trying to make lemonade out of honey

Sundai Johnson

He leaned forward, and just under his hot breath, mumbled, “are you black?” I sat back so I wouldn’t get engulfed in the humid, bayou storm brewing in his mouth, and glanced at my forearm and back at him.

Where are your parents from?


Before that?

Born and Raised


Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas

Before that?

I don’t know because of the transatlantic slave trade.

You want my credit score and health history? Back back with your sweaty mouth.

Tinder date number one and never again.  To be fair I think he may have been trying to get at my ethnicity—my origins, so to speak. But like, ask that. Near sent me into an identity crisis over lukewarm beer and mediocre hot wings. I’ve transitioned to Bumble since that deeply traumatic event. I was living in the Bay Area and went out with this fresh out of college graduate that took me to a hip- hop show in Oakland and then back to his parents'--parentless-- swanky abode. The whole escapade was low-key dangerous because like who knew where I was, but he had this lit pup that I am positive was smashing on his medicinal plants in the backyard. Our afternoon in the Oakland hills was breezy and chatter-ful and just once because some moments are just for those moments. And I’m a soul at the mercy of  that occasional singularity and the thrill of beginnings.

Yet, even still, I may have gone on one or two other dates before deleting Bumble altogether. This pattern is reoccurring.

I haven’t been in a committed relationship for quite some time--just a series of primarily, tumultuous ‘situation-ships’. So for the most part, I’m fatigued. I recently crawled my way to Los Angeles, a teacher –writer, just trying to furnish my apartment. Most of my life is consumed primarily by food and the Whole Foods Greek yogurt popsicles that I body and hate myself for paying 4.99 for 4 bars. Like put 6 in the box. I am writing again after my temporary hiatus during grad school, teaching at a new school. I have my own first apartment, my Jeep- baby, Grace, and I’m just trying to fluff my feathers and nest. I’m forging paths of sorts, and I’m obsessed with the Sundai show. Just every so often, I entertain the idea of a featured artist.

My preference is meeting men like out in the public. Slim chance, considering the men I’ve meet out in LA thus far, are one-hundred- thousand years old or narcissists. I am utterly resilient so I am still a believer in the happen chance of off- screen pursuits. During my formative years of undergrad, I started this reckless charade where I pretend I’m brave and fun and give guys my number or tell guys I’m quasi-friends with that I’m digging them.

It started the summer after my sophomore year when I was living in Ann Arbor and left my number on the back of a comment card at this bougie market down the street.  I wrote “for the guy at the juice bar in the hat, from the Black girl in the black leggings”. There were a billion hatted men working in that market because it was their uniform, and like I am sure a black girl in black leggings is not particularly rare. That following fall I was crushing on a friend of friend after we made some donuts together. My standards are exceptionally high as you can see. I followed him home after an art show via some aggressive prompting from the girls. Sounds ill- advised and neurotic but at best, made me feel courageous and is the reason, “takes initiative” appears on my resume. I knocked on the door and was like “I’m into you”, and am ushering my confessions on a snowy, below zero, out-here- letting- my -pinky- finger- get- frost- bit, December night in Michigan and he was like “let’s get soup next week”.  Which should have been a red flag because what kind of response is that actually. He texted me a week later on Thanksgiving day like “enjoy your turkey, I don’t like you back”. Last spring, I told another friend of mine, a beautiful specimen of a man, that I was feeling his vibe and he was like, “I’m only looking for friends”. Says who ever.  

I’ve slipped my number to a guy at the library and just the other day was moments and two cars away from tossing a receipt with my number on it into the car of a man giving me eyes in traffic while my friend tailed him. I have these unsaved numbers in my phone of potentials and never- would-I-evers because, like I’ve been saying for years, you don’t name a puppy you don’t know if you can keep. I am reading this and thinking back to previous therapy sessions because daddy-issues are real and there are some desperado undertones happening here. It makes it no better that these wild antics of mine are entertained by my crew, but I remain confident because the starlight- filled, black women in my life, supple with magic (Riri included), have taught me to unapologetically pursue what your belly yearns and be unabashedly mad about taking risks.

So here I am bumbling once more. I will likely delete my account within 24 hours, just for consistency. The boys in the yard never message back within their window and I am currently preoccupied with whether or not my messages are cause for this. I range on a scale from “hi.” to “coffee in ten?”. Me and friends connected or attached, (or *correct tech word*), my phone to airplay this past weekend to do some troubleshooting, only to confirm that my humor is probably not universal and also maybe off-putting.  Regardless of the diagnoses, the most infuriating are profiles where egotistical trolls are whining like, “come on, don’t hit me with ‘hey’, be creative” or like “you can do better than hi”. We live in a world that is despairingly corrupt and falls apart and together daily, but also in a world where I now have choices —down to whether or not I want to swipe you up and how I go about it. Literally cannot handle women being in power for a solitary second. You have had it for like all of existence, tuck it in and let me live.

Yet, despite the hyper-masculinity and patriarchy that permeates a space that is intended to give me power, I have found greater joy experimenting with my initial contact approach, than talking with the beaus themselves.

My most recent: I matched with a dentist, and instinctually wanted to write, “come clean my teeth” because, that seemed appropriate and my health insurance for my new job doesn’t start until September 1st so why not have a plug.