Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Experience Dating Outside my Race

Entering the dating world is scary for anybody, but for people of color, the experience of dating puts you even more on edge.  Thoughts run through your mind like, "Does this guy have a fetish?"  "I hope he doesn't say anything racist."  "Was I rejected because I was Asian?"  "Why does this guy keep talking about lumpia?"  "I hope no one calls me China doll."

Here is my experience with dating outside my race.

Up until this point in time I had only dated Pilipinos.  I never really thought much of it growing up in a majority Pilipino neighborhood and being involved in Pilipino clubs when I was in college.  It made sense that I had only dated Pinoys because that was who I was surrounded by.

Then this guy came along.  Let's call him Jeff.  He was nice and charming.  He was extremely good looking with muscles bulging and everything.  I was smitten.  Jeff identified himself as mulatto, half white and half black.

We dated for about three months and during this time I always had tiny jabs at me about my race called microaggressions, very subtle comments that imply negative stereotypes about a race or ethnicity.  One of the first microaggressions was on our first date. He made the assumption that I was extremely sheltered and never left the city of Berkeley where I lived at the time.  Little did he know I grew up in a low-income neighborhood with gang violence and drugs.  The house across the street turned into a crack den when I was in high school and there was always that part of the neighborhood you didn't wear red at ever.  At the time I also worked in East Oakland, helping academically disengaged students, which to my knowledge is outside of Berkeley.  I had not told him any of this yet but he had to draw this conclusion from somewhere: my appearance.

As we kept dating, the stereotypes kept getting more and more blunt.  The first time he came over to my new apartment, he scoured the place.  He commented on how "Asian" I was for having a crockpot and a sewing machine.  He said I could be his "little Asian man".  To this day I still have no idea what a crockpot has to do with being Asian.  And the sewing machine most likely came from stereotypes of China Towns and sweat shops.  But what bothered me more than that was all of his assumptions of my submissiveness.  Asian men have a long history of being feminized and these microaggressions bothered me to no end.  On another night he stated that he could never see me dating someone younger.  He also said he could never imagine me mad while all my friends know I have the worst temper in the world.  Submissive Asian men for the win.  All these mentions of being Asian also made me wonder for a long time if I was being fetishized.

This all led to the culminating event of hairgate.  One night he went on for a long time about how unflattering my hair was.  I was of course baffled by how blunt he could be and not think he was a jerk.  He commented on my hair and how it was a fine texture so I could do so much with it.  This argument was partially a cultural difference in addition to him just being an asshole.  My hair is actually very thick and coarse but for him being of partly African American descent, in his eyes it was of a fine texture.  The fact that he didn't trust my 22 years of experience with my own hair didn't help.  As a final test I asked him what kind of hairstyle he would like to see me with.  And the first thing he did was Google "Asian hairstyles" because that is obviously the only kind of hairstyle I can have.  I was done.

While Jeff had many issues that led to me breaking it off with him, like his own insecurities and lack of social skills, race was a huge issue between us whether or not he realized it.  My race was put on the forefront the whole time and cultural differences are extremely difficult to bypass.  While I am not against dating outside my race again by any means, I have to be extremely cautious with whom I decide to leave myself vulnerable with.  I don't want to be anyone's China doll and I don't want people to have preconceived expectations of me.

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