Tag Archives: race

I (think I might) hate Halloween: sayin’ it without swearin’.

4 Nov

It all started with a little movie called “The Last Airbender”. . . Source

I worry that my point about the ills of blackface  – or any type of -face (But not whiteface. Not that it’s “good”. There’s just no comparison. Don’t worry; better people than I will explain why.) – was lost in the profane shrillness of my last post, so I point any of you who is willing to learn things to an awesome website called Racebending.com. In their own words, Racebending.com is

an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. We advocate for underrepresented groups in entertainment media. Since our formation in 2009, we have been dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

They handle the whole “But it’s just a movie!”/”It’s just a Halloween costume!”/”Oh my god, why are you making it such a big deal?” with grace and helpful charts and graphs, a refreshing alternative to my shrieking and crying and swearing approach.

So go there and then look for Academy Awards 2012 : Putting Blackface in Context or if you’re crazy lazy and/or easily confused, click this. Spend some time over there. It’s fascinating. You’ll see why us my-noor-uh-tees are always getting our panties in a bunch and you’ll stop yourself from saying “What about “White Chicks“?” and then I won’t have to fantasize about slapping you and then go eat my feelings. Again.

Okay, I love you. Go learn something.

A big ole’ THANK YOU to Phenderson Djèlí Clark for introducing me to Racebending.com in his terrific post critiquing the film adaptation of “Cloud Atlas”.

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I (think I might) hate Halloween.

2 Nov

Yup. Source

If you live in a part of the world that happened to piss off some West Indian chick named Sandy, you may not have even had a chance to hate Halloween this year. I’ve always been quite indifferent to the holiday myself, seeing as how it was off-limits during my formative years and I was too poor and timid as a thin, hot, late-teen-early-twenty-something to indulge in the debauchery, i.e. wear a really slutty costume, that apparently goes along with the day when one is too old to Trick-or-Treat. So when I was invited to a costumes-mandatory Halloween party in mid-October, I was pretty damn excited.

I acquired my first ever store bought costume, – I was a member of ancient Egyptian high society, but I just told people I was Cleopatra because that’s easier – researched the make-up and nail polish (actually, during that time period a nail stain made of henna and red hued berries was used), and even splurged on a wig.  I was really looking forward to a real Halloween experience for a change, filled with booze and laughter and apple-bobbing and making out with a mysterious man dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or something. What can I say, I watch a lot of television.

Those things didn’t happen, of course. I mean, I laughed and drank booze, but I didn’t make out with anyone – SHOCKER – and I spent an awful lot of the night feeling SUPER uncomfortable. Oh, and hurt, confused, embarrassed, angry, disappointed. Lots of feels.

I was one of the last folks to arrive because putting on enough makeup to make it look like I have cheek bones takes a really long time. I started to panic a little because I initially didn’t see a lot of adults in costume and I felt sort of like an idiot because I had gone all out and with four-inch platform sandals on in addition to four inches of makeup, I felt very much like a beautiful reject from RuPaul’s Drag Race who hadn’t quite mastered the tuck.

A close friend had mentioned to me earlier that his particular top-secret costume choice would make me “pee [my] pants”, so I was on the look-out for him. He’s creative and irreverent and smart so I knew I was going to be in for a surprise. In talking to a mutual friend of ours a few hours before the party, we tossed around guesses on what he was going to be. I guessed Jesus or Lord Gaga, Lady Gaga’s long lost and imaginary male counterpart. “You know”, I said, “Part of me wonders if he’s going to come as Bill Cosby ’cause I’ve started calling him Uncle Bill. He just does so many things that scream Heathcliff Huxtable, it wouldn’t surprise me. But no, a convincing Dr. Huxtable/Bill Cosby would require blackface,” I joked. “He’d do a lot of things, but he’d never do that. God, I hope he wouldn’t do that.”

Le sigh.

