Dear Wendy: “Why Is My Skin Color Such A Novelty To Men?”
This past week I met a guy while out of town for a cousin’s wedding. After hanging out together and talking over the course of the week, we finally hooked up the morning before I went home. During our post-hookup cuddle he tells me that I was the first black woman he’s ever been with (he was white) completely without provocation. The thing is, this is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, it seems to be a recurring pattern in both dating and casual scenarios alike. And it isn’t just white guys that are guilty. I have had other races (except black men) also randomly confess this to me. This has left me with two questions: 1) Are these men really just thinking “OMG I’m talking to a black chick” while I thought we were getting to know each other as individuals? And 2) why do they feel the need to tell me this, almost always after sexual intimacy? I am biracial and my partner’s race has never made a difference, nor does it even cross my mind when I date a man of a different race, let alone bear such a burden that I feel the need to tell them about it. So what gives? I’m starting to feel like men only see me for my novelty factor. — Colorblind
The guys who have the need to tell you — usually after sexual intimacy — that you’re the first black woman they’ve been with are lame. Fortunately, not all men only see you for your novelty factor; it’s just the men you seem to be choosing. It sucks, but in a way, you’ve got a great built-in way of weeding out the duds in your dating life. And the good news is you don’t have to be intimate with a guy before figuring out whether he sees you for you or just for your skin color. Listen to verbal cues — does race come up in conversation from the get-go? Does he ask dumb, insensitive questions like, “So, what are you?” or “Can I touch your hair?” or “Have you ever dated a white (or Asian or Latin or whatever race other than you own) guy? These are clues that he’s fixated on your differences rather than who you are as a person and how you connect emotionally and intellectually. If you miss the cues and get intimate with a guy who then makes post-hookup remarks about your race, don’t see him again! When he says, “OMG, you’re the first black chick I’ve been with,” you can reply: “Well, unfortunately you aren’t the first lame guy I’ve been with, but I hope you’ll be the last.”
I’ve been dating a guy for over two years now, and long story short, since his two teenage kids moved into my home over a year ago, we’ve had some issues about them being lazy and him taking their sides on things. I frequently feel like I’m playing second fiddle and this Christmas was no exception. This year he bought each of his kids iPhones and we put them on my plan — the original idea was that I would get an upgraded iPhone out of the deal, but that didn’t happen. He also bought other small things for them in addition to paying $200 for his daughter’s computer to be repaired, giving his son $100 and forgiving a $75 loan. I also spent about $100 on gifts for his kids — I even gave his daughter a massage gift certificate, although I haven’t been able to justify one for myself. I bought my boyfriend a Blu-ray player that cost about $280. He mumbled something about giving me money for part of the Blu-ray, but I don’t think he will. From him, I got a $100 gift certificate and I’m feeling pretty hurt. I don’t know if the choice was financial, or what happened, but I feel pretty bad. I’d like to ask him about it, but feel that it’s in poor taste to do so. Any thought? — Short-changed
When you start comparing the monetary amount of gifts a man gives his children versus the amount he spends on his girlfriend, you’re just asking for trouble. For one thing, the relationships are different. Teenage children still rely on their parents for financial help, and special occasions are an opportunity for parents to provide that support as well as give luxuries they wouldn’t generally be able to afford for themselves. If you think your boyfriend spoils his kids, it’s your place to talk to him about it since they live under your roof. But separate that issue from the hurt you feel about the gift you received from him. The two aren’t related. When it comes to a partner’s kids, I think it’s safe to assume you’ll always play second fiddle — at least until they’re grown and self-sufficient. He wouldn’t be doing his job as a parent if he placed your needs above his children’s.
But let’s talk about your gift from him and why you’re upset about it. If you feel like he simply didn’t spend enough compared to what you spent, you’re being a little petty. If it’s that much of a concern to you that you spend similar amounts on each other, perhaps in the future you should talk beforehand about your expectations and set an amount you both stick to. Personally, it seems strange to me that you would give him a gift and then want him to contribute money towards it. If you couldn’t afford a Blu-ray player for him, you shouldn’t have gotten him one. If it was a gift for the both of you, that should have been something you discussed prior to buying it. Maybe he would have budgeted for it better. If you’re upset by a general lack of thoughtfulness behind your partner’s gift, tell him. Let him know that for you, gifts are little luxuries you wouldn’t necessarily buy for yourself, like a massage.
Finally, it may be time to re-visit your living arrangement. If you’re feeling resentful about your partner’s teenage children living with you, or that you aren’t being financially compensated enough for it, you need to say something before the resentment eats you up. I suspect this whole business with the Christmas gifts and how much was spent on whom is really a symptom of something greater. If you feel like you’re making sacrifices that aren’t being reciprocated or appreciated by your boyfriend, you need to discuss that with him. You may have expectations he doesn’t realize you have and unless you make them known, you’ll be living with disappointment well past this holiday season.
Confidential to Colleen: A child is your responsibility until he or she is 18, and you do whatever it takes not to screw up his life, even at the expense of your own comfort and happiness. Part of that responsibility means getting help for yourself if you need it emotionally and financially. Enlist the support of friends, family and qualified professionals to hold you up so that you can hold up your son. Dropping him because you can’t muster the strength any longer is not an option.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.