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He would spend hours preparing his mask every morning for whatever crowd, person or community he faced.
A fresh shave followed by a ton of cologne (he’s Dominican, and it’s important to him that people know he’s coming, and know he’s there), and then blow-drying his hair to get that perfect coif. My pops would explain that as a young man in the Dominican Republic, you had to work so hard perfecting yourself, preparing your mask, so that when a young European or American woman came through, she might choose you, as he would put it, might take you home with her, like that was your only way out. At 30, I woke up one day, took a deep breath, looked at her and thought, “I don’t think I can date white women anymore.”Maybe I wouldn’t have broken up with her if it hadn’t been for all the judgment coming my way.
Since I was a child, I’ve internalized the idea that the hand I hold determines my worth more than my own hands. If we think about it, it’s really just a comment on power: “Chico, you trying to have power now? My grandmother and other grandmothers and mothers would warn us: “Don’t date someone darker than you. I don’t care about your damn opinions about how dark people are and how kinky their hair is. Christopher Rivas is a storyteller, actor and the creator of "The Real James Bond Was Dominican! To hear Modern Love: The Podcast, subscribe on i Tunes or Google Play Music. Continue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on Facebook (Styles and Modern Love), Twitter (Styles, Fashion and Weddings) and Instagram.
I talked around it, mumbling about how I was trying to figure out who I was or whatever. Like the ones who — even after I’d been dating their daughter for six months — kept thinking I was from Puerto Rico. Or the ones who said upon meeting me, “Oh, I love ‘Buena Vista Social Club.’”Yeah, for sure, that’s a great movie, but so is “Gladiator.”And the ones who asked me if I speak Mexican. So is the father who opened the door and said, “Sorry, it’s not taco night,” and then closed it in my face, only to open it again because he was “just joking.”I’ve been with people in grocery stores who point to the dulce de leche and say, “Look, Chris, that’s you.” Actually, I’m lactose intolerant.
But the real reason I think I can no longer date white women isn’t any of that.
It’s because in today’s hashtag-woke society, there is mad pressure to be hashtag-woke.
Even years later, my pops still took longer to get ready than my mother and sister combined, delicately taking a black Sharpie to any stray grays that might pop up in his goatee. Later he made his way to New York City, where he met my mother, who is Colombian. Over the years I have dated brown women and black women, but mostly white women.
He was married now and no longer had to be “chosen.” But habits ingrained in adolescence can be hard to break. I hadn’t thought about why that was, but when some brown and black people in my community started giving me a hard time about dating white women, I sensed they’d be happier if I stopped.