I teetered along carefully, my robes gathered in my hands as regally as I could muster and scanned the room for anyone over the age of six in a costume, but for my friend in particular. I spotted the hostess decked out in her Disney princess best; a flapper; a gun moll; and a woman in all zebra print holding an umbrella covered in stuffed animals (She was raining cats and dogs. Cute, right?). I breathed a sigh of relief and relished in the compliments my costume and I received. And then I turned my head.

The first thing I saw was his strange, patchy, mud-colored skin. Whatever he’d used was either melting or smearing or just hadn’t been applied very well and made him look filthy rather than of African decent. But then, most people who attempt blackface don’t actually look black. They just look dirty or as if they’re suffering from some unfortunate skin disease and that is just one of the MANY reasons why blackface, REGARDLESS of the intent, is offensive to me, an actual black person whose skin doesn’t look that way. I don’t know any actual black person with skin that looks that way. Ahem. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, his face, neck, and hands were covered in whatever he’d used to darken his skin and he was wearing a dark blue suit and red, white, and blue tie and flag lapel pin. My nerves and shock had delayed my brain function so even though I was taking in all of this data with my kohl-rimmed eyeballs, I simply couldn’t process who or what he was supposed to be. My eyes fell to the sign in his hand that had letters on it that made up a word I would have normally and very quickly recognized under any other circumstances: a capital ‘O’ followed by a capital ‘B’ followed by a capital ‘A’-

Oh no. Oh NO.

I whipped my head around, my shiny synthetic wig hair sticking to my lipstick.  The people not in costume were wearing stickers that read ‘Re-elect Obama’. It was all starting to come together: I had walked into a time warp and had been sucked onto the set of a taping of “In Living Color” written by precogs. I mean, what else would explain what I was seeing? One of my closest, dearest, most racially sensitive friends couldn’t possibly be in motherfucking blackface as the motherfucking president unless he was also circa-1992 Jim Carrey rehearsing an episode that included an ill-conceived, never-to-air skit called “Oh my god, everybody, what if we had a black president with an African name someday? That’d be HELLA crazy, right?”, right? Right?!?

Wrong.

I wasn’t having some sort of flash-back-forward. I didn’t fall down a Time Slide. The Wayans Brothers were in no way responsible for this. My friend thought he picked an awesome Halloween costume. I thought he had lost his ever-loving mind.

“Oh my GOD!” I shrieked. People looked at me and started to nervously chuckle. Of course – OF COURSE –  I was the only black person in attendance. I felt as though all eyes were on me in a “Let’s see how the black person reacts!” moment of awkward silence. I felt my mouth twitch and spasm into what I suppose was a smile. “Hehehehehe. Look at you!” I said, or something like that. Something non-confrontational but that also didn’t give the appearance of my approval. My eyes briefly locked with the hostesses. Mine were screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?!?!? IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!?”  but I don’t know if she caught all of that. Eye speech can be very difficult to decipher, especially when one has on tons of mascara.

I tried to avoid my friend without it looking like I was avoiding him all night. I know I spoke to him, but I don’t remember what either of us said. My brain turns to useless fluff during moments of high stress. I can’t remember details and that totally bums me out because I am a person who THRIVES on details.

He was excited and really proud of his costume. He had “researched” President Obama for days, maybe weeks. He did his best to not “break character” all night. I tried not to listen to any of the interactions he had with my friends or other guests while he was “being the president”. I didn’t want to learn that any of the people that I liked were racist, bigoted, birther asshats. Or Republicans. But I also tried to listen without listening so that I could squirrel away any nuggets of ignorance that dropped out of the mouths of people there and shoot them Looks of Doom made even more doomy by my kick-ass Pharaoh eyes. All of that covert non-listening made me sweat which would have made my beautiful make-up run, so I gave that up and just ate a lot, keeping my mouth perpetually full so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.

