l love romantic comedies. Actually, that’s an understatement, I’ve seen “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally” more times than I’ve seen my son. In fairness, my son is only six and he doesn’t know Tom Hanks so.
The quickest way to get me to see a movie is to say, “From the people who brought you ‘Love Actually,'” or, “Starring Hugh Grant.” I’m all over it. Nowadays, romantic comedies star Emma Stone and that guy with the hair (Does it really matter which guy? The one with the hair). My favorite part of a romantic comedy is the whole thing — but besides the obvious happy endings, I love the “meet cute.”
That shit never happens to me. It sometimes happens to people I know but even then it never happens to me. Until it happened to me.
I’m currently in Nigeria. I came here 3 weeks ago to produce and headline a poetry show for the annual Calabar Festival and Carnival. Standing in line before my last connecting flight, my friend Lydia turned to me and said, “You know you have WAY more luggage than is allowed? And I’m pretty sure your bags weigh more than the allotted 20 kg.”
I had no idea what “20 kg” was in pounds. All I knew is that one bag was filled entirely with shoes and I needed it. I was willing to pay the overage fees, which couldn’t be that much, right? Wrong. After speaking to a ticket agent Lydia came back and said, “50,000 Naira.” The exchange rate between Naira and US dollars only makes that a few hundred bucks, but I don’t care what country I’m in, I’m not paying 50,000 anything unless it comes with heated seats and/or red soles.
Lydia got the price down to 40,000 Naira but since that didn’t include a flight attendant, I still balked. But I had to get on this flight. Not only did I have my shoe suitcase, I also had a bag filled with gifts and medicine and various items for family members, so see this really wasn’t all about me. OK, it was totally about me.
We were still trying to figure things out when I noticed the two men standing behind us. One of them had no luggage and the other one had a backpack and a carry on.
I whispered to Lydia, “Everyone gets two checked bags and the guys behind us don’t have any. I’m going to ask them to pretend to have one of my bags each.” She was skeptical, “Bassey, this is Nigeria. They aren’t as helpful as people in the States.” Well, watch me work, my friend.
I whipped around, flashed a smile, and was met with a six-foot-seven “Hello.” I was only momentarily distracted.
“Yes, hi. My name is Bassey and this is my friend Lydia. We have a slight problem because you can see I have four bags–” Before I could finish he said, “No problem.” His name was Tony and he was headed to the same festival I was going to. Oh, and his middle name is Bassey.
The thing that impressed me most about Tony was that once he agreed to commit fraud for me, well, he was committed to the fraud. When the flight attendant asked which bags were his and what was in them he answered smoothly, “The stuff is all mixed up. My girlfriend put all her shoes in one bag and then the rest are just all our clothes mixed together.” Please note that his knowledge of my shoe suitcase meant he was eavesdropping the whole time.
But it didn’t stop there, though it could have. Tony held on to our tickets, followed me to pay the weight overage fee, which ended up being only 5,000 Naira. I even had to stop him from paying for it with, “You know you’re not really my boyfriend right?” He smiled and walked me upstairs to catch the flight.
We sat and talked during the hour before boarding. He was a dancer, choreographer and artistic director and in charge of a number of the productions during carnival. He was sweet and kind and funny and confident and gorgeous and half Nigerian and half Lebanese — which is a combination I had never seen but I liked how it came together.
So, of course, I immediately wrote him off. A gorgeous, tall as all hell and straight male dancer? Yeah. No thanks. In that hour we’d already declared ourselves best friends and that was enough.
Once it was time to board, I realized that Tony was still holding on to both our tickets. He handed them to the ticket checker person and said, “These are for the both of us.” I’m not the swoony type so I won’t admit to any such behavior. When we landed, he grabbed my carry on from the overhead bin and wheeled it into the airport. These are not things I’m used to and when he loaded “our” luggage onto a trolley, I was pretty certain he was a unicorn.
So that’s how we met. That’s my “meet cute.”
I do cheesy shit like this now.
Tony and I are now officially together. I mean, I changed my Facebook status. I NEVER do that. Ever. I did it because Tony likes things like that. He likes to be claimed and known. He’s proud of the fact that we’re together and he will be the first to say, “My girlfriend, Bassey.” I’m not that quick. I adore him and although it’s only been a few weeks, I definitely feel all the feelings. I just don’t know what to call him.
Tony is the master of endearments.
When he calls he says, “Hello, my darling.” and I respond, “Hi… Tony.”
I’m training myself to say “babe” and “baby.” These are things I say to strangers freely, but with the person who is actually “sweetie” and “honey” I struggle.
The worst is “boyfriend.” I hate it. We are grown ass people in our 30s (though I’m considerably more into my 30s than he is). Saying, “My boyfriend, Tony,” makes me feel like a Taylor Swift song. Someone suggested “manfriend” and that’s just too “Tuesday’s With Morrie.” Lover? No.
I have absolutely no idea what to call him. My friends suggested, “My Tony.” and that was a great idea until the first time I said it and thought, “My LIttle Tony,” and burst into hysterical laughter. I don’t want to call him anything too fancy like, “paramour” or “mon cherie amour” because I am not into “Downton Abbey.”
This is something that probably bothers me more than it should. But after reading this New York Times article, “Unmarried Spouses Have a Way With Words,” I know I’m not alone.
But this pressure to call your significant other (too long) something is real. When I was younger, I liked the term “plus one” I saw it in an article and I was like, “Wow. That’s really cool.” But you try convincing a six-foot-seven Nigerian that “plus one” is even a thing, let alone a good thing. He’s fine with “my man” but claiming ownership in that way makes me uncomfortable. The hypocrite in me loves when he calls me his “girl” or “woman” or very recently, “my wife to be.”
I used to hate all this stuff. None of my last relationships were even called relationships. They were “situations.” So it’s strange to like being “claimed” the way Tony claims me. And all the PDA I used to hate, well, I don’t mind it so much anymore.
I’m in Nigeria for another three weeks, working on launching my non-profit, the Siwe Project, here in four months. So Tony and I have a little more time to figure it all out. It’s all very fast and usually this would send me running for the hills, but this feels exactly like it’s supposed to feel. It just makes sense. If only I could figure out what to call it and him.
I’m thinking of going with, “This is my Hugh Grant in every movie ever.” Or, “You know that scene in Love Jones?” He won’t get it, but I will and it’ll mean a lot more than he’ll ever understand.