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Jan. 31, 2022

Update: For James Fans Only

Update: For James Fans Only

When James went on a blind date with Aziz, many of you wrote in to tell us how much you loved him. This week, Hiwote has a follow up conversation with the karaoke legend who stole our hearts.

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When James went on a blind date with Aziz, many of you wrote in to tell us how much you loved him. This week, Hiwote has a follow up conversation with the karaoke legend who stole our hearts.


Jesse: This is Dating I'm Jesse Baker. So Hiwote, it's been a week and a couple of days since we put Aziz out into the world, Aziz's date with James, and I feel like the responses have been insane. 

Hiwote: Insane is an understatement. I've been getting, both like on This is Dating's podcast, and on my personal Instagram, I've been getting all kinds of messages about the show. And I got this text a few days ago that says, Hiwote I need to talk to you about the Aziz James date. And so this is a group chat. And so someone says "I was so impressed with James's sense of authenticity and warmth on a first date." And someone else jumps in "and his curiosity." Someone else goes, like, "he just seems so open and warm to me," which he totally was all of those things on the date, which is why we all wanted to go out with him.

Jesse: So has James heard the date? Do you know? 

Hiwote: Yeah, he did. I emailed him and he said he felt really complimented by the episode and he like really loved it. I kind of want to know where he's at in his dating life and just like what's going on with him moving forward. 

Jesse: Hiwote you are not the only person who wants to know that. I feel like we owe it to the people who are listening. They are asking us what is happening with James. I think we owe it to them to figure out what is happening with James. I think you should call him. 

Hiwote: Okay. 

Jesse: I'll call him.

Hiwote: I'm so glad that we're chatting. I want to hear all of your thoughts. What did it sound like to hear yourself on a date? 

James: I feel like for me, hearing myself talk is always very like, ugh. I'm glad y'all edited out the awkward parts. We talked about the fires for an awfully long time. I remember Logan even wrote in the chat like less natural disasters please.

Hiwote: Did you listen back and think like, huh, I do these things really well, or like, I want to do these things differently? 

James: I wasn't super listening to be critical. I mean I did notice that so one of the things that I think Aziz said was that I had apologized a lot, right? He had mentioned that like he counted at least three times, but in the final cut, I don't think I found any. So I think that was all just edited out. So I was like darn, I wish I could like have those because ironically, I agree with him. I have also, I remember once I was on a... Many years ago, I was on a date with someone when I was still like young and immature and like a little bit more superficial about stuff. And I remember this person apologized a lot for a bunch of silly things. Like we had gone out to eat, and I remember specifically these things, cause I'm like an elephant, that never forgets these things, but he apologized for the line being too long, and he apologized for forgetting to grab me a napkin and then he apologized for having to go to the bathroom. And it was just all, that was a lot because those were just the three that I remember. And I remember them being like, these are not things that are within anyone's control and now the apology seemed a little bit like facetious almost. I have been know to be defensive about things and to not apologize about certain things. So I'm trying to get better at that. And I realize that sometimes that might be overcompensation. But I am, but it is nice, like I do want to make sure that I'm apologizing for things I'm like legitimately wrong about that make a meaningful difference and not apologizing for small things, to compensate for the big things I don't want to apologize for. So that would have been the one area that I could have walked away from as like, oh, this is good personal feedback, but I didn't totally hear it. So it's not the end of the world.

Hiwote: It's also interesting because none of us thought you were apologetic. 

James: Great. Great. Yeah. Yeah. The feedback from y'all was great.

Hiwote: So it's funny because it's not just us, like, honestly, like one of the things someone said was, can you do a conversation with James and make it like the B side of an album? 

James: I'm super flattered. I'm very flattered. Thank you. Yeah, I know. I walked away. I was like, wow. I feel really pumped about myself.

Hiwote: That's awesome. And we weren't, you know, we weren't trying to make you feel good. We were really just reacting to the tape. The point you made about apologetic-ness with the person that you went on a date with years ago, I think is so interesting because how apologetic someone is, or is not, is not something... maybe if it's excessive, I might notice it. 

James: Yeah. 

Hiwote: But I think it's really interesting that you noticed it and that Aziz, like that was one of the things that he felt he pulled out of that date, because I don't even know what I would. What do you think being apologetic means? Like what do you extrapolate from that? Why is that unattractive?

James: Frankly? I think it's a very gay thing. I think it's the way that the gays have internalized a need for masculinity. And a hatred of things that don't represent masculinity. And I think a lot of soft qualities still are associated with that. 