It took me three days to get up the nerve to say anything about my utter discomfort, to say the least, with his costume choice. And I couldn’t even say anything. I sent him a link via text to posts on blackface at Racialicious, a blog about “the intersection of race and pop culture.” I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he just didn’t know about things like white privilege or cultural appropriation or the harmful, hurtful, painful history of blackface in general.

Wrong. Again.

I was negative and afraid and discouraging his artistic expression. Didn’t I know that he’s an aspiring method actor? He said some other bullshit that floored me, so I gave him a piece of my mind and told him with my fanciest two-dollar words that I thought he was a dick, without ever calling him a dick. But I did tell him that he was ignorant, arrogant, and racially insensitive.

He wore blackface to at least one other Halloween party, and was even more unnaturally darkened and scary looking than before, like he’d rolled around in a coal bin. People, apparently, thought it was awesome and hilarious. They posed with him in pictures and posted them on that social networking site. The pictures of him got ‘likes’ in the double-digits. I deleted my account after I saw that (and for other reasons too, but I’m telling this story right now). I cried. Kind of a lot.

I haven’t talked about this with very many people because. . . like, how the hell do I even have that conversation? “Oh hey, it’s 2012 and one of my BFFs wore blackface and I’m super hurt and he thinks I’m the asshole. So anyway, did you catch last week’s episode of “New Girl”?” This is one of the many reasons why I’m going to be in therapy FOREVER because I have wacky, gut-punching shit happen on the regular and I need to pay a dude in a cardigan sweater to help me make sense of it all.

Other stuff happened related to this. Nothing as big, but certainly hurtful. I was invited out Trick-or-Treating by mutual friends of his but was told with a shrug “He’s gonna do his thing so. . .” So what?  “Suck it up, bitch”? “Get over yourself and 300+ years of fucked-up history”? “You’re our friend, but a ‘hilarious costume’ will always trump your feelings so what time should we pick you up”? Then there were the people who did the whole “OMG, they’re just costumes, why can’t minorities SHUT UP already and let us desecrate their stuff?” in response to respectful Halloween costume PSAs I posted on that social networking site. Oh, and an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in forever referred to her city as “N!ggertown” in conversation with me and when the look of horror I gave her registered said “Oh, no offense; you’re not like that.” Not like what? I’m not like what?

So, I think I might really hate Halloween. There are special experiences one has being black during all the seasons, but it seems that All Hallows’ Eve really brings out the fuckery and foolishness hidden in the hearts of so many well-meaning individuals. I also hate that my friend is, apparently, not as creative or respectful or possibly smart as Miley Cyrus. Case in point:

Hmm. I know she’s supposed to be someone famous but I just. Can’t. Put my fin- She’s Nicki Minaj. And that’s plainly clear without the use of a layer of shoe polish. Source.

I think one of the many things that bothered me about the whole thing that I’m struggling to articulate even though I’ve spent 2,000+ words on it is that President Obama, whom I adore, isn’t mud-coffee-coal colored and to my knowledge, my friend isn’t blind. The beautiful nuance of the complexion of black folk seems to be totally lost on him. Apparently, we all just look dirty or are literally black in his eyes. His natural olive complexion is closer to how the president actually looks than the shit-stain-brown makeup he used. Miley got-dang Cyrus had the brain power to figure that out for her costume and I’m not sure she can even read!

If he did so much “research” for this costume, why didn’t he just lose the jacket, roll up his sleeves, and loosen his tie? Why not wear prosthetic big ears? Work on the voice? Ask for cheeseburgers with spicy brown mustard instead of ketchup? Tuck a cigarette behind his ear? Carry a surf board? Why did he have to blacken his skin to imitate a person who’s skin ISN’T EVEN BLACK? I’ll pretend for a moment that the whole thing wasn’t inherently and deeply offensive and simply focus on the down-right laziness of someone claiming to be an aspiring method actor. You, dear sir, suck major ASS at your chosen craft.

