Whenever I go on a date with a white girl, I generally pop the question “have you ever dated a black guy”? It generally catches them by surprise. Some would pause, for a few seconds, before responding. Others would say does it really matter and I would let it go, knowing full well that a second date was unlikely, because race does matter. (Stay tuned for a future posting on this point). And so, I asked Jennifer and she said, “yes.” “Oh, good” I said, feeling instantly comfortable to speak more freely, without the need for much cultural translation. Certainly, her prior experience with a black man does not make her knowledgeable of the vast diversity of the culture; but it does suggest that I am less likely to be an experiment; a novelty for the moment.
It’s usually the day after these interracial dates that I begin to question my choice of women; wouldn’t life be much easier and predictable to date someone within my race; not be concerned if the other person gets you. It would; big life decisions would be influenced by family customs of a singular culture; children would face less confusion about their racial identity. Many put in motion a series of life routines focused on normalcy – secure employment, good neighborhood and favorite meals. Most of my married friends and family chose their mates on those terms, and I do not reject them for it but let’s be real: half end in divorce. Their choices alone did not doom their relationships; it’s the absence of a strong commitment to endure that failed them. I choose to embrace the challenges of a diverse relationship because it places a burden on me; to make a relationship work despite the odds; to take a hard look at what keeps us together; to reject the notion that we are a good match simply because we share a racial identity.
The night was full of conversation beginning with the professional life summary to the friends in our circles and sizing up the list of leisure activities that entertain us. She liked sailing, yoga and the theater. Mine were rooftop bars, dance classes and novels. As for our favorite authors, Jennifer said, “Sedaris, Chabon and Murakami” and I offered “Junot, Zadie, Adichie” and for diversity sake added “Franzen and Wallace” (the Infinite Jest one). Neither one of us had read each other’s favorite books but we either had a copy or heard of them. Now that we passed the literacy test, we revisited the interracial subject again. Jennifer goes on to say, “about half of my past relationships have been with another race….Does that mean I have a type,” she laughed. I said, “yes” in my deadpan expression as I reflected on my own dating stats, 20% white, 60% Non-American Black, 10% Hispanic or Asian and 5% American Black. I kept those numbers to myself while Jennifer, fully engaged in defending her family’s reaction to her dating life, continued, “My parents are used to my dating now. My sister is the long holdout. Whenever I tell her that I met someone, she would say, ‘let me guess. He’s not Jewish…. and not white, right’? I would reply ‘yes and yes.’ She meant no harm with these questions…just caring for her little sister, that’s all.” Jennifer adds. Then, she tells me about the major rift she had with the entire family during a long relationship with a Black Muslim from Northern Africa. A White Jewish woman dating a Black Muslim man…that Jennifer has no fear.
Those who have not dated outside their race or even explored different shades of color other than their own may view this attraction as solely a physical one; the type that’s laced with fetishes and overt sexuality. Yes,that exists too. Earlier, in my bad boy days, I hooked up with white women because they looked different; and if they had a small waist and a big ass, it was a fantasy fulfilled. I have pals who shared with me their “bunny rabbits” stories of sexual exploits, all porno flick material. I also know a few West Village SATC types who ventured uptown to the “safe” Ginny’s Supper Club to get their alternative cultural experience. In all these instances, sex is the equalizer. However, when dating for the long haul, for a more purposeful objective, despite the racial makeup, the physical attraction is simply the admission ticket; one great performance may get you rave reviews; but the long enduring run requires much more. I choose to explore outside my race to solely broaden, not limit, my options to find a fulfilling relationship with greater lasting power. I am willing to forgo the predictability of the known to freely pursue something akin to the feeling that no one else will do – but her.
For a midweek date, I thought two and half hours of continuous conversation with the occasional physical gestures of arm touching and fingers twiddling in the hair was a sign that we hit it off. I do have some lingering doubts, however, and none relating to race. Jennifer is a few years away from the age where childbirth is risky. This is definitely a deal breaker since I do see my future family life including a child or two and adoption is not something that I want to do. The big question is whether to go out on a second date with her when this issue looms over me or move on. I will have to give this some further thought. In the meantime, I have several other dates (both interracial and within the race) scheduled in the coming days, and I promise myself to be an attentive listener in search of expression that inspires commitment and longevity.
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