Hiwote: Wow, okay. 

James: Yeah, I think it's just that. I don't think it would manifest itself in other situations. It may be in straight dating. Basically, like there was a lot of internalized heteronormativity. And I think that plays out in so many different ways in dating. It's very much like, think of it as like the trope of like, oh, girls always want to go for the bad guy, right? Gays have that too. And the apologetic-ness is is one manifestation of that. 

Hiwote: That's really interesting. Yeah. That makes total sense. So now I have to ask you, how has your dating life been since that date? 

James: Yeah, I mean, we're in a pandemic, so I have not dated a lot at all. I was dating someone last year. And it was for a few months so sadly that was tied for the longest relationship that I've been in. They've always been a few months, but it actually was by far the best of the ones that I've had that were a few months long. This is someone that I truly feel like I connected the most with, the feelings were really authentic and real, and even though we broke up, even though the breakup wasn't that great. And even though like, there were this is, I think the relationship that I will say taught me the most about myself. 

Hiwote: Ooooh. What did you learn? 

James: I learned that I'm a lot less emotionally secure than I thought I was, which was probably not the best learning. I learned how important therapy is so because of this relationship, it was one of the triggers that made me realize, you know what, I really just invest in therapy. I have no money, but I just need to do it. And that's been really great and really groundbreaking for me. But so much learnings, honestly, from this. And it was just, it was one of those things where it's like, it made me realize how important a relationship is and how much I do want to be in a relationship because I'm 34 now, you know? And it's like, there's this really famous article by Michael Hobbs called the gay loneliness epidemic, or the epidemic of gay loneliness. And it's really like a must read, like every every person that I know that's gay has like heard of it at the very least, and everyone's identified super strongly with it. And it's just talks about the fact that, you know, unlike other segments of the population, gay men just persist in having issues of loneliness, anxiety, mental health issues, drug addiction issues, even after we're able to come out of the closet. And even if we are supported by a positive and affirming community.

Hiwote: Totally. 

James: And it hit me really hard, last year, I had an emotional breakdown because I'd also just broken up with this guy. And also because I realized that Michael Hobbs, the author was 34 at the time that he wrote this piece and I was 34 then. And when I first read it, I was like 28. And I was like, okay, I have years to, like avoid, ending up like this.

And then I realized that due to the subconscious choices I had made in the way I prioritize my life, here I am. But in many ways, still lonely and still not having had a lot of success in my romantic relationships. And so that hit me really hard. Yeah. 

Hiwote: And add a pandemic to that and it just, yeah. Yeah, cause I mean, Michael Hobbs was not talking about me in that article and I really want to read it now that you have told me about it, but I think a lot about it, even in my own life, like, I feel like I'm surrounded by so many beautiful relationships, so many beautiful friendships, and there are still these like cracks these like small moments where I'm like wow, I feel profoundly alone. You know, I feel profoundly lonely, I can totally relate to that. And it also makes me wonder, do you just continue to feel that way, even in a relationship, like sometimes I feel like relationships can be masks for that that feeling still persists, but now you can just like, go talk to someone. So you forget that feeling, you know? 

James: Well, hopefully if it's a good relationship that feeling goes, I mean, like part of me being in that relationship it was a good demonstration of all the wonderful things that can come out of a relationship of having someone that is just like your person that you can talk to when things are really crappy. Cause you know, like the emotional breakdown that I had last year, one of the biggest things was that it was like, I was like, wow, it's 11:30 at night, and I'm like basically in a puddle crying on the floor of my apartment. And there's no one that I have to talk to. And it's not because I have any shortage of close friends, but it's that it's 11:30 at night, they're all asleep. Or they have like their own significant others, families, kids. And it's not a life that I want to intrude on, even though we're like a really good friend. But with the relationship, like you get to have that, you know, you get to have someone where it's like, yeah, it's 1:00 AM in the morning, but I'm like a mess and I need to talk to you.

Hiwote: Yeah. Yeah. And you're like one of the highest priorities in someone else's life. 

James: Exactly. Yeah.

Hiwote: I remember also when we last talked and this, I don't think made it into the final cut of the episode, but I remember you saying it's actually very difficult dating as an Asian man in the gay community. 

James: I think that's something that I mentioned to you, if I remember correctly when you're thinking about like screening people, I need to know...and this is, and this is very challenging because I see it both ways. So a lot of dating sites for example, have been criticized for their use of racial filters. And it was one of those things where it's like, I completely see and honor and understand that argument, adding racial filters just adds the ability for people to more easily. Build on their own preconceptions and more easily stay in their bubbles because they never see anyone outside of their like preferences.

