After parlaying in Downtown Vancouver for most of the morning, I decided to head back here—my hotel room at the River Rock Casino—to take a bit of an afternoon breather. So I hopped on the SkyTrain Canada Line at Waterfront Station for the ride all the way out close to Richmond Centre because I first had to pick up the laundry I dropped off at the laundromat earlier. Unlike all of my previous rides on the train, it was actually somewhat crowded this time…a surprising occurrence for a mid-afternoon ride on a Thursday. When I boarded, I quickly saw spotted an open seat on the opposite end of the train car, where all of the transverse seats were so I walked over. When I approached, I asked the passenger—a White woman, probably around my age with blonde hair—if the seat was indeed open. She said it was so I sat down. At the same time, however, as I was walking towards that seat, I noticed another woman—a Black woman, also probably around my age with black hair—sitting in the longitudinal seats a few feet away, towards the middle, move her bag as if she was freeing up a seat for me. I noticed it on account of my peripheral vision as my direct line of sight was on the transverse seat. During the 30-minute ride from Downtown Vancouver out to Richmond-Brighouse, I was jotting down notes of pictures I took in False Creek, Stanley Park, and Coal Harbour. A few minutes into the ride, the woman seated next to me noticed the penmanship and asked me about it. I told her the Spark Notes version of the story behind how I write the way I do and she asked to see my writing hand. I showed her my hand and she started rubbing and pinching on the bones of my hand and she joked how they did feel a bit funny. We both laughed. It was innocent if you ask me. But as I turned away from her in that moment of laughter, I saw the Black woman towards my 11 o’clock. She gave what looked like a wince towards me and then looked away. She got off at Bridgeport, which would’ve actually been my stop had I not been going to retrieve laundry, and as she walked past the two of us towards the exit, she gave me “the look”…the one of disapproval of something she saw. I didn’t think anything of it at the moment. It happened so fast and seemed so innocuous. But as I was walking the block from Richmond-Brighouse Station to the laundromat about 15 minutes later, it hit me. I think me not taking the seat she offered may have rubbed her the wrong way and she was probably offended when I—a Black man—shared that laugh with a White woman I didn’t even know. That’s when the wince she gave me before turning away came to my remembrance, setting the stage for this 6th contribution in The Single Guy’s Perspective series: the wishy-washy girl.
For me, it starts with the wince. By definition, a wince is “a slight involuntary grimace or shrinking movement caused by pain, distress, or discomfort”. Notice the italicized word. My track and field coach from my Wiggins Park days used to always say that “involuntary movements don’t lie”. The wince that woman gave me on the train was basically an involuntary movement—or perhaps the better word would be signal—that she was uncomfortable with what was happening in the moment. The wince also brings something back to my remembrance that I wrote about in Triumphs & Tribulations X and in my old blog, Life: The Juan Thomas Story. There was a commentary piece that Jill Scott wrote for Essence in March 2010 about her views on interracial dating…more specifically Black men with White women. There’s actually a CNN interview she did in regards to the piece, right here on YouTube. I remember giving a duck face look when I first read the piece some 4 years back. Something about her lumping “a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman” and the term “betrayal” didn’t sit right with me. According to that March 27, 2010 entry in my journal, I was offended. Like John Bevere The Bait of Satan offended. Like John The Baptist mad at Jesus because Jesus wouldn’t come to get him out of jail offended. And that’s where my experience in this leads me to the wishy-washy girl.
