I went on a date a couple of Saturdays ago with this guy who is Puerto Rican and Costa Rican. About a month or two before that, I went out with a Peruvian guy. Not too long before that, I went out with this Italian-Irish guy. They approached me and asked me out. That’s no big whoop. I grew up in the Bronx so most of my boyfriends were Puerto Rican (I don’t even consider that interracial because of the island’s history—which some of them don’t acknowledge but that’s a story for another blog). As for white men, it’s not unusual for them to ask me out. White males have been stepping to me since way before any black boy ever took interest in me. I rarely accept because I just assume they want to have some kind of chocolate fantasy. My thing is, since I’ve been back to NY, no black men, have asked me out. Not African-American, not West Indian, not actual African—none!
So, I’m trying to figure this thing out. What is it about me that is stopping black men from asking me out? I’m obviously approachable because these other men keep approaching me. Black men will look at me here, but they rarely approach me, and they haven’t asked me out.
Growing up, black boys in my neighborhood didn’t like me, because according to popular neighborhood standards, I wasn’t to be liked. The main reason was my dark skin. I know because I was told from first to ninth grades about how ugly, dirty, nasty, and unattractive, my dark skin was. It was almost a daily topic, even amongst people who said they were my friends.
Puerto Ricans and white boys, on the other hand, were the first to show interest in me. The first boy to ever grab my hand in the street, and walk with me was a Spanish kid from Mitchel’s (a neighborhood a few blocks from mine). Many of my firsts were with Hispanic and (non-Hispanic) white men. Except for my virginity. I brought it back home for that one (LOL!). But with the exception of him (a sweetheart from Brooklyn who I had a four year relationship with), black boys were not interested in me.
I went to a historically black university, and that was the first time black males really started showing any real interest in me. But it felt like that was by default because everybody just wanted to fuck everybody. Even then, the one white boy on campus showed me the most interest. Still, college was the first time black men showed I was valuable to them.
As I’m typing this I’m releasing some feelings that I try to ignore most of the time. Feelings of resentment that I find hard to let go of, about the black boys of my youth. They caused me a lot of pain. It wasn’t like being fat, where I could lose weight. It wasn’t glasses, or braces. It wasn’t a mole. It was the thing that was me. It defined who I was to people, and their definition was, dark skin is ugly. People who looked like me, but just a few shades lighter, hated me for being too much of what we all were. And they felt it necessary to let me know whenever possible how unattractive I was. I had black boys tell me not to touch them because I was too dark, not to play with them because I was too dark, not look at them (yes, I’ve had someone tell me I was too dark to look at him). My formative years taught me that black males did not find me attractive. There’s not a black joke I haven’t heard, and I haven’t heard any of them from anyone white.
So, as I’m typing, I wonder if my childhood experience with black boys has me jaded about black men and maybe I send off an energy to them that says, “Fuck you, you hurt me, stay away from me”? I know I’m not completely over the pain of it because I’m still faced with it by images in black media. By the things I hear black men say about dark skinned women. By the description of the characters in some of the books I read (if I read about one more, light skinned, wavy haired, green eyed protagonist I’m going to scream!). By the validation I feel when I finally hear black men say something positive about dark skin (Like the fact that I like Mystikal because of his line “Chocolate and bowlegged). The fact that I crave that validation and suck it up like milk speaks to how starved I am for it. But why do I need specifically for black men to want me? I get attention from enough other sources, so, why do I care specifically about theirs? Because I value them. I value black men. Even though they haven’t expressed the same value for me. Dark skin is of little value to them. Light skin is of high value to them.
I was watching a Wild n Out repeat the other day. I love that show. It’s silly and right up my alley. One of the jokes was about being happy because, (paraphrasing) “I texted three light skinned girls and they texted me back. Because you know light skin girls don’t text you back.” Not to mention all of the Wild n Out girls are light skinned. I’d like to see some dark skinned women be objectified too! (LOL!) I heard a snap on Black Jesus the other day, “You the only light skinned girl that has to wait in line at the club.” Those are just jokes, and I have no problem with them. But comedy is a reflection of real life, and they are products of a very real phenomenon that black people don’t want to talk about. It’s well accepted that black men don’t appear to value dark skinned women. It’s a big deal to have a light skinned girl call back. The best image for a show is light skinned women. Light skinned women aren’t expected to wait in line at a club. They are valued. By the way, I’m not salty with either of these shows. They are giving the people what they want. And both make fun of far more than colorism. If I can laugh at all the other things they make fun of, I can certainly giggle (even if with an ocassional eye roll) about this issue.
I remember when BET was looking for Free and AJs replacements. There was a beautiful chocolate sister, with a banging Afro, an English accent, and a great response from the audience. Instead of choosing her, BET chose Rocsi. Nothing against Rocsi, because she was a cool host. But I couldn’t help but wonder, why she’d been chosen over the other woman. The only answer I could come up with is that BET doesn’t value dark skinned women. Which is not the first time BET his lent themselves to being viewed that way.
I’ve heard that in videos, the reason light skinned girls are picked is because of camera and stage lighting. Yet, somehow, they manage to get the lighting right for dark skinned men, so…?
But back to real life.
Please understand, and let me be clear about this; I have no problem with light skinned women. It’s not their fault that society values them aesthetically, anymore than it’s my fault that my skin is not as valued. I’m a great woman, and I bring a lot to the table in any relationship. But, it’s almost as though black men (not all of course because I haven’t met ALL of them) have to get themselves passed my complexion to see them. If they even decide to go that far. It’s that I have to contend with the, cute-to-be-dark skinned, mentality that I find men have in regard to me that I have a problem with.
In my novel, Confessions of a Serial Masturbator: The Big, Big “O”, I wrote about a character who told the main character that she acts light skinned. That came from a real life conversation I had with a guy who actually said that to me. “You act light skinned.” He said I was more feminine, and soft spoken than any dark skinned girl he knew and I didn’t have any scars. I wanted to scar him. I asked him if he thought all light skinned women are feminine. This fool said yes. I read him like I was Clair Huxtable reading Elvin, and pulled up the video of Lady Luck and Rece Steele going at it on a radio show. Dumb ass!
Granted, the only three completely serious relationships I’ve had have been with black men. But, that was in TN, where I lived in a city that was majority black. Plus, I’m from New York, so they liked me just off of that. Maybe when I came back to NY, I fell back into the expectation that black males don’t like me, so that’s the energy I’m putting out. Oh shit… am I having a breakthrough?
I’ve never had sex with a white man, and I probably never will (because no one is using me for their chocolate fantasies!). Hispanic is another story (TMI much?). At some point though, you end up liking who likes you. If white men keep approaching me, one with the right chemistry might get in and break the seal.
You know what though? Even if it is the case that I’m sending out some weird energy, when men really want something, they go for it. No matter how non-receptive a female may be to their advances. You can straight up say, “No, I’m not interested,” and they’ll still keep trying.
Which puts me back at square one; why don’t black men ask me out? But it also raises a new question: should I continue to care?