i decided a long time ago that when it came to dating, i wanted someone that was basically a good guy, and i really didn't care what race he happened to be. finding a smart, decent, cool, God-fearing person would prove to be difficult enough. why cut my chances of meeting that special someone by setting up racial barriers? to my way of thinking, it just didn't make any sense.
i knew very early on in the dating game that just because a guy is an african-american, that didn't mean that he would understand me or "get" where i was coming from or get along with me -- or find me attractive. as a matter of fact, a lot of african-american guys find me patently unattractive because i don't straighten my hair -- believe it or not. (note: i said african-american. not west indian. not african. african-american. but i digress.) it's the wierdest thing, to walk through greenbriar mall in atlanta and watch black folk stop eating to stare at my hair.
here's an interesting sidebar: i don't straighten my hair because it is at its strongest and healthiest and most beautiful when its in its natural state. it's expensive to chemically treat it, too. do the math: if you trot to the beauty parlor every other week or so for a touch up, that money invested wisely long term could probably buy you a house or give you an early retirement situation in no time.
besides -- i don't think i should have to affect a white standard of beauty to be presentable. or pretty. if some african-american man thinks otherwise, that's his problem.
unconsciously, i realized that because i had essentially become the person i wanted to date, that's exactly what i usually attracted: men who wanted a cool girl, irrregardless of race. oh, there was the occasional righteous brother who preferred me with a perm, or who was genuinely disgusted that i'd dated "outside of my race." as far as i was concerned, that made them much easier to sort through. i didn't care how black or white or whatever he was. he's not cool, i'd casually observe. i cannot date him. and i would move on.
case in point?
years ago, some white guy was trying to chat me up at a party somewhere deep in the heart of brooklyn and i wasn't having it. somewhere in the midst of the conversation we were barely having, he told me that he only dated sisters. what baffled me is that he said it in this confidential "just between us" tone. the implication was that i had nothing to worry about because he understood who i was and where i was coming from -- he was familiar with me, with my culture, my people. bad move.
"who are you calling 'sisters,'" i snapped, "black women aren't sisters to you. you have to be a brother to say that." he vehemently disagreed. we were off to the races. i remember watching his face change as he realized how deep he'd stuck his foot in it. that's when i said, why would you only go out with black women, anyway?
to his credit, he tried very hard to explain himself. he went on about how beautiful black women are, how intelligent, how much more interesting they are than white women -- blah, blah, blah. as he went on, what i couldn't stop thinking was, there's some great looking white women out there that really are all that. why is he systematically excluding them? why would someone not date within their own race? it reeked of self-hate but he didn't see it that way. fortunately, i did.
(it's a preference, he said. no it's not, i countered. it's a fetish. amazing, the things people will say to justify themselves.)
my friend happens to be one of the coolest guys i've ever met. i think we're kind of spoiled because we're artists and we don't really live in america. we live and work in new york city -- a place where it's very easy to meet and hang out with people of different races and nationalities and cultures. here, your life can be as segregated or as diverse as you want it to be.
last night, i made my friend watch the online component of nbc's african-american women: where they stand series called love in black and white. he sat there quietly holding my hand, occasionally crinkling his nose in disapproval. when it was over, he said it sounded like the black women in question were dating white guys because black men weren't available. like the white guy was a consolation prize, and if some black guy came along, she would dump him. to his way of thinking, race is not a reason to date anybody.
and that's when the obvious struck me: it's really not about black women dating white men. it's about black women dating the cool guy. why wouldn't anyone say that on this segment? why can't anyone think it? they were so conditioned to think in terms of black and white that they couldn't see it any other way. ridiculous. it's a big world out there, ladies. lots of men, all over the world. the one for you could be anywhere. he could be anyone. a turkish businessman. a polish bar owner. a chinese chef.
it could very well be that the cool guy that God wants for you is probably in Prague right now, having a latte.