My boyfriend has a messy red beard and blond hair. He cooks me vegetarian meals just to make me happy. He takes his glasses off when he dances, and he can usually be found cutting a rug to dance hall or reggae. He was the Hamburglar for Halloween last year. When we’re out, he holds my hand. He walks me home from work. Every Sunday, he invites me to supper with his family.
After meeting my boyfriend for the first time, my co-worker muttered in a voice that I’m sure was meant for an internal monologue, “I didn’t expect him to look like that.”“What does that mean?” I snapped.
She looked taken aback. I softened my tone and raised my eyebrows waiting for her response.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s really cute… It’s just I expected you to be with someone different.”
What she meant was that he is white, and I am black. But she hesitated, refusing to use those words and trying to choose ones that would not have me running to HR. “I mean, you two look so different together, he’s so fair and you’re … not. I guess I wasn’t expecting it.” She smiled politely and scurried away before I could respond.
I counted to 10 in my head and contemplated drowning her in the employee toilets, but they frown upon murder in work common areas. I’ve tried not to let comments and looks bother me—after all you have to pick your battles and I have found that I usually lose more than I win when it comes to talking race. Most people give me a “What did I say wrong?” confused look, and I find myself feeling sorry for their ignorance. What they say can be subtle or just idiotic; they might not even be aware of what they’re implying. My ex once told me that his mother was extremely offended when he called her out about how she didn’t take well to his dating out of his race. Her response was, “Dan, I don’t hate black people! We have tons of black friends, like Elaine.” Elaine is their maid, and the last time I checked, she seemed pretty miserable. I’m not sure what constitutes friendship, but if you have to pay someone to hang around, then you might want to rethink your definition.
Other times the disrespect is more blatant and I’m forced to address it. On a walk with my boyfriend to a friend’s dinner, we ran into a group of rowdy, belligerent men. They stared and sneered, making spiteful remarks. They said he wasn’t giving it to me right, and that I was a traitor. They even kindly promised to give it me so good that I “would never leave my house again and would need an ice pack to walk.”
My guy tensed up with anger, but I quickly grabbed his hand to keep him out of a fight that he would definitely lose. I was fuming on the inside and decided in all of my blind rage to take matters into my own hands. So I kissed him quickly and turned around before he could catch me. I stormed towards the men. “Hey! Who I love is no one’s business but my own! And yeah, he’s white and I’m black, big effing deal!!“ I beamed triumphantly and they burst into laughter.
Shocking as it seems, dating outside of the norm can still be really, really hard. Your family might not understand, people might take second glances, or look too long. They all might have the same thought: “Why can’t you find a man who is your own race to be with?” But love is unpredictable. And as irritating as this might seem, you can’t choose who you fall for.
If you are in an interracial relationship and he is a wonderful man, then hang on to him and be happy. Here’s what I know: My man makes me smile even when he is not around. Yes, he is white—but with that magical ability, does it really matter?