Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Color-blind Single

These days I try to hide what country people come from by making all spelling Canadian, but this issue is particularly pertinent to its concrete location--the USA. Of course, it might help readers from all countries reconsider our preconceptions about what women of other races and nationalities are looking for in a man.

Dear Auntie Seraphic:

I have been reading your blog for the past few weeks, and it's helpful for me to know the Catholic dating rules since I didn't grow up Catholic or with a family structure that taught me anything constructive about dating. I find what you have to say to be really constructive, but I have a problem or a question: How does race factor into these rules?

I ask for a number of reasons. First of all, I am black and have never been attracted to or dated a black guy. I kissed a couple, but that's a different story.

Second, I'm of the mind that you end up dating, loving and marrying the types of people from your current circle; there are exceptions, but that's mostly what I've seen around me. My current circle doesn't include black men, and I am fine with that. But in my years as a believer, and now as a Catholic, I have noticed that there is a presumption among my mostly white friends that blacks only date or are attracted to blacks.

Meanwhile, they don't think this "rule" applies to them when they date someone of another ethnicity who is not black. So a guy with a Hispanic mother dating a white girl is no big deal, but what's wrong with me that I am not attracted to my own kind? I've even had guys go so far to suggest, when I stated that a particular black guy to whom they thought I was attracted was not Catholic, that these men could convert! Ughh!

So I believe that I get overlooked or ignored because of this presumption regarding race. I'm not sure what to do. Honestly, I am open to whomever God provides, but despite the fact that I recognize that there are some good looking black men out there, I'm not at all attracted. What do you suggest that I do to present myself as an attractive option? Or to find men who aren't quick to label me as off-limits because of the color of my skin? And [are intimidated by the factor that I have a lot of graduate degrees]?

Thanks for your advice.

Color-blind Single

Dear Color-blind Single,

First of all, there is absolutely no barrier to interracial courtship and marriage in Catholicism. And Catholicism belongs to the whole world, not just certain locations or cultures.

Second, race is not as big a deal in some other countries as it is in the USA. In my hometown (Toronto), intercultural dating and marriage is pretty much the norm, even though some old-fashioned parents really hope their children marry fellow Whatevers (e.g. fellow Italians, fellow Chinese, fellow Afghans). This attitude often goes along with being an immigrant and wanting to hang onto the familiar. And, of course, for many young people, their ethnic traditions are part of their core values. It is always wise to marry only someone who share our core values, whatever they may be (e.g. culture, religion, politics, vegetarianism, dog-loving--whatever!). Shared ethnicity/race is not everyone's core value.

Clearly, marriage with another black person is not one of your core values, and that is fine. There is no reason why it should be (although of course it could be.) I know all kinds of people who are either married to or currently dating people from ethnic groups and colours different from their own.

I suggest that when well-meaning friends offer to set you up with black guys or ask if you've met any black guys, that you state outright that you are open to meeting men of different races. Race is such a touchy issue in the USA that your white, Hispanic and Asian friends might assume from what they've seen on television that a black woman would only ever be interested in a black guy.

However, in Britain, Iman has been married to David Bowie for decades. Grace Jones has been married to two white guys, and is currently involved with another one (a Viscount!). In the USA, Dutch-Somali writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is married to a white guy. Obviously black women around the world have happily dated and married (and occasionally divorced) non-black men.

As a Canadian, I'd love to tell you that your situation never crops up in Canada, but when I was in high school in the '80s, there were only three or four black girls in my class, and for some strange reason, at least two of them (one born in an African country, one born in St. Lucia) found their white friends trying to set them up with the only black guys the friends knew. Being crazy about all kinds of men, I thought that was seriously weird. But it was up to them, as it is up to you, to gently make it clear that they weren't interested in restricting their social lives to black guys.

Meanwhile, it's very hard to tell when men have decided you are off-limits because of the colour of your skin. (Oh, for the power to read minds!) I know white guys who have dated and married black girls and Asian girls, and Asian guys who have dated and married white girls, and black guys who dated and married white girls, and two Hispanic guys who married black girls. A lot probably depends on the community in which you live. If your town is really divided along racial lines, you might want to consider moving somewhere a little more cosmopolitan. Frankfurt? Paris? London? Anchorage?

