I love all things local, including bloggers, and last month I had the pleasure of hosting Blogging While Brown's first (of many) Boston Meetup. One of the many new friends I made is this week's guest blogger: Laura K. Warrell, writer, teacher and author of the blog Tart & Soul: A Search for Connection and Meaning. Before she takes over the world, I want to make sure you remember where you read her first. Enjoy!
My dating life has always made a political statement whether I like it or not. Not because I spout off Marxist platitudes over dinner or only date vegetarians. Romance can be loaded for me because I’m biracial, with a white mother and black father. Thus, everyone I date is from another race.
As a girl growing up in Ohio, being “mixed,” well, sucked. Seeing as how there was only one other kid of color in my neighborhood of mostly Anglo folk, I was often considered an oddball. My neighbors seemed to understand black people existed. But light brown children with white moms? What planet spawns such curiosities?
Needless to say, boys never chased me on the playground. Instead, they chased Rachel McCullen, a gorgeous, doe-eyed blonde from a family of gorgeous, doe-eyed, Virgin Suicides-esque daughters. I figured I finally had my chance at nabbing a playground kiss when a black boy named Paul Brockton transferred into our school. He chased Rachel McCullen, too.
When I got to college in Boston, the playing field leveled. White guys, black guys, Latinos; no one turned his nose in this culturally diverse city. However, race played a pivotal role in my romantic story. My first boyfriend, a white dude from the South, broke up with me after he realized he didn’t want black babies. That was a hoot. I had trouble finding stable relationships after him, which I chalked up to my own handicap in picking out suitable mates, rather than any racial issue. Maybe it was the whole “first boyfriend dumps you ‘cause you’re black” thing messing up my mojo.
Finally, I had an enduring romance with a Frenchman who I ultimately married. He and his family were too liberal to let a thing like race bother them, so it was hardly a factor in our lives. In the early days of our courtship while living in France, I accompanied my future husband to a community event where we gazed at each other from across the room. Later, he told me another Frenchman informed him, “that island girl is watching you,” referring to me. I didn’t want to spoil the guy’s fantasy, so when he asked where I was from, I said, “Cleveland” and let him believe it was some Caribbean paradise he’d never heard of.
I’ve always had fun playing with the ethnic confusion my brown skin and indefinable features create. I find my face rather ordinary, but some folks just can’t figure out what I am. Especially in Europe, where I lived after divorcing. There, I was regularly taken for a gal from the tropics, an African princess or Cuban émigré. I had Ethiopians ask if I was from their homeland and had a man approach me speaking Arabic. I successfully convinced German soccer fans I was Brazilian by throwing on a green and yellow T-shirt during the World Cup. And I had no trouble getting a Spaniard to believe I was in fact Congolese (his knowledge of world cultures was pitiful) and the half-sister of Lenny Kravitz, who he thought I looked like.
Though the “exotic” factor endeared me to European men, the blessing was mixed. I often wondered if some of my suitors were on some kind of dating safari, since few of them did much more than dabble.
In the States, most people get my background. However, if I had a nickel for every Latin American person who comes up to me speaking Spanish, I’d never go hungry again. Recently, I went into my favorite burrito chain with my Argentine boyfriend. The Latino staff immediately starting speaking to me in Spanish. My boyfriend was shocked.
“It happens all the time,” I told him. It had never happened to him even once.
Being biracial has definitely kept my romantic life popping. But I have a secret. I wish I could just be in a relationship. I wish I didn’t have to suffer the “what’s your ethnic background” inquisition every time I meet someone’s family and friends. Wish I didn’t have to always question whether and how race would affect my life with someone. Wish I didn’t have to fear race having anything to do with relationships that have failed. And I haven’t even mentioned the pestering I’ve received from folks who don’t believe in interracial romance.
So, who do I want to end up with? I could choose one race in order to satisfy traditionalists or appeal to multicultural ideals and say anyone. But the real answer is much simpler. I want to end up with someone who loves me.
Yeah, I could get down with that.