My White Boyfriend Is Keeping Our Relationship A Secret From His Racist Family -- And I Think That's A Dealbreaker
Hey, xoJane fam. I think my relationship is over. I say ‘I think’ because I’m honestly not sure. Earlier in the year I told you about the wonderful man that I feel blessed to have in my life in this xoJane article. If you read that or if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I publicly refer to him by his code name ‘Pizza’ simply because I choose to (over)share about my life on the internet and he does not. Also, as I am fond of saying, Pizza is hot and delicious and sometimes even better in the morning and…you get my drift.
We’ve been going along pretty well together for most of this year, but we recently had a Very Ugly Conversation that I’m still kinda reeling from. Essentially, I asked him after hearing a particularly lovely update on his closest friends and family, none of whom I’ve ever met or interacted with electronically or on social media, how much they knew about me. The answer: nothing.
Pizza is as white today as he was the day I met him almost a year ago, which is a glorious day that it will take me a while to forget. He has described terrible racism in his home state, and also in the views of his own family. He is originally from one of the more Southern states of our great nation, but the only way you would really know that is in the accent that comes out every once in a blue moon or perhaps in the adorably, traditionally respectful and loving way he talks about his mother.
I would NEVER describe him as a ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ or any other such trope of Southern American-ness. Pizza is the eldest of siblings that he loves deeply and is in regular contact with, and I enjoy hearing about what they are up to and ask about them often.
So it makes sense, to me anyway, that I might inquire as to whether they knew as much about me as I know about them. It turns out that they don’t know that I exist, and as it stands now, they never will. During the Very Ugly Conversation, I asked Pizza if he was keeping me a secret. He said, in words halted by sincere sorrow, that I was indeed a secret; that he just couldn’t tell his family about me.
Somehow this was simultaneously news to me and also no surprise, the dichotomy of which might explain why I don’t know how to deal with it.
I think I asked Pizza whether he’d previously dated a black woman during bite one or bite three of our first meal together—I’m not sure. But suffice it to say that I was curious up front. As I’ve written about before, I don’t have the greatest self-esteem, but my race has nothing to do with that. One of the few things I am confident in, and am very proud of, is my identity as a black woman. BUT I’ve been approached by enough unfortunate white men who see me as an animalistic conquest of some sort to be wary of such sad suitors.
Pizza told me, in the most gentlemanly, non-sordidly-detailed way possible, that he has had a predilection toward black women that dates back to middle school. Usually, this sort of declaration only further makes me suspicious that I might me stepping onto a landmine of Master/Slave roleplay or some other such stereotype of being his “beast in bed” (something a white man I never slept with once told me he hoped I’d be), but nothing about Pizza has ever made me feel like he was a typical fetishist or like he was looking at me solely through race-colored lenses.
Pizza doesn’t take on any traditional external affectations of popular black culture, but he can describe in alarming detail the XXL magazine cover with rapper Trina on the cover that came out when he was in high school. He loves hip-hop in a genuine way that virtually defines appreciation vs. appropriation. He sincerely praises the essays I have written that address race and the continued denigration of black women in society, and I have seen him rattled to his core when we have been exposed to racism.
We met at the beginning of the year, and our first real date was on March 3rd. Shortly thereafter, there was what sitcom writers would refer to as “a break”; a time when whatever we were doing together was decidedly not a thing. Pizza was travelling during this time, and our communication became hot and heavy again due largely in part to him texting me to vent about his extended family’s racist ways. He was ‘back home’ for a family gathering, and though he didn’t go into much detail at first, he expressed a familial frustration that I could relate to, that we can probably all relate to on some level, even if our specific family trials don’t necessarily involve racism.
I don’t have a “type” and I’m not attracted to only one race, so people who do express a specific preference strike me as pleasantly odd. Pleasant because I can certainly imagine what it might be like to have such preferences and that can be cute at times, and odd because I simply do not have them myself. But since Pizza had expressed his to me early on, I made the foolish assumption that he must have also expressed his taste for dark meat to his family at some point.
I imagined that such a preference might not have been welcome in their bloodline. I imagined that it might have caused conflict. I even imagined, upon receiving the heartfelt messages I received that ultimately ended our break and that I felt brought us closer together, that the racial conflict of the moment might somehow even have involved me—that a picture of the two of us might have been spied on his cellphone, that he might have shown a sibling one of my YouTube videos, or that he might have simply embarked upon what he knew to be a difficult conversational path that might also ultimately be worth it.
What I never imagined was that I was simply a secret. And I still am. During the Very Difficult Conversation, when I said to Pizza what I have just said to you, he got quiet and apologized. He said “I just can’t tell them. And that’s my own shit. I know I should, but that would be….a big step for me. I just can’t.”
And all at once I went from being an admittedly sensitive but ultimately sensible woman to the stereotypical shrew described by every hack male stand-up comic whose podcast you’ve ever groaned at. I adore this wonderful man, and yet I went from being delighted at every moment we spent together to wondering, Where is this going? Who am I to you? Where do we stand? Do we have a future together?
As I write this, both Thanksgiving and Pizza’s birthday are three weeks away. Then comes Christmas, and New Year’s, and my birthday, which happens to be in January. Oh, and then there’s February 14th…‘Tis the season to wonder what the fuck is going on with my alleged boyfriend.
Let me be clear: I never expected to go home with him for the holidays this year, nor did I expect any of our kisses to begin with Kay. But as much as I’ve seen photos of his family members and know their names, I did kind of expect that at least one of them might come to know mine. Silly me.
If this is a man who is close to his family, and he can’t tell them about me, guess which one of us will eventually be cast aside in that scenario? With the affection he has for them, and his unwillingness to have that conversation, I’m fearing he’ll eventually marry the whitest woman he can feign attraction to and bust out some blonde babies and live a life of sort-of happiness, with his XXL magazines beneath his mattress.
That sounds horribly pejorative, I know. That’s merely my sadness at realizing this may be the end. This is a man that I care about so very much, who is so physically beautiful, so fun and smart and magnetic and just plain attractive in every sense, that I’m simply not reacting well right now.
I never begrudge someone their experience, even if it is at complete odds with mine, and if it is him against his entire family, whom he loves despite their flaws and archaic ideals, some part of me understands that I simply lose and I should pack my belongings and go.
But then I go to a very practical place; far less dramatic than Wedding Rings and Forever--the place that wonders if his family ever wonders if he even dates. If it ever comes up at family get-togethers that this incredible specimen of a man hasn’t ever brought a lady home or even mentioned missing one back in LA. What does he say if any of his relatives says “So, [Pizza], you seein’ anyone special?” Does it really never ever come up? Or does he just lie? Or—EVEN WORSE—does he say that he isn’t…and believe that to be true?
Maybe that’s it. He says he loves me, but maybe that love isn’t enough. Maybe one day someone brown will come along that he feels compelled to jump that family race hurdle with, and I am just not her. Either he is not interested in changing their minds or the good thing that we’ve had going was just not that important to him, and the ugly views of his extended family are merely another layer of the Break-Up Cake that I think I’m about to choke down.
I never needed him to promise me a tomorrow until I got the feeling that a future with him was impossible. Now that I can’t ever imagine a future with him, it’s all I can think about.
Am I overreacting? Do I need to chill? xoJane fam, you were here at the beginning. As painful as it may be, you know I prefer honest ugliness to pretty lies, so what do you think? Is this the end?