Why I was so afraid of dating white men and what happened after I did.

Ever since I started noticing boys which was probably around 4th grade, I had this feeling that white boys were not an option for me. No one had ever literally said that to me, it was a notion that I had clearly inherited, it’s not just our looks that we inherit unfortunately. Either way, that’s just how it was for me, I simply excluded them. I started to notice in grade school how I gravitated toward only black and Hispanic boys. It just seemed to me this is just naturally how it “should” be.

Though, before I go further let me point a few other things out. I am an afro Latina, with very fair light skin and green eyes and in my family, I am one of only two light skinned women.  It never really occurred to me what that meant to either myself or the outside world until one moment in 7th grade. I lived in a predominantly black and Hispanic community. I spoke Spanish, I loved Spanish and fried foods, R&B, Hip Hop, Salsa and everything about my rich culture and my people. This was how I was raised. I never thought that I could be perceived as anything different than that. Let me say this is something I struggle with even today, I’m aware of the privilege my light skin gives me, and I struggle between wishing I looked more like my people and owning all of who I am, especially in this moment in time.

In 6th grade I had a crush, he was black, and he was beautiful. He was smart, funny and had a great smile. We talked and one day waiting for the bus outside school we kissed, just a tap kiss. Nevertheless, shortly after that we began “dating”, which at that time meant, holding hands, eating lunch together and walking me to the bus. One morning I remember getting off the bus at school and hearing that some girls wanted to fight me. I couldn’t imagine who or why. Later that afternoon I found out from my best friend, that a few black girls whom I wasn’t exactly friends with were pissed because I was dating this boy. I racked my brain trying to figure out what the issue was and soon realized they didn’t see me as I saw myself. I talked this out with my friend who is black, and though she didn’t feel that way. She was able to understand their position. Now I will not assume to know how they felt because the truth is, it was never discussed. I called my mom from school and she came to school and essentially threatened everyone and well nothing ever came of it, though I was left impacted for life.

After this incident, I began to question who I was, was I a fake, did I just acclimate to my surroundings etc.… An existential crisis at 10, and with parents who had no clue on how to have a real discussion with me about any of this. So, what I did was I chose to claim who I believed I was, I kept dating this boy and I didn’t let what other opinions were on the matter affect my choice. However, they did deeply affect my self-identity. Living in a household of chaos and where my needs were at the bottom of the list, I was left to explore and define this on my own.

As stated, I claimed who I was, and I also realized that I lived in a world that was not ready for such an exclamation or lack of excuses. This had me look at everything, I began questioning what I liked, disliked, all my choices. Now though I knew who I was, it didn’t change the fact that what they saw was a light skinned girl with light eyes and not the Indigenous girl I am. Or if they were also indigenous, they saw a light skinned privileged girl.  I was constantly stepping outside the boundaries of others and having to deal with the impact of that, just by existing. So, that’s where the fear of dating a white boy originated. I started to read books and magazines. I watched every movie I could find. What I came away with was as Anita told Maria in West Side Story, “stick to your own kind”. That was my safest bet. I began studying everyone and everything around me. I saw our cultural differences and the assumed views our cultures had of one another. It was traumatizing, and it was sad. Based on what I had been told, seen, read, and experienced, I came to the following conclusion. White men dip into the Latina/Black pool for few reasons. 1. To experiment, 2. We’re thought to be slutty and sexually promiscuous 3. We are the women to have on the side. My response to this was a quick fast get the hell out of here. That’s when I officially made the decision for myself, no white boys for me and I stuck to it. Stuck to it I did, at least until after my divorce from my Puerto Rican husband. Hey, trauma changes people.

I had a mild flirtation going on with a white business associate I often crossed paths with at work. He was handsome, accomplished, and he was white. We never crossed any lines until a few years later when he got wind that I was divorced and to my surprise so was he.  After a few phone calls about life after divorce, kids etc. he asked me out, I was terrified, but I said yes. Every single fear I had developed and some new ones, came up. To be completely honest, deep down inside, I never really thought I would be any more than a good lay and a good time. I eventually said fuck it, I met my fear head on and went for it and we had a great time. Our first date was a blast, great conversation, great food, a night of dancing and laughing and yes, we spent the night together, but to be fair I had known him for over 5 years at this point, we were pretty good friends (still making excuses for myself). For the next 6-9 months we dated and had a great time. We had some similarities and many differences, but we had a great friendship and amazing chemistry. Our relationship deepened, and we bonded over our mutual experience as single parents and starting over after failed marriages. It was great, and I fell in love, as did he. I recall one of our last days together, after making love, he told me I really thought you were the one. Our last night together went like this; he had called me, he said hearing my voice made him want to see me immediately. He drove over an hour to see me close to the middle of the night. He came over, we talked, we laughed, and we made love and that was the end.  Less than a year later he was in a serious relationship with a single, never married Italian woman with no children. Someone he could proudly bring home to meet mom and dad.

I knew why he ended it and I confronted him about it, but he denied it. We had come to the point in our relationship where as he said, he thought I was the one. So, what would have been the logical next step be? Introducing me to his family and eventually his children.  I believe, I didn’t fit the model for a traditional Sicilian Roman Catholic family, because I am Spanish, divorced single mom. Not an Italian, divorced single mom which I assume would have eased the burden a bit. I never did get him to admit it to me, but I didn’t have to because I just knew. I knew he loved me and I knew the block had nothing to do with how he felt for me personally. It was heartbreaking, I didn’t go into a deep depression about it, but I was present to the things that divide us as human beings. The fears of letting down our families, of upholding standards that we didn’t create, to doing the “right” thing for the external perception versus following our hearts or beliefs. This was a sad state indeed and such a downright depressing way to live life.

