by Latoya Peterson
This is my second contribution to the interracial dating series. I originally wasn’t going to contribute after the intro post as my experience in this area is extremely limited. But, since we aren’t having the conversations I want to have, I’ll take a crack at it. I’m going to come off as a jerk, and I’m okay with this. Feel free to pose any questions you like in the comments, but I am going to ask that you refrain from making assumptions about my friends. If you want to know something, ask. – LDP
My best friend dates white girls.
It’s still painful for me to type that. Just the words, staring me in the face on the screen is like me pouring salt on a five year old wound. How the hell did that even happen?
Things weren’t always this way. Back in high school, I started kicking it with the guy who would eventually become best male friend (hereafter referred to as Bestboy). At the time, we bonded over a mutual love of reading, rock music, and dying our hair ridiculous colors normally only found in packs of Kool-aid. Bestboy was busy exploring his identity as a burgeoning black intellectual with a skateboard and back then his common refrain when it came to relations with the opposite sex was that he “dated the rainbow.” He found my insistence on dating within the race puzzling, I found his dating outside of it equally strange. But, as adolescents are wont to do, these minor disagreements were laid aside in favor of discussing more pressing matters like how many people could fit into a Honda Hatchback on the way home from HFStival.
Time passed, we graduated, and me and Bestboy kept in touch. Our hobbies grew in the same direction and we reunited around mutual adoration of art and anime. There was only one thing that became a quiet little undertone to many of our conversations. Over the last few years, the “rainbow” Bestboy spoke of had faded into one color: white.
Now, at this point, many of you may be wondering why I care about these things at all. Why do I care who my best friend dates? What does it matter the race of his partner as long as he is happy?
In a perfect world, these things wouldn’t matter. Love would just be love.
But the world isn’t perfect and these things do matter.
Love doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
Now, Bestboy still often repeats that he dates the rainbow – until I point out that the last three serious girlfriends over the last five years have all been white. And that most of the women he tries to pick up at bars are white. And most of the women he finds attractive and approaches are white. Specifically, tall, thin, and some variation of blond.
He’ll then point out some random three-night stand as proof that he still does and I’ll point out that his dating habits go beyond the paper bag test – these women could pass the manilla folder test. And since my friend is deeper in tone than I, I tend to look at him skeptically.
At this point, we have a low simmering feud on our hands.
Now, I have never been one to comment on the nature of other people’s interracial relationships. First of all, it’s just rude. I’ve often cringed in horror when I overhead someone suck their teeth at the site of a black man strolling around with a white woman. After all, generally speaking we do not know that nature of someone’s relationship from a quick glance. All that is revealed there are pre-existing stereotypes. So, unless a man is walking around with a tee-shirt reading “Just white girls for me, thanks!” we are not privy to what happened with this particular situation or how they hooked up.
But with this friend, I do know the history. I’ve been there. And as he frequently asks for dating advice, I frequently comment.*
As time passes, our discussions of interracial dating started to have a bit of an edge to them. Bestboy openly admires my relationship with my boyfriend, and I have to choke back a cutting response about black love being sweetest. After his most recent breakup, I found myself seriously considering my positions. It was a train wreck of a situation in which he found that his latest white girl was a closet racist after she made a “those people” remark after attending one of his family functions, which spiraled into a three week long fight about race, sex, and class ultimately ending in their demise. Boyfriend and I sat on the bed, listening to the whole sorrid tale before commenting.
“Stop dating white girls,” Boyfriend said, and I nodded in agreement.
A day or so after that, we were at brunch when he started eyeing the willowy blond waitress.
“She’s cute,” said Bestboy.
“She’s cuter,” I said, indicating a petite Latina with waist-length dark hair who had been seated across from us.
Bestboy gave me a deep sigh.
“Will you cut that out?” he asked with a note of exasperation.
“I will when you start dating brown people,” I fired back.
The comments come to mind quickly – they are difficult to tame.
I recently tried to put my finger on why Bestboy’s dating habits bothered me so much. I have other friends who date interracially and their choice of partner never phases me a bit. So why is it different when it comes to him?
After a little probing, it came to me.
It is the same reason that certain comments cut deep.
Like TAN remarking “and I do have to acknowledge that blonde/white/gold/peach/light turns my head faster than Darkness, even if it isn’t a superlative blonde, peach or whatever” in his discussion of why he is trying to condition himself to like mediocre black girls. Or that one line from “Cupids Chokehold,” that Gym Class Heroes song where Travis raps that his girlfriend has “porcelain skin.” Yes, I am aware of his girlfriend and his biracial heritage. But it still hurts to hear a brown man openly praise a certain skin tone that most black women will never achieve. As a black woman moving through society, these comments aren’t casual or innocent to me. They are not attacks. But they are reminders of what I am not, and what I will never be.
In discussions of beauty – particularly those on women centered blogs – white women can understand being held up to an unrealistic standard of beauty. To be impossibly thin, impossibly blonde, impossibly clear skinned, with a body that defies the law of physics is presented as something that is attainable if you try hard enough and buy the right products, though many women find these efforts to be futile. What most of these conversations do not understand is that when black women pick up these kinds of magazines, or watch advertisements on TV, or popular television shows with popular white actresses, we do not get the message “try harder.”
The message we receive is never.
You will never look like this. Not if you straighten your hair, or lose weight, or work out every single day, or have the perfect body and the perfect wardrobe to match. Even if you fit all those requirements, you’re still “pretty for a black girl.” And if, for some reason, you do not fit these requirements, if your hair is frizzy or curly or kinky, if your thighs and ass will always keep your size in the double digits, if your features are not keen, if your skin tone is too deep, then there are many people who will never consider you beautiful.