I don’t know what all this means for our friendship and I don’t think this post is going to help matters. Or maybe it will because it has said pretty much everything I couldn’t have without crying. But for reals, I was worried that my dressing as Cleopatra/an ancient Egyptian might be potentially offensive because it is a not altogether accurate cultural costume belonging to others (that are mostly dead) and he never stopped to think that maybe his idea was a bad one? That’s not fair!

Just. . . I’m sad and tired. Maybe my parents had a point in keeping me from Halloween. Whatevs. All I know is I’m going as fat Bruno Mars next year. We have the same face, same complexion, same haircut, and until like two days ago, I thought he was black. And I won’t have to wear heels.

I’m also pretty sure that I already own that jacket. SCORE! Source.

Constant craving.

19 Jul

So, today was pretty great. Via a post on that social networking site, I inadvertently outed myself as a lesbian. Now don’t get excited; I love the ladies, but I don’t love the ladies. But I once had a friendship that was so intense that writing about it now, it reads to the untrained eye as though I am reminiscing about an ex-lover and not a former BFF. I think that says a lot about my friendship with Zora.

I met Zora while she was working the desk at my gym. She was exotic looking and had a great weave and terrific clothes. I was immediately smitten. I’m quite shy and rather insecure – shocker, I know – so making new friends (and reconnecting with old ones) can at times be an anxiety-ridden exercise in futility for me. Especially if those potential friends are black women. I’m more used to being mercilessly teased or shunned by black women than befriending them. It’s a problem dating back to puberty, if not before. I don’t know what it is about me exactly and I don’t plan on using this particular post to try to figure it out, but I’ve never rarely felt truly accepted by other black women. I’m sure many of you couch psychologists are tapping your chin and saying “Hmm. Must be something about her relationship with her mother.” Okay, sure. Parent blaming is easy and fun! Let’s just go with that for now. (Sorry, Mom.)

Anyway, I met Zora and was intrigued by her glasses-wearing, and constantly changing hairstyles, and chic clothing paired with a large, visible tattoo. After being weird for a few months, I eventually approached her and struck up a conversation that was more in-depth than the small talk she graciously initiated with me on a regular basis. My favorite musician of all time (except for maybe right now) had just released his first CD in eight years. I carried it with me everywhere I went, so sure I was that it would evaporate into the ether much like he had so many years ago. The majority of his fans are black women, so I nervously asked her if she was familiar with Maxwell while holding out my copy of the deluxe version of BLACKsummer’snight. Zora screamed and reached out for the CD as if I were presenting her with The Holy Grail and said “Am I familiar with Maxwell?!” and that was it. All of a sudden I had my first black female BFF in a very long time.

Zora and I were immediately inseparable. We spent so much time together that people assumed we were related. I guess I should have been suspicious that a grown woman – Zora was four years older than me – with a child was so willing to spend so much time with me so quickly, but I was excited by the attention and affection and acceptance and pushed any apprehensions I had about our very sudden connection from my mind. Finally, someone wanted to be with me all of the time! We worked out together, went shopping – even grocery shopping – together, ate together, slept together (no scissoring, though). If we weren’t together, she was just a phone call or a text away and she always answered. We were each other’s missing piece. No one understood me like Zora did and no one understood her like I did. I finally got to know what it was like to have a sister! Nothing could keep us apart! Well, not nothing. Zora sure did like the company of men.

During my first go at friendship with Zora, there was a new man around every month. Zora had a hard time getting rid of one before starting up with another, so there was always lots of juggling involved. It was all so exciting for me to watch. At first. I even attempted to set Zora up with an old friend of mine. It went really well, until it suddenly didn’t, and I cried with her and cried to my friend, begging him to call her again. I told him how much his rejection of Zora was hurting me. How could he do this to us? I felt responsible for her heartbreak and she went ahead and let me.

