One day Ifemelu is giving a talk at a “Blogging While Brown” convention in Washington, D.C., when she sees Blaine in the crowd. After her talk he pretends not to recognize her, but then brings up something from their old conversation, and Ifemelu suddenly feels like her life has become a romantic film “in which people found each other again.” Eight years have passed since their first meeting, and Blaine now writes his own blog about academia and pop culture. Blaine says that he was in a relationship at the time, which was why he didn’t answer Ifemelu’s calls.
Blaine now becomes the third major romantic relationship of Ifemelu’s life, after Obinze and Curt. Blaine and Ifemelu share many interests, and both are obviously very intelligent, but Blaine has taken a more academic route with his life. They also have very different life experiences, notably in that Blaine is African-American, while Ifemelu is American-African. These divides will later come between them.
After that Ifemelu and Blaine talk and flirt via phone, email, and blog comment, he still living in New Haven and she in Baltimore. Finally he comes to visit her, and she cooks coconut rice for him. They sleep together that night, everything playing out as expected. After that it is as if the years never happened between their first train encounter and now. Blaine and Ifemelu feel immediately intimate with each other. Blaine still teaches at Yale, and cooks organic foods and grains like quinoa. Blaine seems to know about everything, which both attracts and slightly repels Ifemelu.
Ifemelu and Blaine clearly share a strong connection, as they are able to resume their flirtation (which lasted only a day originally) even after years in between. Blaine is idealistic and principled about every aspect of his life, even what he eats.
Ifemelu especially notices Blaine’s discipline and moral character, and she imagines him as a perfect father. Ifemelu starts being more “good” just from being around him: flossing every day, eating better, and exercising. Blaine’s best friend is a woman named Amarinta, and Ifemelu gets along well with her. Amarinta gently mocks the inscrutable academic jargon of Blaine and his friends, and mentions his sister Shan.
This section of the book now delves into the details of Ifemelu’s new relationship with Blaine. With Curt, Ifemelu found herself adopting his spontaneity and luxurious lifestyle, and with Blaine she starts picking up his strict principles and self-discipline.
Ifemelu moves in with Blaine after a year. Soon she realizes she is writing her blog with his academic criticism in mind, and she feels annoyed that her posts seem less spontaneous and personal. Sometimes Ifemelu feels like “his apprentice,” as he tries to teach her to appreciate abstract art or John Coltrane, and finds offence or injustice in certain situations that Ifemelu can’t understand.
Blaine measures all his words carefully and uses more academic jargon, and Ifemelu is irritated to find that she picks some of this up and loses her writing’s spontaneity. Ifemelu, as a foreigner, can’t recognize everything that might seem racist to an African-American.
One time an older white woman asks to touch Ifemelu’s hair, and she lets her. She doesn’t see a problem with it, but it clearly upsets Blaine. Ifemelu sometimes feels out of place with his friends, who are all righteous about different causes and speak in references she doesn’t understand.
This is one example of something that is a typical racially insensitive act in America, but might not be anywhere else, so Ifemelu doesn’t understand what’s so offensive about it.
When she moves to New Haven Ifemelu tells her parents about Blaine. Her father is confused as to why she would choose an African-American over a Nigerian. Her mother immediately starts talking about marriage, but Ifemelu tells her they are taking it slow. The chapter ends with another blog post, this one discussing how white people will admit that racism still exists in America, but no one wants to actually be a “racist.” Ifemelu proposes a new term that would better show how otherwise good people can be racist: something like “Racial Disorder Syndrome.”
This is another important aspect of the book: not demonizing “racists” as some separate class of monsters, but acknowledging the racial prejudice in many parts society, and how even people with good intentions often perpetuate racism through their actions or lack thereof. Adichie humanizes not only the victims of oppression, but also the oppressors themselves, and this includes pointing out just when they are being oppressive but might not notice it.