About 10 years ago, I dated an Asian man. This in and of itself was not particularly unique. By that point I’d dated white men, black men and Hispanic men and briefly had an Asian pseudo-boyfriend in high school. As a biracial woman who grew up in a family where get-togethers looked like diversity workshops, I viewed interracial dating as ordinary. I was interested in getting to know an individual, not some member of a particular racial group. Apparently my then-boyfriend didn’t feel the same way.
He told me at some early stage of our relationship—I don’t remember if we were still friends or had become romantically involved—that his ideal woman was half-white and half-Asian, supposedly because he thought that mix produced the best-looking females. I suspect there was more to it than just appearance. In a society where “white is right,” he probably felt that a half-white, half-Asian significant other would allow him to remain loyal to his family’s cultural traditions while he racially “upgraded” in his own mind.
And I guess it was his right to have his own “ideal woman.” We all have qualities that we seek in a potential partner, whether they’re mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial or racial. I’m just not sure he needed to make it so clear that my half-Italian, half-black background didn’t conform to his version of perfect.
There were other warning signs I should have heeded. We worked for the same company and he insisted on hiding our relationship from co-workers. When he called me at work he would give a fake name and scold me if I accidentally slipped and called him by his real one. When I called him at work he’d tell his co-workers it was “the Lauren from the food court,” though I’ve never had a food court affiliation.
His so-called reasoning was that he was slightly higher on the professional food chain than I was, and he didn’t want to jeopardize his position by dating a subordinate—even though we worked at different stores and he was not my boss. The real reason, I know now, was that he was ashamed of me. And if I’d had enough courage to open my eyes and confront that fact, I would have had no option but to leave.
Instead I hung around until he got tired of me. I almost wasn’t surprised when he broke up with me a few months later and told me that despite his previous declarations of love, which had come complete with a bouquet of handmade, tissue-paper roses on Valentine’s Day, he never actually loved me.
Immature as his actions seem to me now, he was not really the problem. The issue was not that he painted a picture of an ideal woman who was not me, or that he hid our relationship from co-workers, or that he took back the love he’d professed. The real issue was that I chose to be with someone who did all of these things.