Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to the Grey Space!

For the first few days (at least) I’ll be doing two posts per day, just to get you up to speed on the Grey Space, what it means to me, et cetera. This is post 1 of 2.

Glad you’ve decided to camp out here with me for a while. I want to tell you some funny stories about being grey and dating. But first, let me explain that I have never really dated a black person. Why? Well, I think there are a few reasons.

I have been surrounded by white people for my entire life. I went to school with white kids, almost all of my friends were white—my family members were the only black people who were consistently a part of my life. You know how some black people are uncomfortable in a room full of white people? Well I’m uncomfortable when I’m not the only black person in the room! I’m always afraid that the other black person will expect something in particular from me. I’m even more afraid that I’ll have to prove my blackness on the spot, by sharing in some universal black experience, and that he/she/zhe will choose an archetypal experience that I, for who knows what reason, have not had.

As I’ve gotten older my repertoire of stereotypical cultural knowledge has greatly expanded, but I have come to know about The Jefferson’s and the Fresh Air Fund through more educational channels—they were not a part of my personal experience. Spam—that’s something I do know about, though I’m not sure that it’s uniquely black. The fact of the matter is, that sense of camaraderie, that connection that causes even black people who don’t know one another to refer to each other as “my brother” or “my sister?” I don’t have that. I don’t know where mine is (maybe it’s hidden with my official black membership card), but I only have three siblings as, far as I know, and I don’t feel the need to call anyone else my “sister.” This is not to say that I don’t connect with other black people in a unique way, or that there aren’t times when it’s nice to talk to a fellow black American about shared experience, just that I don’t look for the other “person of color” when I enter a room. When you grow up not expecting to see anything but a sea of porcelain, such things just don’t make sense.

But this, this is a black experience of its own. We date the people who are around us. We date the people who relate to us, and can understand us. For some people that’s people of the same race. For me, the opposite is often true. I’m not usually black enough for most black people, and even if I am, most of my social situations don’t afford me the luxury of choosing to date the black girl. So where does that leave me? Hanging out in Greyland, waiting for people from either side to dip in for a chat. Would I date a black girl? Of course. Race is generally unimportant to me in a partner. But as much as I offend some black people by not being “black enough,” I have never had to worry about being too black for a white girl.

So now that I’ve explained myself, let me tell you about the bloopers I’ve experienced. Whenever you’re dating someone whose life experience is different from yours, you expect to come up against some misunderstanding, some momentary ignorance, but here are the doozies. I’ll include experiences with men here too, as I didn’t always know quite how gay I am :-)

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