As I sat on the patio of a restaurant with a friend of mine, we could tell we were being watched by a melanin-inclined duo of bros standing nearby. My friend was taken, and I was not particularly fond of random pickups. But we entertained a conversation with them nonetheless. Predictably, they each "claimed" their female of choice. The black dude chose me, while the brown guy adopted my friend. A sort of "seduce-by-colours" endeavour.
I jokingly consider myself to be the first, last, and only incidence resulting from a Jamaican-Slovenian union. Wrapping my head around what (or who) I am, has proved to be anything but easy. And that only became more complicated when I considered who turned me on, who I liked, and who I felt I "belonged" with.
I only ever thought about how I was "different," when it came to the boys I liked, and how they generally didn't look like me. Our differences didn't matter to me, but I couldn't help but wonder if they mattered to them.
There is nothing I find particularly unappealing about non-white guys. Surely each of them has a different personality that exists beyond their skin colour. But speaking purely physically, there is something I've always found especially alluring about white guys. They're just so...different.
But I could never articulate this to complete strangers, this patio man included. Not only because of how he might take the news, but also because of how uncertain I feel about the principle myself. I don't even know if I'm entitled to this feeling, free from shame and persecution. Surely I'm not the only one in the world to have such a preference.What are other people's preferences, and how have they learned to stand behind them, I've wondered.
After ending my conversation with patio dude, he politely excused himself, leaving his friend at the table with us. Following the departure of his wingman, the other guy seemed ready to leave as well, but not before asking an awkward question: "Why did you turn my friend down?"
The truth is, there's really no polite way to elaborate on rejection. Aside from the fact that I didn't find his friend attractive, I also found him to be a bit boring. I offered the first reason, as it was potentially less offensive. Yet, judging by the suspicious look on his face, this was apparently a concept that his friend didn't like or believe. I elaborated, just to appease him, joking that, "I like white guys." Except I wasn't joking at all.
And there it was. I had made a mess of the entire situation. My intimate disclosure had completely changed the mood. He looked at me, and asked if I saw the irony in my opinion. He suggested that maybe I harboured some feelings of self-hatred that I needed to address.
I assured him that it was strictly a physical preference, and a personal one. I would never purposely turn away a connection I felt with someone if it was strong enough, regardless of his skin colour.
But did I believe that? Was I cutting myself off from a whole set of rewarding relationships? Could I even afford to hold this preference considering how difficult it is to find love? Sitting in front of this man as he called me racist, I was forced to re-evaluate my answers to these questions.
I've often wondered if I'd have the same preference if I'd been raised elsewhere. Was I simply projecting what I was taught was beautiful by mere consensus? Did white guys follow the same rules and cross me off of their list of potentials, all for something that's beyond my control?
As I sat there having a mini-internal identity crisis, my friend jumped in to defend me, saying that it was a preference like any other. Big tits, red hair, English accent, education, height, faith, whatever. But it was too late. I was a bigot. I was a traitor. I was brainwashed by my white-man captors to worship them, and any other rationalization I could come up with was a straight up lie in his eyes.
I apologized to him. Not for my preference or because I thought he was right, but because he seemed so genuinely hurt. After he left (to no doubt spread the tale of the self-hating black girl), I was speechless. It all happened so fast and left me feeling incredibly empty.
It became apparent to me that if I stood any chance of figuring out the order of things in my mind, or the logistics of the tingling in my pants, I would have to understand that the relationship between the two wasn't deliberate on my part whatsoever.
It would have been somehow "appropriate" if I'd disclosed a preference for black guys. But just as this one particular gentleman was offended that I could be especially attracted to light skin, I was offended by the notion that dark skin automatically warranted my attention and subsequent panty-dropping compliance. I was shaped by my experiences, these were mine, and I don't regret them.
Ultimately, I like the way I look and am proud of the person I am, and I trust that someone will recognize that sooner or later. White or otherwise.
By Andrea Ashby
Contributor, The Purple Fig