We met while I was a graduate school student in Boston. He was an employee in the library I frequented. He’d restock bookshelves and monitor the computer lab while I studied for exams and completed school projects. Coincidentally, our schedule were similar so we would see each other in the library often.
During my study breaks, I’d strike up a conversation with him. He was a Boston native, who was pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. When he wasn’t working in the library, he was exercising, preparing for gigs, or taking care of his three younger brothers and sisters. He was an attractive guy: the type of guy that made you do a double take when you saw him walking down the street. In nicely tailored suits and trousers, one would think he’d just step out of a GQ Magazine. A career in acting was very promising for him, for he was also talented. I was impressed by him and wanted to get to know him better.
What was a bit of a turn-off for me, however, was his constant reminder of how smart I was. “You have like 5 degrees,” he’d often tell me, “You’re like super-smart. Not like me. I am still working on my GED.” The fact that he was not a public health student was one of the reasons I was initially attracted to him. My days in graduate school were already filled with discussions on correlations, epidemiological studies, and cultural competency, so a short break from these discussions were welcomed and appreciated, and that’s what he provided.
Whenever we spoke, he’d teach me something new about Boston, about acting, about modeling, or about life in general. He may not have had a formal education, but to me, he was a smart guy. I appreciated him for that.
About three months after we met, I completed my master’s degree. To celebrate, he offered to take me to his favorite jazz club . The plan was to meet at the club and eat dinner afterwards. I arrived at the club first, but unfortunately, it was closed that evening, so we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant instead.
I was well pleased with my date. Not only was he looking good, but he was trying extra hard to impress me: opening doors for me, making comments about public health, and saying obscure facts about Atlanta that only a native would know. His efforts, however, were becoming a little overdone once we sat down for dinner.
“You know you come off to me as a very intelligent woman. I bet you read the dictionary for fun?” he said.
I laughed, “No, I don’t read the dictionary for fun. When I was a kid, I sometimes read the dictionary, but that was only if there was nothing on TV. But as an adult, I only use it as a reference.”
“Oh really? Well, I love reading the dictionary. I need to catch up on my reading though. I’m only on ‘B,’ he said.
A bit perplexed and amused by our conversation, I tried to think of a clever way to change the topic. I’m no longer a student and I refuse to have a conversation about the dictionary, I thought to myself.
“How was the tryouts for the gig you were telling me about last week?” I asked him.
Fortunately, for me, he forgot about the dictionary and began talking about the challenges he had been facing in his industry. Soon, to my dismay, he ran out of things to say and focused his attention back on me.
“You look impeecabel tonight,” he said.
“Impeecabel?” I asked, thinking that ‘impeecabel’ must be a word I did not know.
“Yes,” he said with confidence.
I paused for a second, “Oh you mean IMPECCABLE!,” I said. “Thank you!”
He looked a little embarrassed that I corrected him. I noticed his face dropped, but shrugged it off and began talking about how much I missed Atlanta. Atlanta had always been a city he wanted to visit. I promised him I’d be his tour guide when he came.
A few minutes later our tacos and burritos arrived. When the server asked how the food tasted, my date replied, “The food is copesattict!”
“Copesetic,” I said, without even looking up from my food. “You mean copesetic.”
There was a little tension. Noticing the annoyed look on his face, I realized that I should have let that one slide. For, a man’s ego is a fragile object and from his facial expression, I was not handling his ego with care.
We continued eating in silence. I cracked a joked to lighten the mood and inquired about the upcoming gigs he had coming around the city. He relaxed a little and talked for about 5 minutes. I was listening but my mind stopped when he said, “There’s this actor in Boston who’s seemingly ooobiquitous….”
Oobiquitous? I thought to myself. I was stuck. I hadn’t heard anything else he said.
“Oh! UBIQUITOUS!,” I said after I realized what he meant by ‘oobiquitous.’
“Look,” he said firmly, “I don’t have 5 degrees like you.”
“And that’s okay,” I said to him, “I’m here with you because I like you just the way you are! You don’t have to keep reminding me how many degrees I have. Your education does not matter to me.”
Silence showed up again, but by this time, I was exhausted. I had no more energy to stroke his ego while he make pitiful attempts to impress me with SAT words. I never expected that our date would go like this, for our previous interactions had been lighthearted and fun. He never attempted to use words like impeecabel or oobiquitous.
We somehow managed to continue our conversation. It was a little forced and I could tell he was preoccupied as he dropped me to my apartment afterwards. “Good luck with everything,” he said to me, as he lightly kissed me on the cheek. I knew that this would be my last time seeing him again.
Once I walked into my brownstone, I thought to myself, Whew! Now I know why momma said you should only date men who are as educated as you. I haven’t dated a man without a college diploma since.