My guess is that any guy who is interested in you but thinks you won't date non-black him will at least bring up the topic. And you are free to say that you are a firm believer in interracial dating without having to date that particular guy. Incidentally, pay attention to what men say when they talk about female movie or pop stars they admire. It's often a clue as to what kind of women they find attractive.

The graduate degrees are a different issue. Most guys go after the girls they think are pretty and THEN try to find out if the girls are also smart. Smart, of course, does not equal graduate degrees, so don't bring them up unless you are asked; otherwise the guy, if he doesn't have the same number of graduate degrees, might feel that you are clearly out of his league.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,


Jam said...

I like what you say about accentuating the positive -- i.e. making it clear that you're interested in men of all races, rather than letting it be a "problem" that you're not (generally) attracted to men of one race. It's unfortunate that interracial marriages in America are so often discussed as a symptom of failure in minority groups.

And of course the "he could convert!" comment gets made plenty often in all kinds of racial settings.

Seraphic Spouse said...

I agree wholeheartedly. As far as I am concerned, there is only one race--the human race--and everything else is cultural, philosophical and religious.

A black Jamaican woman would find life with a black Kenyan man in Kenya occasionally quite surprising, just as Canadian I find life with a Scotsman in Scotland occasionally quite surprising.

I believe that to divide society constantly into white/black/asian/hispanic/indigenuos "races" is to miss out both on a sense of unity and the richness of ethnic diversity. Mexico is not Bolivia is not Ecuador is not Brazil. And meanwhile, I certainly have more in common with my Torontonian-born-in-Hong-Kong pal than with my Scottish pals!

sciencegirl said...

I actually disagree with the last 2 comments.

Why should this black woman be pressured to be more general in her taste than a white woman? I know which of my white girlfriends prefer tall blond guys and guys with black curly hair. I know exactly who to call if I ever meet a liberal, blond Mormon over 6 ft with a military background. How many of us were really surprised Seraphic ended up with a Scot, after all the posts about kilts and bagpipes?

Rather than either the "Anything but black," which is a bit awkward, or "I will date Catholics of any race!" which the letter-writer has already said is NOT true, I suggest she look around at the men in her parish and decide that she likes the dominant phenotype. If she's in a parish where most of the men are from El Salvador: hey, short men with brown skin and black hair are the best! If mostly from Irish background, then talk about that freckled skin and sandy hair. You get the picture. One trick to dating white men is to recognize that many identify strongly with an ethnic subgroup and therefore will not really be delighted to just meet someone who finds them attractive for being "white" or, worse, "not black" -- they want a girl who is crazy about pierogies or whatever. People who get awkward talking about race in general usually enjoy a good chat about specifics.

Seraphic said...

Whoa! Nobody's pressuring this black woman to be more general. SHE feels like her white friends are subtly pressuring her NOT to be more general. She feels unhappy with expectations that, unlike her non-black friends, she has to date only guys of her race.

Suddenly I am reminded of an Italian-Canadian girl exclaiming, when we were both 15, "You're so lucky you don't HAVE to marry an Italian!" And I was, like, "Oooh. I guess there are pressures in your house that aren't in MY house."

The black American letter writer says that she's not attracted to black guys. Well, okay. If that's a fact, that's a fact. Maybe she'll meet a black guy that she IS attracted to. Maybe she won't. Who can say? Attraction is a mysterious thing.

I once asked a Korean woman who her ideal man was. She was from Korea, studying English in Toronto so she could advance in her job back in Korea, and her parents were mad at her for not being married yet. She said "Will Smith."

Meanwhile, I didn't end up with B.A. because he was Scottish. (Long-time readers will remember a lot more posts about Germans than about kilts, etc.) I ended up with B.A. because he is very nice and funny and "speaks Catholic" and I knew he wouldn't bore me senseless after two years. Also, I was lucky.

I will now amuse us all by listing the ethnicity of guys I went out on at least one pick-you-up-at-eight date with. (Keep in mind I started dating when I was 14.) Maltese, Filipino, Serbian, Jewish, Afghani, Goan, Jamaican, Portuguese, Scottish, Polish, English, French, Spanish, Viking, Irish, German and Greek. And Catholic-Match-American. I can't remember what their background was, other than New England. This list does not include the ethnicities of guys I would have given up whole teeth if only they would have asked me out, weep weep.

Charming Disarray said...

I always feel bad for converts when they discover how awkward, slow, and complicated Catholic dating is.