On aliens, racism, and online dating

Online dating – especially through Tinder – has its pitfalls, and many of us have our own stories of the date from hell. But it’s hard top this one. SARAH GODSELL recounts the evening she spent with “Future Guy”, a dude who is way, way out there.

“I’m sitting outside. And I’m from the future.”

This is the message my housemate received from the date she is supposed to go on in an hour.

My housemate and I, both late 20-somethings in different stages of work-avoidance, have been playing around with Tinder. This has meant avoiding some scary (hairy) naked photos, and, on my part, one (mostly) successful date. We also discovered that homophobia and vertically challenged-ness are hard to filter out on Tinder. But time-travel was not something we had experienced.

“I’m not really sure how to respond…” she says, wide-eyed.

As an optimist, I reassure her. “Maybe he means from the future because he is early for your date. Ask him.”

She asks. “I am letting you know beforehand that I am not from this time,” he replies. “But I’ll make sure to tune the awehness signal.”

By this time, I would have cancelled. My housemate is more forgiving. She sets her smile, and takes off for the date. Being the concerned (and curious) friend I am, I decided I can’t leave her there alone. What if he tries to take her into the future with him? Or something like that.

So, I asked my (mostly) successful Tinder date to join me for a drink, and let her know I was close if she needed me. She and Future Guy joined us shortly, her looking frantically for the waiter. “Wine! Wine please!”

He gives her a disapproving look. “No, just coffee, I couldn’t even finish the wine at the other place.” Ah. So wine is not from the future then.

In the conversation that followed we (time) travelled from his favourite rock (there is one specific one, on Chapman’s Peak, which helps him communicate, although he did not say with who) to rock formations in Cape Town that are directly aligned with the stars, so the aliens from Mercury can navigate. Apparently, DA leader Helen Zille is from Mercury and in communication with the aliens (although this did give me pause).

Also, he genuinely is from the future, he explains. And time doesn’t exist, so there IS no future. Or past. Only now. But he definitely is not from now. He is also religiously punctual.

I was smiling, sipping my wine, squeezing my friend’s hand, or my date’s knees at particularly bizarre comments. But, this is South Africa and even non-existent time does not escape politics. Future Guy began to speak about “the lovely rainbow that is Cape Town”.

“Except for the racism…” I mention. He looked at me, almost pityingly.

“Racism isn’t real” he says. Then, my date decided to push my racism button, by mentioning something about “tribes”. Because, you know, it’s cute when a girl gets angry and political and stuff. It’s entertaining. (This is a rant for another day).

Future Guy, of course, likes tribes. He asks me what my problem with the word is, in genuine astonishment.

“It’s racist,” I say.

He asks: “But what do you call tribes then?”

Trying to breathe, I enunciate clearly: “The word and concept tribe is a colonial construction, as part of the whole colonial mind-set and all the violence that goes with that – the legacy we live today.”

Silence. He looks at me. Smiles. “But time doesn’t exist. There is only now. So colonialism never existed either,” he states. I am speechless.

“Anyway”, he adds, “I’ve never had a problem with the word tribe and I don’ t see the effects of colonialism.”

“Because you are a white man,” I hiss. At this point, perhaps in payback for using me as entertainment (I think Future Me added some karma), perhaps to underline his point about racism not existing, Future Guy turned to my date (who is not white) and said, thoughtfully: “You remind me of a baby Jonah Lomu.”

Cue exit. Cue drive home and debrief, my housemate filling me in on the hour she had spent alone with him, as he told her about his life-changing trip to India – before which he believed in time, liked fast cars and girls (thank you, India?) – and enlightening her about time-travel. The three guys at the table with them fluctuated between amusement with him and sympathy with her.

Cue belly-laughs. Cue stewing anger at how, in 2015, it is possible for a white guy in Cape Town to believe in aliens and deny racism.

In conclusion? It’s rough out there. When, on a date, you get into a fight with a guy from the future about tribalism, it’s especially rough. Perhaps, to sum it up, I will use Future Guy’s words. As he sagely informed us: “There is no out there out there.”

Oh, and what does this guy do for a living? There’s only one thing he could do really. He’s a tour guide in Cape Town.

Sarah Godsell [FB]Sarah Godsell is a poet, PhD Candidate in history, and NRF Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities, at Wits University. She likes digging into the past, but doesn’t believe in time travel.

– Featured illustration: By Nathi Ngubane.

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