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When I first got braids a couple of months ago, I was riddled with compliments.
It was a huge change from the curly auburn afro I’ve been rocking for the past few years, so it was easy enough to see why people were excited about the change. Getting weird looks from old white people walking down the street.
Between water refills and a shared plate of quesadillas, we realized we had nothing in common. Throughout my time in North Philly, my dad’s harsh command never came up. I don’t believe my parents are racist, but they’re uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. It was time for my undergraduate liberal education to put me in a cultural blender and press puree on everything I thought I knew about religion, feminism, and race.
It was time for my inner-city girl, wannabe journalist self to roam free. When she asked where he grew up, I said France, quickly choosing to edit out the part about Africa. I told her my relationship with Quinn was off and on. He graduated and found a sought-after desk job crunching numbers and salivating over spreadsheets.
“Don’t come home with a black boyfriend,” my dad said in a raspy whisper as he pointed one finger unintentionally at my heart and gestured towards my co-ed dorm. A perpetual comedian, my dad’s parting words were not unlike his jokester self.
I could see the muscular definition in Qinisela’s arms and better inspect his sexy skin that was the color of my parent’s fears. But like every daughter of an Irishman knows, there’s a bit of truth to every sarcastic remark. They were everywhere — complimenting my dress on the street, asking to borrow a pen in class, and filling my beer at parties. But I drifted to anyone who was different from what I was used to.
That moment when you stop being reluctant to talk about race issues because, get real, you’re not dating an ignorant jerk. People assume that just because your BF is white that you’re only into white dudes. Wondering if people are judging him for dating a black chick in the first place. You’re a little self-conscious about wrapping your hair at night in front of them for the first time but pfft, they better get used to it. Coming to terms with the fact that there are some things about being black that they will just never get, no matter how empathetic they are.
Laughing and getting down to pulsating beats paired with silly rap lyrics, it wasn’t long before I felt a body behind mine. The only thing white about the man who was “getting low” behind me was his enormous smile revealing his larger-than-life teeth. One afternoon, my mom asked if I ever heard from Quinn. I answered by standing up straighter, feeling the bones in my spine harden.