Interracial dating makes me sad.
Not in the way you’re probably thinking. Other than a reflexive and obligatory eye roll, I couldn’t care less if black men want to date white women. Hell, if you like it, I love it. And I owe my very existence to The Swirl. Until rather recently I was pretty certain that the Honorable Mr. Ambrosia Jones was going to be a delectable piece of white chocolate. Now I’m not so certain that he won’t be imaginary.
Interracial dating makes me sad in the most literal sense: the times that I’ve liked white boys have been some of the most curled-up-in-a-ball-ugly-crying times I’ve experienced. It all started in the 4th grade. Sexy Kid Ambrosia was hidden under a pair of gigantic, red plastic frame, Coke-bottle thick glasses and a wardrobe primarily from Bradlees and Caldor. The social torment that would follow me well into adulthood had begun. Then Todd waddled into my life. He was a year or so older because he’d stayed back a time or two. He was the only 4th grader who had boobs bigger than mine. The poor thing was also cursed with both a speech impediment and a voice so high-pitched that had I had any grasp of the concept of sexuality, I would have questioned mine for dating a boy with a magnificent pair of knockers and an impeccable falsetto.
Todd was kind to me. He held my hand on the playground and was as enthusiastic about planning our wedding as I was (weddings were regularly held on the kickball field for interested couples and usually officiated by the teachers who most craved our approval or some of the more bossy 4th grade girls). But my dreams of a Michael Jackson-themed reception by the swing set were shattered when he dumped me for London. Always beware of girls named after European cities. I have to give him credit; Todd was pretty direct about it, hysterically explaining to me that London had explained to him that he liked her better than me.
I didn’t learn my lesson and a year later found myself involved in a scandalous polygamous relationship with that bitch London and a piece of Euro-trash named Pierce. He had shoulder length brown curls and wore Ralph Lauren sweaters and trousers. We were the talk of the 5th grade up to and including our very messy and public break-up. It got so ugly that parents were called. Mine were less than amused. I still deny the baseless accusations brought against me. I was railroaded! I was only guilty of being a woman scorned! And maybe calling him the f-word.
Middle and high school were pretty uneventful, mostly because I was crippled by awkwardness until the 10th grade and absolutely determined to “prove” my “blackness”. I dated a biracial boy from Da Hood on and off from 8th grade until the middle of 9th grade and then focused my attentions on boys who had spent time in ESL and came to school smelling like Sazon. I don’t count those experiences as “interracial dating” mostly because a great deal of the time people assumed my exotic boyfriends were my brothers and/or cousins. That sure did wonders for my adolescent self-esteem. No, really! Being mistaken for Brazilian, Dominican, or Puerto Rican is the ULTIMATE compliment to pay to a teenage black girl suffering from an identity crises. It got a little prickly though when onlookers assumed my papi chulos were actually my hermanos, if that meant they were being mistaken for black. Yeah, those were some uncomfortable conversations. . .
My case of Jungle Fever returned freshman year of college. First there was Tommy, the Italian Stallion from Brooklyn. Then came Matt, the Golden Boy with the Southern drawl from Georgia. But it was Andrew who put them all to shame. He was my first real white boyfriend and The Great White Hope. Andrew looked like Jordan Catalano’s buffer, hotter, older brother. He played soccer and worked at The Gap. He was 21 and drove a sports car. I had managed to snag the white boy of white boys and was head over heels.
We dated for a tumultuous 7 months, breaking up no less than three times throughout. Being his girlfriend was like starring in some surreal Afterschool Special on race relations in America. He would say crazy things to me like “I always warned my mother I’d date a black girl someday” and affectionately referred to me as a/his bitch in front of everyone. He dragged me through his hometown introducing me to every member of his immediate and extended family so they could see “the hot black girl” he’d met at college. He was “secretly” half Syrian (it is a long, bizarre story that I simply can’t be bothered to tell) and would develop a very dark tan in the summertime. He thought it was “hilarious” to pick me up unexpectedly from my summer job at the mall wearing a Yankee fitted cap to the side, a wife beater, baggy gray sweat pants sagged to show his boxers, and Timberland boots. “Everybody probably thinks I’m a Puerto Rican!” he’d breathlessly whisper while attempting to pimp walk through the parking lot as I trailed behind him, not sure whether to be totally turned on or totally humiliated.