Our relationship was so intimate that we were bound to fight and hurt each other’s feelings. You always hurt the ones you love the most. Right? First, it started with her regularly snapping at me when she was in a bad mood related to yet another issue that had arisen between her and one of her admirers. Then, she’d start saying the most hurtful things to me about my own trouble with dating. And what was I guilty of? Well, I wasn’t expressing myself; Zora could never figure out what I wanted. I was aloof and mean. We’d go back and forth, screaming and crying, making up and buying each other things to show how sincere our apologies were. During an argument at a Maxwell concert sparked by a ridiculous misunderstanding, I challenged her to a fist fight. I saw Zora as every black girl who’d ever pulled my hair, said I was corny, that I wished I was white; as every black woman who made fun of my clothes, the way I spoke, the things I enjoyed and was interested in, and I had had it. It was me against every mean black female I’d ever encountered and Zora was just the unfortunate effigy. We did not come to fisticuffs, but my pre-fight trash talking was pretty bad ass, if I do say so myself. Zora would later tell the story and imply or flat-out admit that I had scared her. Hearing that little old me had scared a tattooed, tough black girl from Brooklyn was all the vindication I needed. The incident brought us even closer together. For a little while.

We broke up the first time after she left me alone with a strange man after a night of clubbing. There’s quite a bit more to the story, but the bottom line was that though nothing happened to me, I was hurt and shocked that my Zora cared so little about my safety and well-being, all so she could get her rocks off with some guy she claimed to not even like. Things got ugly, and I returned every thoughtful gift she’d ever given to me by leaving them all in a paper bag at her front door. She called me heartless and told me to stay away from her. I told her she had nothing to worry about; I never wanted to see her again.

We’d been friends for less than a year, 11 months to be exact. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t make things work with her. It was all my fault. I was too needy and too demanding. Maybe I was even jealous of the terrible men that came in and out of her life; hell, no men were coming in and out of mine. Months went by and it was Christmas time. While doing some holiday shopping, I came across one store that was very creative in their decorating by using peacock feathers. Zora loved peacock feathers. I missed my friend. There wasn’t anyone else like her. We were perfect for each other. She wanted me around. She wanted me. I picked out a blank card adorned with feathers and wrote everything I felt. I told her how sorry I was, mailed it, and waited.

She got in touch with me by text message about a week later. She missed me too. She suggested that we meet at one of our favorite restaurants. I was so nervous; what would Zora think of my natural hair? Would she notice that I’d gained weight? Should I wear one of the outfits she helped me pick out? The dinner went off without a hitch. We started out catching up like old friends, making no mention of the fact that the last time we’d spoken to each other we’d sworn to never do so again. Eventually, things turned emotional. Zora mentioned how hurt she’d been by my rejection of her. She didn’t know what she’d done to make me so angry, but vowed that we’d never let something like that happen again. I had to promise to communicate my feelings and not hold them inside. I don’t remember whether or not I made her promise me anything. Dinner ended and she wondered if I wouldn’t mind doing her a favor. Could I follow her on a 45 mile trip that evening? She had to return her boyfriend’s car to the rental place in some other town, but first had to pick up the boyfriend’s car from another, other town. It’d mean so much to her if I could. That feeling of suspicion and apprehension that I had felt way back when started to creep up, but I told it to STFU, my BFF was back. BFFs do crazy shit for each other in the middle of the night after not speaking to each other for almost a year. And so it began.

Zora wooed me like an expert. We’d take day trips that she’d carefully planned to new cities and states and they were to this day the best dates I’ve been on. She knew my other friends never did that sort of thing and she made sure to remind me. She’d show up with unexpected gifts to let me know that she’d been thinking of me. She introduced me to her boyfriend and his entire family as her best, best friend. She got on me about my weight, so we’d cook healthy meals and exercise together. She was on soul duty, too, taking me to church with her on Sunday. I was practically living at her house and she wanted me to have a key to her place. She wanted me again and I was dizzy with infatuation.

