Coming home…The Intra-racial Date with Ms. English

Crystal champagne glass in hand, long shapely legs visible, surrounded by blondes in reserved seating in this dimly lit private London nightclub, the Black English girl’s aura said certifiable diva; this is the noire Tinder pic that caught my eyes as I swiped right; we matched.  I played it kool and sent English a “hello there” message, anything more would demonstrate over eagerness.  She replied. Her first name was unusual and so I googled it and scanned through the images until I found her Linkedin profile.  English had professional credentials, the ones favored by the establishment, and was not just a pretty face. I’ve dated the model types before; lots of excitement in having a new beauty; conversation limited; a courtship to bed her is the mission until things fizzle and end as quickly as it started.

Took a few failed attempts before we finally met at Cipriani in Grand Central Station…she looked different, her hair was a dual color of black at the top and blonde at the bottom instead of the jet black look in her picture; the glowing brown tone skin was hidden behind foundation applied too thickly; and in her mouth was a shiny metal, a tongue ring; and in my mind, her diva status stumbled downward.  Not allowing my vanity to get the better of me, not looking for Ms. Goodbar, I overlook the appearance and allow the evening to take its full course.  We only had one drink at the Italian eatery and left to dine at Buddakan’s main dining room, a dated but celebrated space that has some snob appeal.

As we make our way to the meatpacking district, engaging in small talk, glancing her way, and listening to her distinctive accent, I am reminded of both our shared physical appearance and differing social experience.  She was born in the UK by a Nigerian father, who, she implied, is connected to the petroleum profiteers back home, and to a French Caribbean mother that she did not reveal much. English seemed very close to her dad and has given much thought to his encouragement to join him in Lagos but instead came to New York. Her silence regarding her mother suggested a marriage of convenience. (I won’t elaborate any further as we fellow immigrants have a sacred pact not to question each other on such matters). English attended Kensington prep school and lived in predominantly white neighborhoods…Chelsea, Notting Hill…and so all her friends were white.  I, on the other hand, arrived to the states as an infant and was raised solely by my Non-American Black mother who toiled in the 7th Ave garment factories until she rose to a position of pattern maker to a fashion designer downtown; we lived in the black areas of Crown Heights and East Flatbush Brooklyn until my late teens and all my friends were black.

English and I are both black but continents apart in our experiences; and this prompted some very random thoughts on race; flashbacks on how the social media depict us as linguistically-challenged, academically-deficient, criminally-inclined and having separatist-tendencies. I tried to snap out of it and think positive thoughts, instead, but became fixated on the few bit parts the social media carves out for the safe blacks, the Our Kind of People and Jack and Jill types (look it up readers).  As strange as it might sound, I rarely discuss race matters (except in this blog, of course) and the times that I do is to react to a news event; you know the stories, the ones about Trayvon being the norm; Obama the long exception; and the battle that we all face with Sterling. The last one ended well as Lebron and others spoke up, the SnapChat generation reacted and now Sterling is gone, a positive Hollywood ending.

“Nu Yak is still nooo tu me,” (Translate: New York is still new to me,) she said in her pronouncedly English accent as our hostess walked us down the stairs to our table.   Only three weeks removed from London life, she seemed a bit shy or even nervous as if she was from a small southern town instead of a major cosmopolitan city. So it took some cajoling to get her to open up. I told her of stories of work life, love life, black life while peppering her with soft questions to keep her engaged. Finally, she says “I had a luver for six years.  He was much older and I outgrew him.” I wondered why she said outgrew.  Her body language suggested that it was boredom.  “After him”, she continued “I met Manny, a blue collar guy. He had edge. He couldn’t do much on his own, tho.  I took him places and paid for everything. Love the man.  I asked him to move here with me.  He would not.”  I told English that she demasculinized him. She nodded in agreement.  It was clear that English had a rebellious streak and was trying to find herself; she escaped her safety net in London; she left a self-reliant man for a vagabond; she’s adrift right now and that’s ok as her future has many possibilities, but it will not include me.

The Interracial Date with the Jewish Girl…

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.

[Feel free to share your thoughts and comments]

Brunch at Isabella’s with My Absentee Father

Over the weekend I had brunch with my ole man; it’s been a while (not by accident) since we last saw each other and so the meal became a three-hour marathon session of catching up.  Our father-son relationship has not … Continue reading

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