Another first date.
A guy who’s in town for work. An American expat, like me. But he lives in Germany, which is close to Amsterdam, but still farther than I prefer. He seems interesting enough, sharing a few details about life events that led him to leave the United States. He speaks English, German, and a little French. He’s polite. And he’s Black.
From the looks of it, this date is going quite well. Since he’s an intelligent Black man with a passport, he’s my type. The conversation flows easily around topics like traveling while Black, the complexity of European racism, and what we don’t miss about living in the U.S. To the Dutch café staff, we probably look like we’ve been together for years. We talk the same, look the same (from their perspective), and clearly share some jokes that go way back (i.e. that time we both laughed too loudly about Al B. Sure’s performance on Showtime at the Apollo).
But this date is going in the direction of most of my other first dates – nowhere. I’m sure I’ll never see or hear from this man again.
Despite this, I’ll be right back on Tinder in a day or two, swiping right only on the Black men who look like they might be familiar with Al B. Sure. It’s the most limited of online dating preferences that a woman in Europe could possibly imagine.
So why do I waste my time on this pointless exercise of dating Black men who don’t live in my city and have little interest in going beyond a first date? Well, I’ve wasted plenty more time dating men with whom I have nothing in common and even less interest. Listening to advice and reading articles, I’ve found myself compromising beyond reason.
“Try dating men who aren’t your type.”
“You can’t expect to date Black men while you’re in Europe.”
“Go for stable, not cute.”
“At your age, you need to get rid of that list of three things you expect a man to have – just be happy if he’s (sort of) nice.”
I tried these things. Really, I tried. After moving to the Netherlands, I tried going with the flow of race-blind dating, which seemed both chill and un-American. I tried dating men with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. I tried going on second dates with men who barely deserved a first. For a time, I was really trying. At least I thought I was trying. And for good reason, because I was convinced by so many opinions that my approach to dating was both inappropriate and all wrong. It was tempting to agree with sociologists who convinced me that my backward preferential attraction to Black men was outdated and inspired by a corrupt social structure in the U.S. If I could see that I was also compatible with men who were not Black, I could finally find happiness – freedom, even.
It didn’t take long for my judgment to become clouded by self-doubt and internal criticism. It was up to me to “get over it” and accept that, as it’s known in the States, the concept of race was foreign in Europe. And I was flawed, maybe even broken for my unwillingness to reject this concept. Because not only was I remaining quite conscious of race, I wanted to talk about it, reflect on my experiences related to it, hear about my dates’ ignorance of it, and break down exactly how this man in front of me could live in a country so racist and believe that racism was a thing of the past. I couldn’t get over it.
I’m a product of my environment, as flawed as that may be. On a deeper level, I want to be understood without explanation. On a first date, I don’t want to explain why it’s difficult to trace my ancestry beyond the United States. He could be a stranger, but he needs to understand that Prince is, and will always be the dopest. He should never question why I do or don’t feel comfortable in certain spaces or around certain people. On a shallower level, I’m attracted to brown skin, thick lips and coarse hair. And can we agree that a Black man’s swagger is just a good thing?
I know what I like, and I’ll be damned if it’s not a Black man I’m looking for. Just say I’m wrong.
So after some hesitation and multiple install/delete/re-install cycles with Tinder, I decided to scrap the well-intended, but presumptuous advice. I would fully embrace my preference for Black men in the bizarre world of international app-driven dating, regardless of the limited options. With very few exceptions (distracted only by one or two of those flattering ‘super-likes’), I unapologetically matched only with Black men.
Having fully-embraced my preferences and social biases, you might think I had a dating breakthrough. No, I didn’t. Dating remains quite a challenge.But I’ve met some remarkable Black men who are doing interesting work, traveling to incredible places, introducing me to new perspectives, and aren’t bad to look at. Most of them are passing through town. Some of them are locals who are friends of friends. And all of them can appreciate good music, conversations about history, and light-hearted debates.
Of course, going beyond a first or second date would be ideal. But if we accept the fact that today’s world of dating is consumed by fleeting interest and abundant options – and if I’m going to participate in this game at all – I must focus on men who actually interest me. And while I’m not headed for a Tinder-matched wedding, I at least enjoy the process of getting dressed, leaving my house, and talking to strangers. Compromises and socially-enforced rules be damned.
So as I wrap up another first date with this guy who knows the difference between Al B. Sure and Christopher Williams, knowing I’ll probably never see him again, I have no grievances. He’s cute, he’s smart, he’s well-traveled, and he’s more interesting than any of those dudes I dated during my “more evolved” period.
And alright, if you’re still with me, let’s be painfully real: no matter where you live or where you’re from, dating sucks for people with souls. It does. But if I have to date, I’m going to do it my way. And my way happens to be smart, casual, and Black. Exclusively Black. And at this point, I make no compromises. Love will find me or it won’t. At least I can enjoy myself in the process of searching.