Jungle Fever

The first boy I ever had a crush on was white. I’ll call him Lee. That was 5th grade. At the time, I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I had a crush on a boy, I mean, I came from a conservative Christian family, but that’s a whole different story. Let’s focus on the race thing for a bit.

Lee was (is? always will be?) cute, and really nice, and all sorts of other generic words a child (or a grown adult who doesn’t know what intimacy is) would describe a crush. I asked him out 6 years later in our junior year of high school, and informed him of all of this, and I was rejected. At that point, I would say that this was yet again another white boy that rejected me, but that’s way too simple, we should investigate that some more.

“Another white boy?” you may say. “How many were there?” A lot. Many. A plethora of white boys, many of whom were not into dick in the very least. Very few of them were my close friends, because I didn’t really have friends growing up. As I started coming out in high school, a lot of them were asked out in the same way: through Facebook. Typical conversation:

Me (3 in the morning): “Umm, hi, I hope you’re doing well. Oh my gosh, this is so ridiculous, I know, but you know, teen magazines say I should try this, so I’m going to. Oh man, you don’t know what I’m talking about, but let me cut to the chase, I mean, you only have one life to live, right? Haha, that’s a soap opera, but maybe you don’t watch soap operas, I sometimes do because my mom watches them and I happen to be in the room, that’s how I watched a lot of tv growing up, haha, oh man, I should get to the point, right? Yeah, I can’t believe this, I mean, I probably should do this in person, but I don’t really see you that often, and honestly, maybe you don’t even know me, and it would be creepy of me to say I know you, even though I do, but not in like some stalker way, just in some I notice you way, does that sound less creepy, probably not. Anyway, haha, I want to say that I like you, and I think that you’re cute, and yeah that’s it.”

*Sidenote: in later editions, I would actually ask the dude out for coffee or something (which I don’t drink) For now, it was just the confession.

Dude (at any time not 3 in the morning) (straight version): “Umm, hey. I’m not gay. Sorry. We can be friends…”

Dude (at any time not 3 in the morning) (guy who likes dick version): “Oh, that is so brave. I’m sorry this won’t work out, but thank you that’s so sweet.”

Notice that I wasn’t told I could be friends with the guys who like dick. Notice how both apologize. Notice how foolish this all is…

After a while, I started wondering if I was some ugly, evil, creature-thing. But then end of sophomore year into beginning of junior year I not only sort of got pursued by a guy, but I ended up dating that guy’s friend (both of whom are white). And I sort of felt like the shit. The breakup happened, I didn’t know how to deal, I didn’t really have people to talk to since I wasn’t fully out, but I was supposed to know that “there were other fish in the sea,” or something like that. I hate fish. Take that as you will.

Anyway, the joke was for all of those years in high school that I was attracted to nerdy white boys. This is what I have to say to that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6JCCayPG7k

And you know, I just dealt with it. But deep down, my dark Black self resented those comments. I mean, what options did I fucking have? I was an “only” (a term used in my high school, and in other places I’m sure, to refer to “minorities” who were the only representative of their group in the class). Now, my school was about a quarter Black, but I knew almost none of them, because they weren’t in the honors/AP courses with me. Besides, it felt like (some) Black people were always making fun of me for not being Black enough. Interestingly enough, I was called Urkel a lot (mainly because I was told that I looked like him), and I don’t know if Urkel transcended his Blackness or not, but whatever. I am a very sexual person, and I get attracted to people very easily. I grew up with a certain type of person as my archetype of attraction (not to say that there weren’t many men of color I was attracted to, I just never had a chance to ask many of them out), and that type of person was all that I could see.

Let’s go to college. Did you know that my main criteria for choosing a school was finding a school that was gay-friendly? I knew shit about Oberlin, I just knew it was a great music school and that it was LGBTQ friendly. I thought to myself,”Well, I’ve been an Oreo all of my life. Might as well find some other ones and turn into the Double Stuf version or something.” But to my surprise, although I was teased for liking white men at Oberlin, I was also rejected numerous times by the men of color, many of whom belonged to communities that espoused some form of “keeping your romantic interests to your own kind” mentality.

I was fucking confused. What was I supposed to do? I can’t like white guys. The guys of color I like only date white people. I want to fuck. I go to Oberlin. Too many strikes, I was out. (At this point I had also come out completely, I just wanted to roll with that pun…)

I recently told my friend Q that they were one of the only non-Black people of color I knew at Oberlin that has actively dated Black people even before coming here. They laughed, and said “No way.” I said, “No, I think so. I’m pretty sure.” I then proceeded to be extremely petty and start listing names and the partners that to my knowledge they have had/have, and not one of them was Black. Q said “What about so-and-so?” I said “Doesn’t count, they fucked in the darkness and won’t speak to each other in the light. I’m talking about commitment.” Q was distraught. I said “Congratulations, you are an ally.” We laughed. But I was thinking about it more and more, in regards to this idea of who is allowed to do what with their own bodies.

I’ll break that down. I have two mentors very close to me who love to tell me that “I don’t have to do anything,” whenever I tell them that I “have” to do something. That there isn’t a force “making” me do anything. And I generally agree (although I find it extremely frustrating at times when they do that). But then they start going into making choices and dealing with consequences, and that’s when I get upset. I don’t have to care that some people may feel some type of way about who I associate with or fuck, but I’m on a small-ass campus and people talk and people (myself included) can be petty. I find it odd that on a campus filled with enormous amounts of stress (and constantly being in a state of stress is proven to be exceptionally unhealthy) I would get advice that would force me to decide between being myself and being healthy (in this case, date/fuck who I want and “deal with the consequences” or be left alone and horny).

But I don’t think my mentors see it like that. I don’t think they know what goes on at this school. I say that because whenever I tell them something that’s happened to me, they don’t believe me right away. I don’t think they would consider these quasi-life-and-death situations to be as serious as they seem. And in the grand scheme of things, 10 or so years from now, I’ll have my billionaire husband of every ethnicity known to man, and not give a fuck. But what I’ve learned from my experiences and from the books I read is that your emotions and feelings during this time period do matter. People after high school may claim that they don’t care about the cliques they were a part of, but in those cliques you develop very specific skills that allow you to navigate being a part of the workforce and part of your communities.* You learn behaviors and ways of thinking from the people who surround you, and I guess in my case, I didn’t like what I was learning.

*Check this book out, it was amazing, that’s where I got that shit from.
https://www.amazon.com/Wannabes-Goths-Christians-Boundaries-Status/dp/0226898431

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