Our relationship ended for the last time when during an argument about something mundane like my wearing thong underwear (yes, this caused him great distress) or spending too much time with my friends that he found annoying, he declared that he had to start thinking about who he was going to marry as he was “older” and that he simply couldn’t see himself marrying someone like me. His actual words were “There’s a specific type of girl I want to marry and you just ain’t it.” I think he thought it’d be less of a blow if he broke the news to me in my first language: ebonics. Le sigh. He left a bag of his crap in my car or dorm room or something and I made a great show of returning it to him in front of his teammates. I included a print out of the lyrics to Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” amongst his things. I had her haircut; I loved the song, but never really understood its meaning until Andrew took a dump on my heart, so it seemed like a very fitting way to bid him adieu. I was 18, it was the 90’s, and I was DEEP.
The next year found me without a serious boyfriend and doing a lot of kissing (all Latino boys again!) and then I met He Who Shall Not Be Named. HWSNBN was Puerto Rican, but looked like the love child of Chico DeBarge and R.Kelly and didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, so it was just like dating a horrible guy who hated that people assumed he was black who’s grandparents happened to be from Puerto Rico. As you can guess, it was AWESOME.
My mid-twenties found me pining over an Italian-Irish EMT from Staten Island that I’d known as a teenager who declared his “love” for me out at da club one night while his girlfriend wasn’t looking. Despite his declaration, he picked the girlfriend. I was in graduate school and living alone in a big city then and I’d drive around in my hoopdie crying to love songs on the radio. For some reason, Etta James’ “At Last” seemed to be on the radio station I listened to every morning and Luther Vandross’ “Think About You” was on every night, so I was getting it from both ends and not in the good way.
After graduating from grad school and moving back home, I reconnected with the boyfriend I’d had during senior year of high school. Paulo was a fair-skinned South American who had identified as Latino in high school but decided he was actually white as an adult (again, long and extremely stupid story) and I thought we were in love. I moved to a city without a proper Starbucks and 60% of its population living under the poverty line for him. I befriended his drunken, crazy mother; regularly babysat his poorly behaved niece and nephew FOR FREE, and slow danced with his sister (she was living as a man at the time so put your eyebrows back down) all in an effort to prove my undying love and devotion. His mother would say really terrific things to me in broken English like “I live with the black man when I come to America. He beat me all the time!” and “My son likes beautiful girls with the blonde hair and the good, good body, but I convince him to love you because you are so nice person to me!” Turns out, she was right. About the second part. I don’t know if the black man beat her all the time. I wasn’t there for that.
About three months after we’d reconnected and two months after I moved to the godforsaken place I am about to peace out from in 69 days (the seven weeks thing was a false alarm), Paulo told me that I had misunderstood him; he wasn’t interested in me romantically, mostly because he didn’t find me attractive. He was in Europe at the time, so he delivered this very important piece of information to me over the phone, after I’d signed a year lease on my apartment. Oh, and it was my birthday. Did I not mention that part? I spent a great deal of time after that alternating between hysterical crying and staring at the wall in my mostly unfurnished new home until a no-nonsense friend stormed in, dragged me to my feet, and made me go grocery shopping. Everything worked out in the end; Paulo found a (second) wife with the blonde hair and the good, good body, and I have this blog. Hooray.
So here we are in the present. The person that I used to know is of the Caucasian persuasion, so I was just a-quakin’ in my boots due to my unfortunate history. You may have noticed that I typed ‘was’. Yeah, turns out that home boy I was hoping to climb like a mighty sequoia once I redeemed myself of the epic fail that was our “reunion” after 15 some-odd years ain’t single after all. I became aware of that fact just a few hours ago and haven’t cried yet! But I’m still sad. So this post and my life have come full circle. That’s. . . something.
Don’t worry; I’m not gonna go all Anita from “West Side Story” on you. “Stick to your own kind” is mean and weird and hard to do when you don’t know any straight, chubby, black guys who like Jane Austen, Broadway musicals, and Doritos. But I have to admit that when I feel the JF coming on me now, I reach for the Tylenol and take a nap. That seems to be the safe thing to do. For now.