In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our third article, Betty Byte (not her real name) spells out why she is determined to live in Europe.
A benediction that was given to me a long ago from a beautiful, elegant black female co-worker of mine at my first job post college. She said overseas I would be showered with more male attention that I’d ever know what to do with and that if I stayed enough, I’d be married. My lovely friend is a jazz singer when she wasn’t working in the states as an office manager. She was married to a French West African man and had lived in Paris for three years. She told me this as we sat together sipping our lattes in Starbucks. I smiled and told her that I knew what she was talking about and how I had always planned to go to Europe with friends, but it never manifested.
Years later after Starbuck’s cafe chat, I sat alone struggling with rampant dating dry spells. I thought, what in the hell could I do to change this man less void I was trapped in?! I had done every damn thing in the book to find a mate. I had put up countless unanswered web ads (hello Ok Stupid!), went to Meet Ups, worked out like a demon, upgraded my appearance, signed up for speed dating parties, met with expensive dating coaches and memorized all current dating books. I did all that footwork and yet my phone only rang from my usual suspects – my mom, siblings, bill collectors and my job. Ahem and my ‘crew’ of 7 women friends had shrunk due to matrimony and moving away to 2 gals who were ‘in it’ with dudes so no calls from any of them. There comes a time in a single ladies’ life when you come to the Zen realization that you are very solo and trapped a negative dating space – even if that place is grand ol’ New York City. Thousands of women of various races, ethnicities and ages lament that the New York City is not the perfect spot for romance let alone marriage to bloom. This fact would make things doubly hard for black women, because if other folks are catching a cold, we get the Black Death.
I bought my first ticket to Europe after my boss joked if I ever planned to use my vacation days. You see, my job is my constant companion. Work had become the only ‘husband’ I had come to know since leaving college. My job was a selfish lover who didn’t care that I was lonely and ate most meals alone. So right after my boss went back to her office chuckling, I went to my desk and started looking for flights. I’m very embarrassed to say that I didn’t know anything about flights to Europe, airports, airplane security measures etc. The only thing I did have was a passport. It took me about a week to work out the details. I informed my now surprised boss, that I’d be taking a two week vacation in the coming month. I decided to Paris to visit an old boyfriend then London to hang out with an English buddy who had gone back to grad school in England.
Paris was challenging. I got lost every single day (even with Google maps!) and my French skills were poor so I could barely read street signs or communicate with anyone. I was terrified and baffled with my head buried in my travel guides. Although I remained panic stricken, I noticed I was often assisted by men, loads of them. When I told them “Je suis Americane. Je ne parle pas francias”, those French dudes (white and black) just pushed that fact aside and started talking English and found American accent enticing. While I stayed in Paris, I was hit on con-stant-ly. So much so that my, non PDA ex boyfriend was leaving work early to accompany me around town while holding my hand. I was still loyal (damning trait with most black women) so I paid little attention to the guys who were trying to wrestle me away from my ex there. The second eye opening event that happened to me while in Paris was witnessing all types of black women–the doe eyed schoolgirls, ones with children, those of a certain age, fashion divas, the ‘not so great looking’ etc. with partners. As a forever singleton, I make mental note of the black women that I pass that are with a significant others on any street. The number of black women paired up with various men was staggering.
Right on the heels of my Parisian visit, I took the Eurostar to London. I nearly fainted when I got to the border security for England. I was delighted to hear everyone speaking English even if they were riding my nerves questioning my travel details. My first time in London was wonderful. I shopped like a fiend at Primark, ate Jamaican food in Brixton and learned the global importance of football (Soccer as the Americans like to call it). I loved riding the pricey tube through the zones of London even if it did shut down at midnight. I made getting around a breeze. Once I got past my tourist activities (that took a mere 48 hours) I got right back man hunting mode. I hit the bars and lounges in the West End in my pretty yet painful Kurt Gieger heels. In London, I was insanely popular with the Italian, Spanish and Irish (Straight out of Cork/Dublin – not the States) fellas. I also took up online dating in London, it proved to be an efficient way of meeting England’s overly polite bachelors. The quality and looks of the men who responded to me was astounding. I have gotten thousands of views, hits and messages on my ads on various London dating sites. I had abandoned the practice in the States. I just ‘can’t’ with men online in New York City. It’s a joke.
In London, I saw the same thing I did in Paris, tons of black women with all types of men as partners. I remember seeing an advert of a couple getting ready for an evening out. It showed a montage of a black woman and white male prepping for their date together. The last scene was of the woman opening her door wearing a lovely evening dress while the spruce bachelor brought roses to his date. I stood with my mouth gaping wide open in Victoria station. People glared at me and tripped over my excess baggage while I watched the ad for about 30 minutes. I had stood in Grand Central station many times in my life and never seen an ad like this one.
Without saying, I keep going back to Europe making going back home to the States as painful as a root canal. Simply put my love life in Europe is exactly like what my soothsayer co-worker told me it would be. I’m exhausted of waiting for things to pop off here. I’ll become a mummy (not the child producing kind) if I stay in the States.
I’m hell bent on moving to Europe. Each year I keep focusing my efforts on finding ways to stay permanently.
I’ve learned many life lessons from my journeys abroad. Lesson 1 – Do not wait or depend on adult women friends to do big things with your life. If you want something, make it happen yourself. Lesson 2 – Learn a language. It will help your career and widen social/romantic opportunities. Lesson 3 – Do not ignore the hard truth about time – You do not have forever. Lesson 4 – Life is not meant to be lived alone. Do want you need to find a partner or a husband. You deserve a mate.
Now some folks are going to have words with what I’ve described. With daggers in teeth, they will be growling that there are hordes of spouse less black women in London/ Paris or that black women’s dating lives will not be enriched if they decide to live there. Please do not listen to these trolls because it is simply not true. Yes there are dating choices for black women in the states but our numbers are overwhelming – it much better for black women to ‘Hunger Games’ their dating game and head to places where your ‘odds are forever in your favor’. I’m not waiting for the dating supernova to happen to black women. I’m leaving and going to Europe.
My love don’t live here anymore. Actually, it never has.
Soon to be expat in the way of James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Janet Jackson and Tina Turner,
Betty Byte is a New York City writer, bedroom dj and frequent flyer on Virgin International Airlines.
Next month DeVon Thompson explains how music crosses cultures.