“Wow. Nice, nice. So what’s it like, going out with a black babe?”
The fact is it’s much like going out with any babe. You visit each other’s townhouses, you buy each other little gifts, you decide where to go for dinner. You go check movies. You go dancing.
The scene of our first date was the late Soulsa in Melville, Johannesburg, since renamed to head off a lawsuit from those boxed wing vendors and purveyors of authentic soul, Chicken Licken.
During our first telephone debate on the merits of various places to eat supper, the lovely Baby had said, “Let’s go to your ’hood…” and I was seized with panic – because I didn’t have a ’hood. As it turned out, we were both Port Elizabeth people, transplanted to Johannesburg. Economic refugees. So going back to the ’hood, the mean streets I’d grown up on, was not feasible. I was then living in Sandton, South African’s commercial heartland, home to a whole lot of corporate headquarters, the Sandton City shopping mall, a bunch of businessmen’s hotels and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. To call it a ’hood would be to attribute to it a measure of character and charm it does not have. It is not good first-date terrain.
So I fell back on my previous neighbourhood, a place where I’d lived for two years in a granny flat as I fumbled my way to financial stability in the big city. Melloids.
Melville was established in 1896 and is today one of the bohemian, student-y suburbs of the city, espousing pavement dining, late-night carousing, gayness and inexpensive granny flats. The gayness is weak with me (more about that later), but I embraced Melville’s other claims to fame as wholeheartedly as one can. Late-night carousing for sure. Cool Runnings for comedy night, the old Bassline and Cool Runnings again for poetry, Six and Ratz for blatant carousing, Trance Sky for a boogie, the Roxy for bands, Tokyo Star for… Actually, I have no idea why I ever went to Tokyo Star, but there I was.
For a single person, Melville is paradise. For dating, it’s not ideal. Its restaurants, since the demise of the late, lamented Thai restaurant Soi, are functional at best. Some are glorified piss-holes with menus, a mere ruse to mislead the liquor authorities. When you’re taking someone out for dinner, the dinner itself becomes a focal point. When you’re smashing a peri-peri chicken on the Seventh-Street strip in between Laurentinas, the point of eating is to prevent you fainting from alcohol poisoning, not so much to enjoy a culinary tour de force.
Actual cooking wise, Melville is touch and go. But of course, you want some local colour, so you end up at Soulsa, or as it’s now called, The Lucky Bean. Local flavour meets actual flavour. It is our first date. Baby and I.
I go and fetch her from her townhouse – it turns out she doesn’t own a car. She doesn’t drive either. So I go fetch her there in Randburg and we cruise down to Melville, which is actually the arse end of Joburg. Melville is not on the way to anywhere.
The date starts off polite and awkward, but we soldier on. She’s got the most amazing teeth. She must brush them with the stuff they put inside fluorescent lights. And she wears short dreadlocks. And she has this way of eating really slowly. She places each forkful in her mouth and savours it. She even closes her eyes as she does it.
I try show off my down-with-the-peopleness by saying the isiXhosa place name, “Ngqura” with such a loud q-click it sounds like a report from a sporting pistol. People come out from the kitchen to check if we’re being robbed. Sadly I’m a bit off, and she corrects me. It’s not “n-q”. You have to pronounce the “ngq” as one sound.
I resolve to not get ahead of myself and to rather just be the white boy that I am. I’m not going to be able to fake blackness with a proper Xhosa maiden.
Baby is keeping the conversation English and tidy. We both are. I’m thinking to myself, “But you’re Xhosa! Show me some of that roots stuff!”
But she never does, though I notice her focusing on her pronunciation too, after a couple of wines.
I’ve done some cross-cultural dating before, though I eased into it with coloured ladies. So I’m used to the odd head turn. The sense of being noticed. People being curious. That’s all it is, in Joburg, anyway. Hmm… Black girl with a white guy. I do it myself, to this day. Mmm, love across the colour bar, I say to myself. Love across the colour bar.
So there we are, love across the colour bar at Soulsa. I think I went ostrich steak and she had the chicken wrap with pine nuts or something odd. Baby had a couple glasses of red. I was not drinking – a character flaw I would need to remedy – but I was driving that night, so it was probably just as well. There was a certain sexual tension, which I was keen to cultivate. The last thing you want is a polite dinner and political correctness dooming your nascent relationship to the friend zone.
You need to at least get your kissing on. Not in public, or anything like that, but this is a date, godammit! The young lady must be clear that you are here, at Soulsa, with the express goal of one day shagging her.
Curious glances notwithstanding. It’s another one of those fine lines to walk. You want your lady companion to be clear that pomping is your game plan – but in the most tasteful way possible, of course. And there are cultural barriers, subtle cues and sexually loaded tête-à-têtes, which you’re not sure she quite gets. But you don’t want to blow it by coming off all crass.
And you know white men have this reputation of being a little asexual, too prim and poncey. So you want your message to be clear from the outset.
“Let’s do it. I mean, let’s do something on Friday…” Then there’s the elephant’s dong in the room. If and when we get down to business, and things get physical, will one’s equipment measure up to established standards? Will they indeed!
For a full and comprehensive analysis of white-versus-black penis sizes and the lovemaking experience offered by each, you would have to speak to someone who has been at the business end of the respective penises. And, like I said, the gayness is weak with me. Suffice to say, I’ve never had any complaints. At the same time, I’m in no danger of standing on the tip of my penis. So either my technique is sufficient to obviate any size differential, or I’m so deaf to subtle hints about my sexual ability that I will forever be a sex god in my own mind. Either way, I’m not about to construct an insecurity around it, and I’m content to go blissfully through life convinced I’m the Roger Federer of pomping. So far no one has done anything to disabuse me of this idea.
One thing I managed to do right was be circumcised. I’m not even sure how that came to happen, but there it is. I’m told that had I not been circumcised it may have harmed my chances with certain black ladies. But again, this is hearsay. I try not to think of penises too often, so I’m wincing as I write this. But sexually, if one gets to a situation where penises are coming up, or become relevant at least… well, then you’re doing something right and have not been doomed to the friend zone. And I also believe that most sexual, er, shortcomings will be ignored if you pay your partner the basic respect of not being an arsehole. Here I refer you to Commandment One of the Goofball Bible: Don’t be a doos.
So there I was, with my not-worth-complaining-about penis, trying to dazzle with conversational wizardry and politeness, while still keeping the sexual tension alive and dropping poorly pronounced Xhosa words into the conversation like an idiot. I still think my most potent asset was that while I might have been an idiot, at least I wasn’t an arsehole.