shame. Late that night, I got another text from him. Ha! He’s probably going to apologize, maybe ask for an opportunity to spend another $20 on me? Alas, I once again overestimated this guy.
2:28 a.m.: “Wow. Smdh.”
Zahra Barnes is a college senior who writes for Her Campus Northwestern. Her phone is traumatized but is getting back out there one step at a time.