They will never see who you are.
I remember reading an online conversation where a (presumably white) commenter had said “Well, every where I go, I hear Black is Beautiful!”
And I thought to myself yes, because that has to be stated – over and over again – for people to begin to believe it. The idea that white is beautiful is so common, so throughly saturated in our society, that is does not need mentioning.
It is just fact.
So, in watching the transformation of my friend’s dating habits, I also wonder about the influence of society. Why is it that now is the time he chooses to date white women almost exclusively? Is it because we are approaching the age for marriage and children? Why is it that the women he chooses to consider long term relationships with are always white?
Occasionally, my black woman rage seeps out and I find myself lecturing him. While I am currently on the sidelines of the dating pool, I see my single black female friends who are gorgeous and talented and ambitious and caring and wonderful remain single while my quirky, IBM** on paper best friend brings by white woman after white woman and I just want to know why.
And then it hits me. I don’t really have a problem with him dating white women.
I do have a problem with the specific white women that he is dating.
Back in high school, we were all learning our tastes. So while he dated a seemingly endless stream of girls, of varying races and ethnicities, they all had a few things in common. They were bold, intelligent, and interesting. They had some physical traits in common, but for the most part, the girls he dated back then were defined by their personalities. I remember one girl dyed her blond hair varying colors to match her mood and wore a piece of hardware on a chain around her neck just so she could tell the boys to “suck her nuts.” The other girls from that era were equally as interesting and colorful and I can remember most of their likes and interests.
Contrast that with the women he’s brought me to meet in adulthood. Bland, wan, boring and uninteresting, they sit silently at the table when we go out and do not engage in conversation. They are uniformly thin and chesty. They are prone to dramatic threats when they are feeling ignored, but are otherwise a silent species intent on staring at their own reflections. They drink too much, too often, and often wake up in the throes of regret about something.
Bestboy once showed me a video from CollegeHumor.com called “Amy at the Club.” In the video, the actress is parodying the legions of (white) women who drink to escape their problems, come off as obsessive and strange, and think sexual contact is a quick and easy substitute for conversation.
I couldn’t laugh at the video.
I saw too many of his girlfriends in that parody.
The only difference is the actress is a brunette and his last girlfriend could hold her liquor.
One girl he dated for two years, and she was a nice, sweet girl.
She was also as boring as wallpaper paste.
Bestboy complained about her lack of stimulating conversation and home body habits often, often calling me in frustration after they would fight. When they broke up, I asked him what he saw in her.
He shrugged. “She cooked. And she let me do whatever I wanted in the bedroom.”
The answer irked me, especially as the answer has repeated itself with other women. It is not the fact that he dates white women, but the fact that he seems insistent on dating a stereotype – and specifically, the stereotype that is often attributed to white women: submissive, sexually adventurous, and easily controlled.
As he started to discuss all the things he had asked her to do sexually- things he asked for just because he could – I felt the angry black woman start welling up again. Is that it? Is that all it fucking is? The grand mystique of white girls boils down to passenger seat blow jobs and a girl who will shut up on command? What the fuck?
In that moment, I could completely understand the teeth sucking that happens, the anger that occurs, why so many black women start getting that familiar pain behind the eyes when they see a white woman and a black man linked romantically. It isn’t just about them, in that specific relationship, at that specific point in time.
It is also what that pairing symbolically represents.
The black man, envy of the world, attractive and in control, shunning his darker sisters for a white prize. The white woman, beauty standard world over and desired by all races of man, able to pick and choose any man for the taking.
And black women, mules of the world, once again pull the short end of the straw. We came up short, again. Lost out to a white girl, again. Have yet another subtle reinforcement that even the men who look like us do not find us attractive. Again.***
It’s enough to make a woman consider kicking her best friend down the stairs.
But, I don’t. I inhale deeply and remember that I am loved, remember that there are plenty of men who don’t act or behave this way around white women, remember that there are some people who were able to navigate the treacherous path of stereotypes and fetishes, and manage to come out with love.
This thing that is so difficult to find, so fleeting, so elusive that it is hard to begrudge anyone who has found it with anyone of their joy. Their love. Their story.
But as I said before, love does not happen in a vacuum. The influences of societal programming run deep. And when I see Bestboy, the question on my mind most often is not why white women, but rather, don’t brown girls deserve love too?
Why don’t you think you’ll be happy with one of us?
I wonder these things. But more often, I wonder about my friend. He isn’t happy, and with each failed relationship, he feels as though he is moving further and further into being a lifelong bachelor. He occassionally voices his sadness aloud, and I hurt for him. Everyone wants to be loved. I’m just worried he’s looking in the wrong place. He’s looking for the woman society holds as beautiful and desirable, the airbrushed and polished trophy, and not the real flesh and blood women that exist in the world.
Women who know who they are. Women of any race.
And I would be happy for him, whoever he finds, of any race, as long as she suits him.
But until then, old habits die hard.
Another Sunday passes, we’re breaking bread at yet another brunch spot, yet another blond walks by and I find myself subconciously scouting for a WoC alternative.
The blonde passes.
“She’s cute,” Bestboy remarks.
“She’s cuter,” I say, inclining my head to a tall desi girl with a cute short bob and wicked earrings.
Bestboy looks at me and sighs. He’s not ready to admit that my racial analysis of his dating life could have some foundation in the truth. But he does recognize that something is wrong.
“Look,” he finally says, “I’m trying, okay?”
I know how he feels.
In my own way, I’m trying too.
*And yes, I told him I was writing this post.
**Ideal Black Man, for those of you who haven’t seen Something New.
***Yes, I am aware this is not true, black men (and men of other races) rushing to our defense. I am exploring the feeling here.