By Way of Introduction: Laura K. Warrell, Tart & Soul


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!
-Tinu





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 √©migr√©.  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.

13 comments:

  1. I can really relate to this post, esp. since I'm living in Europe. I find that race matters even here in the dating game. We just want to be loved and forget about the rest, but sometimes people won't let us. It's getting better, though, so I have hope that one day it won't be such an issue.

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  2. Hi Viajera,

    Europe was especially interesting as a person of color. The men and women of color I know who have lived abroad have always been happy to get so much attention (since we're considered "exotic" over there) but regret not being able to find anything that sticks. Always something, eh?

    Thanks for commenting!
    Laura

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  3. @Viajera
    Thanks for that perspective, as some of the commentary I've heard about the role of race in Europe has been the opposite...

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  4. Yes, its true I presume many guys look at you and think, "exotic." And they don't know what to do with you. (We as men are so simple, stupid creatures.) But once we figure out what we want and who we want - we can easily drill down past the racial narrative. Love the guest post.

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  5. Well, I have lived in Sweden for 10 years now, the whole race thing don't seems to matter as much to the men around here, if they like you they go for you. But then again the place you and I live in might be different Viajera, Europe ain't a country just like Africa ain't one.

    It's true that you're seen as exotic, but that has not stopped my so called "people of color" (I really don't like to use that term outside American, it implies that all non whites have something in common) friends to form meaningful relationships mostly with native swedes and I'm coming up on my 5 year of marriage this summer to one..

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  6. Hi Laura (and Tinu)!

    Love your writing and how your background has led to some wild dating stories from multiple sides of the spectrum.

    While I'm not biracial, I can relate to the way that Europeans don't exactly know what to make of a black American woman (who might happen to be lighter skinned) who is living/working/studying in their environment. I found that many didn't believe me when I said I was from the distant land of Michigan and were almost disappointed when I didn't regale them with tales of an African or Caribbean country.

    Although some of the stories can be quite funny as well!

    I am interracially married, and wonder what kind of questions our children (when we have them) will get about their perceived "exotic" background, especially if we have any girls.

    We joke that if people ask with baited breath where they are from, they have to say "Ohio," (I live here now), and if people go a step further and ask where their parents are from, they must say in a deadpan tone... Michigan and Pennsylvania!

    (Pretty exotic, eh?)

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  7. @Nkosozana
    "But then again the place you and I live in might be different Viajera, Europe ain't a country just like Africa ain't one."

    I truly appreciate your comment considering I just sat in a meeting and listen to someone refer to Africa as a country (repeatedly) and then get defensive when I called him out on it. But I digress...

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  8. @Bunny
    Hello!
    You know, the funny thing is I remember in high school, while on a trip to Spain with my Spanish class, talking to some locals and people kept asking me if I was from France, which I thought was strange. But I didn't make the connection until now. Personally, I think Bowie, Maryland is a land unto itself, but I guess compared to France...

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  9. Goodness, Laura...change like maybe 2 or 3 details and you just retold my dating life story. My all time fave came from my longest relationship which was with a Causcasian man that loved himself all things ethnic.After what I thought was an enlightened and fulfilling conversation with his father around a campfire one night, we were all heading inside when his father turned to me and said, "You know, I don't know why you think your Black side is special. It's not like it means anything. It not like your culture is any different." I think he was meaning to be inclusive but it came off like "Quit reminding us your Black. We don't want to hear about it or believe it makes you different," rather than just embracing that it does mean something and does make me different, and that's something to be cherished and acknowledged. It was frustrating and just one of many umpteen interesting experiences in my crazy biracial story.

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  10. @Nkosazana
    Lol! Thank you for the reminder. Had to call someone out in a meeting a few weeks ago when they referred to African as a country and they just gave me this blank look...

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  11. @Bunny
    Hello!
    Yeah, when I went to Spain in high school with my class, I remember locals kept asking me if I was French! I was like "Uh...no...I'm from PG County!" LOL. Which I actually think is "exotic" in its own way. I mean it's France or Spain...

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  12. @Adia
    Yeah...that's pretty crazy. I think a lot of people confuse not discriminating against other based on race with completely ignoring someone's racial/ethnic identity.

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