I’m sure you can see where this is going, but I didn’t. Or maybe I didn’t want to. Zora would step out for “15 minutes” to have a talk with her boyfriend and not return for three hours, leaving me alone with her dog, who was an amazing little guy, and bewildered dinner guests. She’d tell me she was coming to pick me up to go on one of our dates, so I’d make myself even more unavailable to my other friends and wait by the phone for calls that never came. She needed to borrow my laptop, my vacuum cleaner, my crock pot, my DVD player, all to cater to her demanding, finicky, and mysterious boyfriend. I was growing more angry and resentful by the day. I was a BFF scorned. And Zora was going to hear about it.

After waiting for her, yet again, having been forgotten about for hours, she called me, giddy about something the boyfriend had done or said, though the last time we spoke, which was during a rare date I was on, she was in tears about his cruel treatment of her. I decided that that was it. This was my time to communicate. I mean, I’d promised her that I would. This was for the sake of our friendship! I got out maybe half a sentence before she hung up on me.

She refused to take my calls, so I left her hysterical, enraged voice mail messages. How dare she ignore me? How dare she leave me waiting for hours, only to tell me about spending time with that guy like nothing had happened at all? Wasn’t I enough for her? We had made promises! I had made promises! I was only doing what she asked! She sent me text messages in response, telling me that I was crazy, that I was angry, that I was nasty and hateful. She couldn’t understand why I hated her so much. I responded by telling her I was done and that I wanted my shit. She threatened to leave my things out on the street. I threatened to tape her key along with her name, address, and bra size to a men’s public bathroom wall. I didn’t really; I was only creative enough to threaten to throw her belongings in the dumpster outside my building. That was about a year ago, and I haven’t seen or heard from Zora since.

I initially decided to title this post “Constant Craving” as a play on the whole being mistaken for a lesbian thing since the song to some is/was the lesbian theme song, sung by the lesbian of lesbians, k.d. lang. Reading and thinking back on my relationship with Zora, I can see why one would think I was involved in a romantic relationship with her. The gifts! The jealousy! The time spent! The feelings! The promises! The only thing we were missing was sex.

I decided to keep the title because I can acknowledge that my relationship with Zora shows that I have, ahem, a constant craving. Not for delectable fish tacos, but for companionship. For a relationship filled with understanding. For a friend that I share cultural/ethnic/racial similarities and comprehension with. For someone to desire my presence a hell of a lot. For someone to make me feel like I might be Number One in their life. For someone to make me feel wanted. For someone to want me. I don’t think my constant craving for those things makes me unusual nor does the fact that I fell so hard and fast for a person that I thought was able to offer me those things in a platonic way. They’ve never been offered to me romantically, not even as a ruse to ultimately get sex. But that’s for another post.

Zora is not to blame for our two failed attempts at friendship. She was right; I was angry a lot of the time. I was aloof and wouldn’t or couldn’t communicate. I think I was jealous, not of the men (I already told you, I’m not a lesbian), but of the fact that she got men so easily, even if at great personal cost. I was probably too demanding, but it’s hard to feel like you’re Number One and be suddenly and repeatedly demoted. But friendship can’t give you everything. Which sort of means I’m screwed if things don’t change for me very fast.

I miss Zora, I truly do. She made me feel special in a way that few other people ever have. She was creative and warm and loving and generous. We went on wonderful adventures together and even when we were just hanging out, we still had a great time. I miss her so much that it hurts. I won’t be sending her any more sparkly peacock cards, though. As much as our friendship brought out the best in each other, it seemed to bring out the worst in us in equal measure. I’m still not entirely sure why. I hope someday that I’ll feel as loved and as cherished as Zora made me feel when times were good. I’d be a lucky girl if I could feel that again in friendship and in romance. Or maybe I need to learn to not crave so much so deeply, so constantly. I’m pretty proud of myself for being able to both admit that I miss my friend and that it’s not a smart thing for us to be together. I’m not even angry at her or about the situation anymore. Not really.

Though if I’m going to be perfectly honest, it does piss me the hell off that bitch still has my crock pot. Damn. Ain’t no song for that.

Jungle Fever(ish).

12 Jul

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.