It’s now been three years since Lucy became single again. Three long years of swiping her way through the men of London Town, three bastarding years riding the fleeting ups and soul-crushing downs of the dating rollercoaster. And while she’s had some successes, met some reasonably nice guys, and even had a fair bit of half-decent sex, she still feels with every day that passes that she’s getting further and further away from finding The One.
She’s tired. So very bloody tired. Something needs to change.
And the sad fact is that, at nearly 40, Lucy has all but given up hope. As much as people tell her that they can’t understand why she’s single, that she will meet someone when she least expects it, and that she just hasn’t met the right guy yet, deep down in her bruised and weary heart she no longer believes it. Single has been her status quo for most of her life: she had no boyfriends at school or university, and her 20s were a Gobi desert of solitude interspersed with the briefest of relationship oases that she grabbed onto with all the passion of a starving man offered a burger (and just like the burger, they filled her with joy at first but then made her violently sick). Since The Ex left three years ago this is the life to which she has once again bounced back like a fucked-up boomerang, and she’s aware that the older she gets, the less hot, more set in her ways, and more jaded she becomes. Her window of opportunity is closing fast.
Not everyone meets someone: this she knows. And it seems increasingly likely that she is just going to be one of those people who doesn’t.
But if that’s the case, then there’s nothing she can do about it. The best thing she can do is step off the hamster wheel and just focus on living her best life. If a great guy comes along, then that’d be wonderful, but if not, well at least she will have made the most of every day, and had as nice a time as it’s possible for a social animal like Lucy to have, alone.
So when an opportunity to spend three months working in Kenya lands in her lap, she takes a deep breath, and accepts.
Ok, that’s not entirely true, because of course it’s never that easy. First she spends about a month overthinking everything, turning the pros and cons over in her mind. Is this really what she wants to do? Will this be the right move for her career? What about if she does want to meet someone, will three months out of the dating pool be time she can afford to waste? Will Nairobi be scary? What if she hates it? What if it’s too hot? What if she catches malaria or gets robbed at gunpoint?
Then she repeats the process out loud in front of all her friends and family and anyone who’ll listen, and everyone replies that they think it’s a great opportunity, but of course she should do whatever would make her happy, and could she now please shut the fuck up because she’s getting really bastarding boring?
And this goes on until about three weeks before the scheduled departure date, at which point the company she’s supposed to be working for presses her for a final decision before they offer the job to someone else, and she thinks Oh Fuck It, what have I got to lose? and signs on the dotted line. And then panics because now she’s going to fucking Africa and she has just three weeks to prepare.
So, that easy.
But this is one of the perks of being single, and freelance. She has no one to answer to apart from herself, and if she wants to pack a suitcase and fuck off to Africa with just a few weeks’ notice, then she can. She may even to get to see a real giraffe.
Though if she had a lovely man at home, would she even want to run away to Africa? Possibly not… But this is not the time to be worrying about that.
Dating on a Different Continent
This trip is absolutely supposed to be a break from the dating headfuckery. She’s only in Africa for a short time, she wants to travel and have a good time, so she can definitely do without any of the stress and drama that would inevitably occur if she got involved with someone while she’s out there.
But Lucy being Lucy, of course she can’t help wondering if she might meet a nice guy. They do say you’re more likely to find someone when you’re not looking, when you’re just living life and doing what you love. That’s when you’re more likely to be happier, and meet like minded people – or so they say (though who TF are ‘they’ anyway? Lucy bets they’re smug marrieds who’ve never once experienced the online dating cesspit).
So while meeting The One in Africa would be inconvenient to say the least, there’s no harm in hoping that maybe she’ll encounter a rugged French doctor, or a charming British engineer, or a sexy Kenyan businessman, and have a grand, passionate affair in the heat of the African sun.
Obviously she’s heard the stereotype about black men (though the first time she heard someone refer to a BBC she thought they were referring to the British Broadcasting Corporation and got very confused), but although she’s kissed one or two, that’s as far as it ever went. Lucy usually goes for geeky white boys like Josh and Adam, and Asian guys like Amir and Pardeep, but this is an entirely new adventure, and surely it would be wrong of her to go all that way and then not fully embrace everything that Africa has to offer, right?
That said, she also has high hopes for the expat community. She’s heard that foreigners in places like this can be extremely welcoming: vibrant adventurous types who are usually up for a good time and delighted to welcome new faces into the family. Of course with a high turnover of people coming and going this usually means the community can be quite incestuous, but since Lucy herself is only going to be there a few months, there’s no harm being open to a holiday romance, right?
