I didn't trust them either, assuming they saw me as a novelty, as a way to sample another culture, or as a stand-in for all black women.In hindsight, my distrust of men didn't get me far.Throughout my 20s, I followed my parents' advice, dating only white guys.When I was 30, I fell in love with — and married — a white man who was an aspiring rock star.
One day when I was 8 years old, I tagged along with my dad to his job as a janitor at the city airport. Although he had worked there for three years, many people didn't know his name.By comparison, the tall white pilots strolled through the airport with purpose, commanding respect.My father nodded to them and told me, "That is the kind of man you want to marry.I blushed as he recalled my teenage persona: a New Wave girl who "only hung out with the skinny white boys." I didn't remember him, but now, 25 years later, I was drawn to his lean build and intense eyes.When he asked me to lunch, I didn't overthink it — my plan was to not marry a Mexican, not avoid having lunch with one.Not trusting that white or black men would see beyond my skin color let me stay apart, aloof, even a little superior. There it is, in proper preteen cursive handwriting:"When I grow up, I'm going to marry a surfer with blond hair and brown eyes.It gave me an excuse to overlook the fact that I had trust issues with all men, that my hesitations and presumptions were less about fears of being rejected and more about my anxieties over really being seen. In my mid-30s, I met and married a dark-haired white Australian. He's not going to be a Mexican."Before you judge me, know that I'm a Mexican-American myself. As a child in Oxnard, California, a coastal town near Malibu, I loved hearing my father recite the works of 19th-century poet Amado Nervo, eating (fried pork skins) as an after-school snack, and showing off my limited Spanish slang.Turns out that the girl who "looked like the world" had a very muddled view of it. When darker-skinned men wanted to date me, I assumed it was because they considered me a trophy for my light skin.It reminded me of seeing so many successful and powerful black males — politicians, businessmen, entertainers — who appeared alongside lighter-skinned, sometimes white female companions. It wasn't for me, so I either outright rejected black men or begrudgingly went on dates with them only to write them off well before the dessert course arrived.I hadn't yet learned that giving others the benefit of the doubt was an important part of finding love, both from others and within myself.I was ignorant that appearances could be both deceiving and alienating — that my racialization of romance kept me at arm's length from deeper intimacy. I have proof: a letter I wrote to "my future daughter" when I was 11 years old.