Eventually I got over him and over it. I did end up dating another white man after him, but I kept it cool and detached, zero emotions. We are friends to this day. This experience did not leave me opposed to dating white men in the least, though I would be lying, especially in this current social climate if I said I wouldn’t hesitate. I would hesitate, but I wouldn’t let it stop me. After all, these are made-up barriers and inherited ideals we must outgrow if we are to evolve. Of course, there are people evolving everywhere all the time, but I can only speak of my own experience and it is still something I struggle with and see others struggle with too.

This conversation hasn’t gone away for me, but I’m aware of it and I know it’s not real. However, that still has not changed the fact that I know I am not always perceived by others as I am. I must work to shut off the voices that are constantly screaming at me which stereotypes society has boxed me into today, which varies depending on who I am in front of. In front of a white man/woman who knows I’m an afro Latina, I show up as one thing. In front of a black man/woman I show up as another and so on and so on…  This really does get exhausting, but even through my personal fears, inherited voices and self-deprecation, I go on. I talk about this stuff with friends and clients all the time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and so it will take some time for us to get to the place where we see one another as human being to human being. I have hope, and I believe that we are working on breaking stereotypes and the boxes we put people in before even really knowing them.

This works both ways, all ways in fact. As a parent, I especially believe this is an important teaching, one that I’ve discussed with my children, whom have already had their own experiences regarding the color of their skin and their heritage. Of course, we can’t change everyone’s perception, but we can create change one being at a time. Right now, that is the best we’ve got.

How in letting everything go, I found the beauty in nothing

I’m not a pessimist…at least, I like to think I am not. On the contrary, I’ve always considered myself a badass woman. At 23 years of age, I was married, a mother, and a homeowner. I had a stable, financially secure career—and my life looked damn good (especially on the outside). Four kids, 15 years of marriage, a beautiful home, and two expensive cars later, I started to find myself tired. Smiling became difficult, waking up every morning was a feat, and my husband’s usual romantic gestures felt meaningless. My husband noticed and recommended I see a therapist, so I did. I loved my therapist—she was a brilliant woman, but even she couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy anymore. I was bereft and didn’t know why.

Everyone in my life was telling me that I was losing my mind. I reacted, and started tackling the things in my life that I wasn’t quite sure of. Soon I asked my husband for a separation. I knew the 19-year-old who chose him was not the 34-year-old woman I was today; a lot had changed. Of course, that meant crashing not only my life, but the lives of four little beings I was responsible for. As a woman, I naturally felt responsible for pretty much everything and, as a woman, I was blamed for pretty much everything. Shortly after my separation, the only solid rock I had in my life, my mother, became increasingly ill and died within six months.

Here I was now, having to be completely alone with all the choices I had made. It’s funny when you have someone in your corner; some things are just easier to do. Alone, I decided to crash and burn in it all—in the hopes of a fresh start. So I quit my job and gave up the cars and lifestyle my family had come to know as the norm.

My children thought Mom had lost it—and though at times I thought so too, there was always a voice inside telling me, “Go, let it all go!” Of course, I didn’t wake up one day and just say “fuck it,” though I can appreciate it may have seemed that way to the outside world.

I watched everything I had spent my life building fall away. I started to see, I started to hear, and more importantly, I started to feel. I was numb, and I was living a life designed by someone else. It didn’t belong to me, and more importantly, it was missing important aspects of me.

The first thing I did was ask myself: “What do I want? What am I feeling?” I cried, broke down, and let myself feel and release what no longer served, fulfilled, or inspired me. After, I was left empty but it was an emptiness unlike anything I had ever known. I had space, I had room, and I had possibility.

I ended up signing up to do some mindfulness and Awareness training courses that essentially brought me back to life. I took the next three years to get to the bottom of how I had gotten to where I was. Who had created this life and why? Who had told me that this was the ”right” way? Who set these rules in the first place? I embarked on a journey of self-exploration. It wasn’t an easy journey by any means; after all, looking back at one’s life, particularly one’s childhood, isn’t usually fun. I had to face some hard truths and some real pain that I had never allowed myself to feel and grieve, which I now know is a very necessary part of the process of growth and transformation.

It wasn’t easy. I did various jobs to keep myself and my children afloat while I plunged into my subconscious at full force. Nevertheless, we survived, and allowing myself the permission at 35 to explore the depths of my being was priceless. I had four children and various responsibilities, but I was getting to do something that not everyone has an opportunity to do. Even though there were some very hard financial times, I consider it all a blessing—after all, change is the only constant.

There were many insights and breakthroughs that came. To be honest, I haven’t necessarily arrived anywhere, as many spiritual texts say. What I do have is a level of freedom and a relief from external pressures—be they from society or familial expectations that I’d either inherited or absorbed. Many of these things I had believed to be who I was, not even cognizant of the fact that I had never had a choice in the matter. I was mindlessly going with the flow, which brings me to another precious piece of knowledge I obtained: mindfulness.

I define mindfulness as walking, moving, thinking, and interacting with a sense of purpose, no matter the situation. Allowing myself time to digest information and to ponder a decision, or any movement in my life. Allowing myself to be in the presence of anyone and know I have no idea who this person is, regardless of how I or society may have categorized them. This is what opens up possibilities and beauty.

I now take my time. I listen, I sense how my body responds to energy, I pray, I pull cards, I light candles, or I meditate. Damn it—I have the right! This is my life, and whether it’s my next career or relationship, I can move as I see fit. And as long as I bring no harm to others, and treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO, I can do whatever I please.

There is no better way to wake up every day than knowing, at any given moment, I can hit the reset button. I’m not saying it’s always going to be easy but I can promise you, it will be worth it…because you’re worth it. Mad love…