The remarkably talented and adorable Anne Seymour, our former London Correspondent went loopy living in The Big Smoke and recently set upon a year-long trip to Zambia where she is working to help prevent the spread of HIV, while also attempting to date as many cute boys as possible. So, Anne, thanks again for taking on the role of our Africa correspondent!
Getting ready for a date is awesome, and it was glorious to have reason to spruce myself up after weeks of cheerfully going to pot. Still, it was a complicated affair. My sunburn melted my make-up. And I’d only brought one date outfit to Zambia, on the basis that this tends to be enough for the length of most of my relationships. But it’s a fun fifties-style dress I’d packed with my London head on: far too “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHOW ME AFFECTION” for casual beers out here with a fellow volunteer.
So I flicked through the uninspiring selection of clothes I’d brought with me, and plumped for a casual blue top and cream linen trousers. A soupçon Dallas, but I can’t lie to you: I rocked that look. I was ready to break a heart.
It had occurred to me that I might not recognise Dan, but it helped that I just had to look for the white bloke. It also helped that Dan was wearing an “I’m new to Africa and I hear the locals love a loud pattern!” shirt, and that we were the only ones in the bar with the jittery air of people on a first date.
We hugged in greeting (big generous man-hug, tender to the sunburn: ten points) and I blinked away the blind-spots from his shirt. A macho tuft of chest-hair peeped out the top of it. Yes, I thought, marvellous. We settled in at the bar.
Chat came naturally. We talked about our homes and Family Guy and cooking with vegetables we don’t recognise. You’re all right, I thought. Even his shirt was growing on me. I showed him my mosquito bites to impress him. We ordered another beer.
He told me about agriculture. Outdoorsy. Ten points. My mind wondered to the gutter.
I told him about the time I’d had to describe what a vasectomy is to a blanching male colleague. He steered conversation around to the inner-city Detroit farm project. I opened a discussion on how male circumcision helps to prevent HIV.
Stop talking about penises! I scolded myself. Especially mutilated penises! Or infection-causing penises! This is why you never need to worry about a second-date outfit!
We ordered another beer.
He told me about fishing in the Zambezi.
I can only take so much fish talk when my mind is on Sexy Times, so I decided to take the chat to something a little more intimate. The problem of working in HIV however is that grisly associations with Sexy Times have become embedded in my head. So where I meant to lead us into the intoxicating delights of flirt-chat, I somehow brought things onto the local practice of dry sex and the horrifying lacerations it causes.
He taught me how to say hello in Bemba.
Time to change tack. I switched on my Pulling Face: an expression that I have been reliably informed is Alluring.
He told me about different types of trees in Zambia.
I invested more energy into the Pulling Face. Look at my Pulling Face, I willed him. Isn’t it alluring?
I lowered my voice an octave and twiddled with my hair, laughing encouragingly and touching his arm like a sex-pest.
At last, the chat became flirty. We were leaning closer. Snog me! I thought. Go on!
He asked what had made me go up to speak to him when we met.
I could have come right out and told him he’s hot, but this would have taken me out of my comfort zone of lacerated foreskins. “Nice to meet people in the same boat I suppose, going through the same ups and downs,” I said. “Plus I could hear your laugh from where I was sitting, and I thought: I want to tap that.”
He laughed on cue. Good chap.
“I’m glad you did.” He held eye contact. Tingly nice feeling. “It’s not easy meeting people in a new town. How are you finding it?”
“Quite hard to make friends actually,” I said, attractively. “Especially male friends, which I miss. Like, I click really well with a guy from work. We have a similar sense of humour, great conversations. But if I say to him ‘Hey, it’s Friday, let’s go for beer!’ then it means ‘Hey, it’s Friday, let’s get it on!’ Whereas I see another muzunga and I can ask you out for beer, and there’s no misunderstanding.”
He looked at me.
“So I just haven’t figured out how to make male friends without it getting complicated,” I carried on blithely, “without going for a beer seeming like a come-on. You know?”
Dan sipped his beer. “Sure. Sure, I know” he said.
“Whereas I can ask someone like you out, and there’s no mixed messages.” I sat back, pleased with having expressed so eloquently the challenges of modern friendship-making. Dan finished his beer.
I noticed things suddenly seemed to have gone quiet. Not sultry quiet. Not building-up-to-a-snog quiet. The awkward kind of quiet.
Oh hang, I thought. Oh arse.
The barman came over to take our bottles. “Another?” he asked.
“We probably ought to be heading off,” Dan told him.
He offered to walk me back to my place. The snog-window was closing rapidly. He was heading to the other side of Zambia 36 hours later: it was now or never. We reached my gate.
“So… good luck with everything!” he said, impressively managing to hug me at arms-length. “I guess I’ll . . . call you at Christmas? Or something?”
“Christmas! Yes, gosh!” I gabbled cheerily.
But . . . At least I’m back in the saddle.
Visit Anne’s website to keep up with all her goings on at www.deetdustdate.com