Let’s rewind back to May 2007, shortly after my arrival to Tokyo for an Air Force assignment at Yokota Air Base. I had to take a mandatory orientation session my first week there to get familiar with the customs and courtesies of Japan and what was expected of me as an American visitor to the island under the host-nation agreement. While I wasn’t writing down notes about the things I deemed important to me, I was stealing glances at this very beautiful woman seated a couple of tables over from me. Her light brown, almost tawny skin tone perfectly complemented her black hair laced with brown streaks. She was a southpaw and the way she talked suggested she was from St. Louis. But if I’m being honest, it was her measurables that first stole my attention. In fact, I’ll go on record and write that until I met the Canadian Cutie a few months back, she had the best measurables of any woman I’ve ever met…to include all of my former girlfriends. But she was more than just beauty. She was pretty bright too. During my 3 years in Japan, I asked her out twice. The first time was in that first week there when we crossed paths at the Fussa Station McDonald’s. She declined because she was still trying to adjust to being in Japan and she hadn’t yet found a sitter for her 3-year-old daughter. I asked her out again about 1 year later, at an Independence Day event, and she declined again, explaining that I wasn’t exactly her type…which happened to be much taller, heavier, and somewhat lighter than my 5’11”, 165-pound dark-skinned body frame. No big deal. Everybody has their preferences, right? Fast forward a month later. I decided to participate in a speed dating event in Shinjuku: Japanese women, all foreign men. I had done speed dating before during my time in Spain, where I passed on what might be the most volatile woman I’ve ever come across in life—I’ll definitely detail that in the Flashback Friday series at some point during the life of this blog. Anyway, at the speed dating event, I met this woman who looked very different from all of the other women. She seemed so out of place compared to them that the first question I asked was “You’re Japanese?!?” to which she replied that she was Portuguese-Japanese. Once we got past that and got to know each other on our 3-minute “date”, we actually found that there was interest between us. We ended up dating for about 5 weeks late in the Summer of 2008. It was during that time that I invited her to the Japanese-American Friendship Festival as my special guest. It so happened that while I was showing her some of the stuff we had on base, the woman who had first captured my attention a year before saw us together. She gave me “the look” when I nodded at her. A few days later, when I was helping a friend prep for the running portion of his physical fitness test, she and one of her friends passed us as we were stretching. She made a remark that I didn’t forget: “so I see you’re dating White women now”. Little did she know that the woman I was dating was actually mixed race but I could understand how one would assume she was White. After all, I did write she looked very different compared to other Japanese women. Anyway, my response was “so and…”. Apparently, that was the trigger. She pretty much said that I was no different than any other Black man…that I got my degree, got a little success, and latched on to a woman of a much fairer skin complexion than those of my own race. Her friend remarked that it was “some sellout s***”. Typically, I’m a cool, calm, and collected guy in these types of exchanges but both of them cut me in a deep place. So I made mention that I had asked her out twice and that she rejected me twice. She rebuffed that even though I wasn’t her type, there were plenty of other Black women on the base that would’ve gone out with me, including one who apparently had inquired about me. She went on further to state her case that I was part of the reason why “Black love” was dying. The guy I was helping could see that this exchange was getting a bit out of hand so he interrupted and suggested that we press on with the work we had to do on the 1 ½-mile run. I agreed and as we walked off, I turned back and gave her a brief stare of my own personal disapproval of what she had just done. That was the end of it. I never spoke to her again.
Muhammad Ali once said that “you’re a hater of your people if you don’t want to stay who you are” during an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson. He went on to allude that it’s not natural to want to be with somebody outside of your own race. For me personally, I think being against interracial dating is a textbook example of separatism. When I have dated outside of race, I’ve never seen myself as a successful Black man mixing it up with White women and women of ethnicities other than Black. I’ve always seen myself as Juan—the same late 20s free-spirit I described in my About Me page—dating a woman he finds intriguing. Most times, it has been Black women that have captured my focus but there have been women of other ethnicities that have piqued my interest, too. A long time ago, after my first love’s death, I dedicated an entire entry in Triumphs & Tribulations IV to all of the qualities I loved in her as a woman and that I would seek out many of them in the women I involved myself with going forward. Nowhere in the journal entry did I make mention of her skin complexion, which actually wasn’t that far off from that of the wishy-washy girl in Tokyo. The truth of the matter is that I don’t see skin color when I look at women. There was once upon a time I did but I’ve evolved as a person since entering my adult years. Lord willin’, someday I will have the great fortune of getting married. And it is my hope that it’s a long and prosperous union in which I’ll still love looking into the eyes of my future wife 40 years into the marriage the same way I loved looking into her eyes 40 minutes into the first date. Her skin color won’t cause me to have that kind of love. And dare I say it, not even her measurables will cause me to have that kind of love. Only factors that are internal—the stuff that’s skin deep—will cause me to have that kind of love so many years in.
LESSON LEARNED. I can’t really say I’ve learned a lesson after dealing with the wishy-washy girl. I’ve actually dated outside of my race on 6 other occasions and I don’t necessarily remember either of those instances being well-received by Black women. The difference with the other instances is that the women who gave me the weird looks weren’t women I had previously asked out in hopes of sparking something romantically. If anything, the experience motivated me to not be restricted by what a certain aspect of society thinks I should do concerning the women I choose to pursue—or entertain, in the instances where I’m the hunted. What I have done in my dating life since that incident in 2008 is find a way to bring the topic of interracial dating up in conversation. I usually make mention that Something New is one of my favorite films in the genre of romantic dramas and comedies. Because my interests, tendencies, thoughts, and opinions often do not line up with the status quo for Black men my age, it’s a way I gauge the intercultural competency level of the women I date.