They never see someone that might break the stereotype for them or whatever it is. At the same time, if you are a group that is victimized or fetishized or a cause by that, then it gives you also an anxiety around like I'm swiping, let's say, I'm swiping right on a hundred people. But I don't even know if 50 of those people are just resolute in their anti-Asian-ness.

And it would have been a lot less mentally taxing for me to swipe on 50 people and only match with 10. So it's one of those things where it's I do see the value of both, and there's no way to do that. And it's funny cause that's one of the things that Logan commented on at the end of the date that I had with Aziz.

She was like, I don't know if Aziz was, like attracted to James. Probably no one will ever know that. Cause you know, like this is pros and cons, right? Like again, pros and cons, pros of living in a more politically correct world is that no, like very few people are going to outright say something like, oh, I'm just not super into Asians, but the con is that like sometimes, gosh, I almost wish they would,

and save me the time and energy and investment. You know, it's sad because, you know, it's just like, I don't, it's just, there's a lot to unpack and deal with there. And I didn't know the topic of of the date beforehand, right. But like the topic was Aziz has lists to go on. Right. And these days, those lists are rarely racial in nature, but that doesn't mean that there, that there aren't like a lot of hidden items on that list that you never know about because there are plenty of, you can count on every race, the number of people that are like that love music, love the outdoors and all these other things. But then that doesn't mean that you're going to see someone and then be like, oh, this person checks those things. Cause there's a bunch of hidden things that sometimes we don't want to say out loud, but other times, frankly, we don't even want to admit to ourselves. But I think that's the even more challenging part and it takes a lot of work to even unpack that about yourself. 

Hiwote: Yeah, It's totally true. And I'm seeing a parallel as you're talking about, you know, like the data show that Black women are also the least desired and it's been really interesting to turn my dating apps on in different neighborhoods or in different like cities and to see who is it that thinks... that will validate your attractiveness or that will affirm your datability or your dating value. 

James: Yeah. 

Hiwote: And for a long time, I just felt like fuck this entire system and it's it, yeah, it might be true that like a lot of white guys are not swiping right on a bunch of Black women, but are Black women actually looking for the same people that are rejecting us, like, and the longer I am on these apps, I've only been on apps for a year. 

James: Noo.

Hiwote: The longer I'm on these apps, did you just say "Aw"?. 

James: Because I was just like, I was like, get off. I love that you survived without that, like yeah. It's so bad for your mental health, I feel like. 

Hiwote: 'Cause it makes you feel like a commodity. But yeah, all of that to say, like it's not the same thing at all as what you're describing and explaining, but I see so many parallels, in my own experience. 

James: And that's why, I don't know if you know, but I read this article a while ago because I don't know if you remember when OkCupid was like a big thing, it was like a bigger thing than it currently is. And they're the ones that first publish all this data around different different match rates with people and the data around Asian men and Black women. And so in the response to that, a lot of Asian men... when meetup was also a big thing, meet up and OkCupid were at the same time, there were a lot of like Asian men and Black women dating groups.

Hiwote: Oh really? I don't remember this. 

James: Okay. Well, I don't know if they're still existing, but they're literally called AMBW dating groups. 

Hiwote: Wow. 

James: And there's a whole, I mean, there were like, I'm not an apt on meetup anymore, so I don't know. But on that platform, there were a lot of these groups that were just bringing together Asian men and Black women singles to date.

Hiwote: Yeah. Wow. This is so interesting. Okay. So clearly you and I could talk forever, but thank you so much for giving us so much of your time. This has been so fun and so interesting. 

James: Yeah. Yeah, totally. Thank you so much. 

Hiwote: Cool. All right. Have a great rest of your day. 

James: You too. Bye bye.

Jesse: If you'd like to be set up by us on a future date, go to This is Dating is produced by Jesse Baker and Eric Nuzum at Magnificent Noise. Our production staff includes Hiwote Getaneh, Eleanor Kagan and Taylor Hansen. We also received help from Esther Perel, Courtney Hamilton, Robert Smith, Julia Natt, Julia Silbergeld, the Quarantine Love Project, Hayden Dawes, Lulu Krause, and Eva Wolchover. Original music production and sound design by Paul Schneider. Logan Ury is our consulting producer and the executive producer of This is Dating is Jesse Baker.