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By Jada Gomez-Lacayo

Dating sucks. It truly and entirely sucks, yet I find myself here again. And as a totally hopeless romantic, I’ll be on the market until some derivative of Prince Charming wisks me away on a horse.. Or a Prius… Or maybe with a free swipe of a metro card. You get the idea.

Now that I’m “exploring my options” and “seeing what’s out there,” I remember exactly why I loathe the entire dating process. This is not to loop all guys into one category, because I have some great guy friends, and I’ve experienced some very sweet loves in my life, but in the initial stages, there are a couple of roadblocks that cause me to retract into my safe and single turtle shell.

Usually, when I meet a guy, the first question he asks is, “What are you?” As I groan inwardly but pleasantly smile outwardly, I typically respond by saying, “I’m from Queens.” This is a perfectly accurate statement, and describes me more precisely than my African American and Latina roots. That response usually prompts the world’s other most invasive question, “Is that your real hair?” With a matter of fact response, I reply: “No, its #499 at the beauty shop,” but that’s an entirely different story for another day.

This answer usually throws men off because when I give the response they’re looking for (it’s my real hair and I have a Puerto Rican father and African American mother), surprise and a light in their eyes goes off that reads, “Ahh! A mixed girl. I’ve got one.” And that leaves me quite uncomfortable at the bar. Just when they think they’ve caught me hook, line and sinker, I’ve usually already jumped ship mentally.

Rap songs, years of conditioning, and movies reinforce the need for a “light skinned girl with long dark hair.” And somehow I’m supposed to be happy about the stares I get when I’m with my parents, smile as people pat my hair for tracks, or somehow be flattered they want to date me solely based on my genealogy. It feels like I’m supposed to be a passive obliging accessory to match a fly Rolex and a foreign car. If my hair is curly when wet, that’s an added bonus — wifey material, somewhere on a Christmas wish list for men who need a shiny (forehead) trophy to overcompensate for some sort of deficiency.

The thing is I love to write. It’s something I’ve worked on fiercely and love passionately, as it’s an extension of me and where I feel most comfortable. Secondly, I’m hilarious. From the office to e-mail threads, to my undeniable rap flow, I’m a riot. I’m an avid runner, I have what is probably an unhealthy knowledge about music and pop culture, and I have a huge, future big mama sized heart.  These are the things that I have cultivated in my 30 years by simply being me. Thanks to an amazing strong family, great friends, and infinite blessings, I’m so proud of the woman I’ve become. This is me.

But when a guy suffers from “light skinned girl, long dark hair” syndrome, I’m only seen for the qualities that are solely based on my DNA. The outer layer I had nothing to do with eclipses the me that I’ve worked on all these years when the outer layers are shed. And men, if you do find a girl who is into all the fawning, she’s probably using you for the attention. So really everyone’s a pawn in a very superficial game. And we all know that beauty fades, lovelies.

Be clear, this is by no means a pity party. No light-skinned girl problems here. I love my features because I see a bit of my entire family in me. I see my mom’s eyes and lips, my Papi’s nose, and my skin tone is a blend of both cultural worlds. I’m confident enough to say I love my hair. I love the way it smells when it’s done, and I love the way it feels on my back. Even the compliments and comparisons are cool, although I don’t think Aaliyah, Paula Patton, and Zoe Saldana look anything alike other than that they are all light skin and have long dark hair. I rest my case.

So guys, it’s ok to have your preferences. I happen to like tall guys who get it in at the gym. Cam Newton, call me if you’re reading this. But the difference is that I hear you. I fall for your smile. I love when you actually read my stories. When you laugh at my jokes, or tell me I’m beautiful when I’m out of the shower with no makeup and a messy length-less bun.

Nothing I could write could ever reverse a cliché that predates my existence. You’re probably listening to a song that mentions some form of light skinned, long hair don’t care syndrome in your headphones right now. But when you come across one of us next time, start off with a question beyond the obvious. And maybe you’ll get something more valuable than the Heisman.

Jada Gomez-Lacayo is the Entertainment Editor for Follow her on Twitter at @JadaGomez.

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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