The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m hincty, which is akin to, but different from, siditty. See, siditty girls are snobs — the ones who won’t acknowledge you because their noses are too high in the air. But hincty folks, we’re just … standoffish. I may have been referred to as “cold” on occasion. “Intimidating” is also a word often used by men to describe me. (I have to admit that this makes me smile.)
In fact, I was raised by a tribe of hincty Black folks, in which at least two people are feuding at any given moment. Feuds aside, all members of that family are taught from Day One that no one outside is to be trusted. If you aren’t related by blood, you’re met with suspicion. And that suspicion extends to romantic partners. The only way to become trustworthy is to become one of us. Marrying into the family isn’t enough, though. Smithdom is a state of being. Very few achieve it.
Hold this knowledge in your mind as I tell you the story of the worst date I ever had. I was 21 – young and free, living away from home in my first apartment. My cousin and I were roommates and equally determined to see the other booed up. At that age, having a boyfriend seemed a necessary part of the whole “adulting” package: apartment, job, car, boo.
I agreed to let her set me up and she planned a double date for us. Her date was tall; good-looking and nice smelling; well employed; had his own car and his own place. His friend had to match, right? I was expecting a man 5’10” or taller. Deep brown. Sparkling white teeth. Somebody with a desk job or maybe a teacher. Clean-cut, emotionally available, ready for a relationship. A bouquet of flowers in hand wouldn’t hurt, either.
We pulled up to the friend’s place. Let’s call him Larry. Larry came out carrying a sleeve of red plastic cups and a huge bottle of something that was an unnatural shade of green. From the front seat, I heard my cousin’s voice.
“Toya, don’t start. Give him a chance.”
I looked him over as he trotted to the car. Not short, which was a thumbs up. He was dressed casually, but he wasn’t sloppy. He was smiling, which was a good sign. Then I noticed every other tooth in that smile was gold.
After introductions, he passed each of us a red cup, including the driver. He then poured a round of the green stuff. I took a tentative taste. My mouth was aflame. It was lighter fluid – I’m sure of it. There’s no way that whatever was in that cup was meant for human consumption. I choked.
He laughed at me and patted my thigh, leaving his hand there as he called me a “lightweight.” I glared at him because I was still gagging and couldn’t even get my breath together long enough to give him the cuss-out he deserved. Still, I didn’t want to embarrass my cousin or myself. She’d asked me to give Larry a chance, so I did. Maybe he was just nervous and didn’t know how to approach a lady. I gave him another shot.
We went to some lower-tier restaurant — not much more can be expected of couples in their early 20s. My cousin and her date were having an excellent time — snuggling up to each other, giggling. Larry, inspired, turned to me and attempted to put his arm around my shoulders and cuddle in close. I leaned as far away from him as I possibly could, gave him my best stink face, and whispered, “We don’t know each other well enough for you to be touching me yet.”
He made some vulgar comment about how well he’d like to get to know me as the server approached our table. Every one of us ordered something that included at least one vegetable. Larry, not so much. When questioned about it, he replied, with a straight face, that he didn’t eat vegetables or fruit. He took a Flintstones vitamin every day and drank orange juice, so he was covered.
I waited for him to laugh at this obvious joke. He didn’t laugh.
The server could feel the tension. She tried to change the subject by asking us for our drink orders. This worked for a moment as I was still excited about being a legal drinker. Larry, however, wasn’t as legal. Oh, he wasn’t a minor. He just had no ID. He’d been arrested for drunk driving several times and was, as of our date, awaiting trial (and yet he brought 333% proof rotgut with him and tried to order a libation). To assure our server of his legal age, he offered to show her the court order which had his birth date on it.
I didn’t want to be the kind of girl who turned her nose up at a guy just because he had gold teeth and drank moonshine and never ate vegetables and thought a court order served as a valid form of identification. With the desperation of the young and insecure, I cringed inwardly but said nothing when he admitted to “not really reading all like that,” having “a thing against girls from the west side because they’re kind of stuck-up,” and not being sure that he was ready for a relationship because he was “still young and handsome enough to have his pick of bitches.” Look, I was raised right and I didn’t want to be siditty, but frankly, I was too good for this dude and I knew it. All I could imagine was him trying to kiss me and ask for my number at the end of the night. There seemed no way out of it other than to become suddenly, violently ill. As I said, I was young and desperate.
I excused myself, saying I needed a trip to the ladies’ room. Eye contact convinced my cousin she needed to go as well. As soon as the door to the restroom closed behind us, I began to scream-whisper, “I WANT TO GO HOME! GET ME OUT OF HERE, NOW!” No amount of pleading on her part would make me budge. When we returned to our dates, I told them I was having severe menstrual pain and would need to take our orders to go. I thought I’d be dropped off at home and the three of them could decide what they wanted to do from there, but no. Larry wanted to come in and take care of me. He said he made a “bomb hot toddy” and that I looked like I needed a tummy massage. He scooched over an inch closer to me in the back seat and told me how he’d like to apply his gilded yuck mouth to the parts of me that hurt.
It was at that moment that I lost all decorum.
I blacked out like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. To this day, my cousin hasn’t told me all of it. It has been said that I went full West Baltimore.
Long, bedazzled fingernails flashing, relaxed bob flinging, every cuss word I knew (and some I made up) came flying from me like bullets. The well-behaved, college-educated, new professional gave way to the filthy-tongued chick from Lauretta Avenue. I remember Larry’s openmouthed look of horror and how he exclaimed, “Yo! You ain’t tell me you was tryna hook me up with a hood rat!” I left that car so fast you’d have thought my hair was on fire.
Later, my cousin apologized. She’d been excited by her date. I’d met him before and we’d gotten along, so she believed him when he said he knew a guy who would be perfect for me. I get it. That man was fine and I would have believed anything that came out of his mouth, too. I can’t say that I’ve ever forgiven her for it, though. I mean … Larry had gold teeth!
She promised she’d get it right the next time, so I let her set me up again. She later introduced me to the man who would become my husband. I’ve never forgiven her for that one, either.