In preparation for the trip, she goes to buy toiletries. Passing by the condom display in Boots she stops and hesitates. Maybe she should take some? She’s absolutely not expecting or even looking for sex, but if it should happen, it’s best to be prepared. Getting caught short in Africa would be a really bad idea. So she puts a pack of 12 in her basket, and then, since they are on a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer, a second pack.
Twenty-four condoms. Of course this now means she’s guaranteed not to have ANY sex at all for the entire time. But it can’t be helped. Last time she was in Africa, in Tanzania, she didn’t take any with her because she was certain there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in, well, Africa, that she would need any, and then she met a smoking hot yoga instructor halfway up a mountain and spent a very frustrated couple of nights doing everything BUT with him, which was super sexy but also maddening in the extreme. To be fair, it’s probably easier to get condoms in Nairobi than in a Tanzanian national park, but even so, she doesn’t want to risk going through that again.
And so, bags (and condoms) packed, flat rented out, and farewells made to the very few people who will even notice she’s missing, she boards a plane and heads off on her new adventure.
The first few days are a blur of meeting and inductions and generally getting settled in. Her employers have assigned her a single-storey house in a suburb of Nairobi, which she’ll share with one other colleague, a 25-year-old American girl named Ashley. The house, along with three others (all occupied by expat couples), sits at the end of an orange dirt road inside a high-walled compound with a forbidding black gate and a security guard, whose presence Lucy finds both reassuring and unnerving. From there, it’s a 20-minute commute to the office, not by bus or train, but on the back of a motorcycle taxi, whose wordless driver bounces over potholes and weaves in and out of traffic at heart-stopping speed while Lucy clings on for dear life. When she imagined exciting times with a hot Kenyan, this wasn’t quite what she had in mind.
After the initial shock has worn off, however, she realises that sweet though her 25-year-old housemate is, she really needs to start making friends. And one of the ways to meet people in a foreign city is, of course, Tinder. Yes, dear reader, of course Tinder exists in Nairobi, and although Lucy’s not exactly looking for a date, it does seem to be a good way to find people to chat to and go for drinks with. If it leads to more, well, that’d just be a bonus.
So she gets out her phone, connects to the clunky local wifi, and begins swiping.
The first thing she learns is that guys on Tinder are the same the world over. No matter where you go, there will always be guys like Martin here, who are very clearly only after one thing and aren’t too fussed about where they get it.
There are guys like Daniel, who are a little shy about showing their faces, but are still keen to make bold claims about certain other parts of their anatomy (there’s that BBC again)…
And there are guys like Nadav, who are just, simply put, ALL kinds of wrong.
While Lucy may still refuse to entertain the idea of men like these, she does find herself swiping right with a little more abandon than normal. Back in the Real World, she’s picky about who she selects, because she’s looking for something long-lasting. Out here in Africa, however, it’s different. If she’s mainly interested in friendship, she can be much less judgmental. Doesn’t fancy his photo? No problem! Shorter than her? Who cares?! Has a beard, or a dog, or a beer belly? Absolutely fine, as long as he’s good company. She simply swipes on anyone who looks interesting, whom she might have stuff in common with, and it’s liberating and even quite fun.
Problems start to surface with the matches. The first one, Alex, a cute South African, seems promising. They get chatting, and it’s going well, until he reveals that he’s only in Kenya on holiday, and is going home in two days’ time. Well what was the fucking point of that then? Lucy thinks, even though deep down she’s fairly sure she knows the answer.
Next, Paul, aged 32, looks nice: he’s British, and seems likeable… until, that is, he sends a rather bold opening message:
She fully expects to get an immediate unmatch, but, astoundingly, not only does he like her response (WTF?), he replies!
But tonight, Lucy is not in the mood for taking any prisoners, especially not from fuckboy cunts like Paul. She’s in fucking Africa, and she’s feeling fierce.
Nailed it. Fucking nailed it, she thinks. Or she would have done if it weren’t for that horrifying typo, which has utterly RUINED her brilliant rant. Lucy wants to cry and break her phone in frustration, but instead she does the only thing she can reasonably do: she quietly corrects it. She’s not sure what ruins the perfection of the response more, the typo or the correction, but sadly it can’t be helped.
Astonishingly, Paul still doesn’t unmatch. He’s persistent, she’ll give him that.
She shakes her head in disbelief, really not sure what to make of this. But she can’t be fucked to argue any more, so she simply unmatches, first making sure to screenshot his picture in case she should run into him. The expat community here is alarmingly small: everyone knows everyone, so it’s a distinct possibility, and she ought to be prepared.
Then she carries on with her Tinder friend-finding mission, until she matches with the man who is going to turn her entire Africa experience on its head.
To find out what happened, head on over to Mr No-Relationship, Part 1.