The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

Being Approached

The general, implicit order of our species is that the man approaches the woman if he pursues a romantic interest of any sort. Having been raised as a good Communist, it was drilled into my brain that we are all equal, irrespective of gender, age, race, or connections to high-ranking party officials. Therefore I could never fully comply with the above implicit custom, and the result has been a dreary history of romantic life, or lack thereof.

The vast majority of the girls whose vision I crossed resisted the urge to pick me up, for reasons I cannot fathom. I wish they resisted a bit less. Equally mysterious is the fact that men of the non-straight type do give in to their urge to approach me. While I regard myself the champion of liberal thinking, I am unable to go against my inclinations, and I am forced to turn down such inquiries. Nevertheless, I learn a lot by being on the approached side of the equation.

I was approached for the first time when I was about sixteen. Metallica came to town, and we intended to practice idolatry. Having had no financial means to obtain tickets, we went to the venue and tried to find gaps in the security to sneak in. We failed, the damn place was fortified. We resorted to consuming fermented and distilled beverages outside, and there was also much grumbling. I was grilled for an hour by a bloke on national service to get him a loose girl, at which point I lost touch with my mates. My beverage was also gone. The biggest problem with losing your companions during an event related to popular trash metal melodies is that everybody wears black, so finding your buddies is never easy. Scanning the landscape of drunk humans wrapped in black did not reveal the location of my chums, nor did Brownian motion in the crowd help. Thus abandoned, I was thinking how I could increase my blood alcohol; I perceived it to be unacceptably low. Then I met this forty-something chap who had not aged quite well. He lured me into a dark alley with promises of beer. There were more people wrapped in black all over the lane and also a conveniently located bar that distributed drinks to its upscale patrons. He was talking a lot of nonsense about his three or four offsprings, then made a very explicit offer to go to his place. Luckily I was still able to walk, and I was quick to make an escape, goading up people along the way to hold him up. By another stroke of luck, I also stumbled upon a completely spaced out acquaintance of mine, and armed with his presence, I bravely boarded a night bus. Rule derived: if you do not age well, hit on drunk teenagers of any gender.

A romantic corner

A romantic spot for an approach.

During my early university years I always had to take the night bus home from outside a gay bar. The name of the bar was subject to frequent changes, although the name ‘Angel Bar’ made frequent re-appearances, probably due to an underlying stochastic process that I never had an insight on. By the time I got to the bus stop, I was typically anything but sober. My level of intoxication ranged from pissed drunk to complete blackout. My fellow citizens who were also there for the bus were not in full possession of their mental capabilities either. As a happy family we waited and waited. Every now and then strange structures emerged from Angel Bar, sometimes in a drag, sometimes in a sailor uniform. When they got really bored inside, they harmlessly hit on the drunk passengers-to-be, and sometimes the target happened to be me. What I never understood was how they never froze to death. If I was wearing my full winter gear and was heated by litres of high-concentrate alcoholic solutions, they were wearing hot pants and tank tops, showing no sign of being cold. Rule derived: wear négligée in inappropriate weather conditions to attract the attention of the opposite (or the same) sex.

Moving to Asia reduced the number of approaches, but they got more intricate. One day fed up with the extreme form of consumerism that characterizes Singapore, I found a void deck outside a shopping mall with a secluded flower bed. I sat there and proceeded to think about all sorts of lofty things like life, the universe, and the reason why on earth I could not find a half-decent integral kernel with a compact support. Suddenly chap popped out of the shrubbery. We started talking. He was Pakistani, working in the hotel across the road. He asked me whether he could use my phone to send a message, his phone was dead. The broke student I was, I could still afford $0.10 on a random stranger, so I handed over my phone as an act of unprecedented generosity. He wrote the message and returned my phone. Respecting other people’s privacy, I deleted the message without ever reading it. He continued talking for a few minutes more, then he asked me whether I read the message. I proudly informed him of my respect for his privacy and that I deleted his message without reading it. He left almost immediately. I was never a particularly fast thinker, and it took me a while to figure that the message was intended for me. Rule derived: respect other people’s privacy less. Otherwise you will never learn the secret messages written for you.

A flower bed

Flower beds are nice for sitting and for exchanging clandestine messages.

The most persistent approach happened in Trinidad. I was a sweaty heap of a European waiting for a bus to the airport in Port of Spain. I was reading my book in a flower bed; I have a thing for sitting in flower beds. A well-groomed Afro-Trini set next to me on the flower bed and asked me what I was reading. I shared the important snippet of information. We engaged in smalltalk and he was quick to veer the conversation towards wedding matters. He expressed his interest in my marital status, to which I stated my manifesto of being eternally single. Asking the same question from him, he replied it was more difficult for him, and so his orientation was found out. He asked whether that made uncomfortable. I never understood why off-straight sexual orientation would make anybody uncomfortable, and so I expressed my opinion. That was oil to the fire. He throw in a few valid points in his attempt to convince me to try it. I am rather inflexible in this matter, I could not even do a ladyboy in Thailand. I guess I am stuck with girls for life. He told me that the next time I visit Trinidad, I should call him. We could smoke up and have some fun, so he said. Rule derived: invite potential mating partners for drug-fuelled orgies.

The strangest proposal occurred in Uzbekistan. It was not coming from a fellow gendermate, but from a lady; a welcome change. Uzbekistan loves its citizens so much it would not let them go, especially not single women. Leaving the country requires an exit visa. So it happened that I met a girl in a bus stop who had been working in the Emirates for years, and returned to Uzbekistan for family matters for a week. Then she got stuck, she could not get the exit visa and could not go back to her job. A logical step on her side was to ask me to marry her, then she could have obtained the exit visa as a married woman. My first thought was that I was not a Muslim, but she said she would bribe the mullah. For one night I really thought I would get married. To avoid rush decisions, though, I contacted a lawyer friend of mine. She advised me that sham marriages were not taken lightly anywhere. The coward I am, I called off my impending wedding. Rule derived: Don’t ask your lawyer, just don’t.

Samarkand city-scape

The city where I did not get married.

There are a couple of observations to be made based on my little, non-representative sample. Most approaches are done in bus stops and flower beds. When planning to approach, groom well and wear ladies’ apparel, irrespective of your own or the target gender. Throw in psychoactive substances for good measure.

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