Vlog | Black Women Dating While Living Abroad: Will Italian Men Feed You Pasta?

DatingAfter four years of living in Rome, I’ve learned a bit about dating, especially as a Black woman. In this video, I offer up my thoughts on possible dating experiences that Black women may meet while living abroad, the (ir)relevance of beauty standards, and reasons for travelling abroad, including cultural expectations.

Hope you enjoy it! If you do, please “like” (thumbs up) the video. Thanks!

 

Relationships | Black, Female & Dating…Or Trying To? According to the Statistics, Why Bother?

Disclaimer:  All images used in this post are from the “Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism” by Rebelle Magazine. The images are a part of the “I Am, Too, Harvard” campaign, revealing the experiences faced by Black students at Harvard.

Please, visit both Rebelle Magazine and the campaign sites by clicking on the highlighted links! By the way, almost all of the pictures relate to my experience while at Stanford–I hope the students there will do something like this as well.

Also, I use the word “we” often, not to say all Black women are in agreement with me, but to express my solidarity with those who do have shared similar views.

 

 Now, on to the post!

Image from Rebelle Mag: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

 

Today, I came across the 2011 article “Why black women are justifiably bitter: The bleak relationship picture for African-American females” today.  While the article was far from shocking, it really laid out in a clear and undeniable manner the reality that many Black women face in trying to make gains in the dating market.  

Plus, the article was far more favourable than the now-withdrawn 2011 Psychology Today “Why Black Women Are Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women” (links to a Psychology Today rebuttal of the argument).

The article follows on the 2009 blog post by OkCupid, “How Your Race Affects the Messages You Get,” that indicates that Black women were, for the most part, shut out of the online dating world, being the users who sent the most messages while receiving the least replies.  Black women were also the most likely to respond to messages.  Black men as well as other races, OkCupid’s statics showed, do not consider Black women as relationship material.

Feeling depressed yet?

Image from Rebelle Mag: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Well, it gets worse.  It follows that if Black women are not considered relationship material, then surely marriage is out of the question.  That is where the article comes in and eloquently explains why Black women have every right to be angry/bitter in general.  Because although we are not considered for marriage, we are surely considered for sex.  As the article points out that “7 in 10 black children are born to unmarried parents.”

Oh?  Really?

I am not surprised given the dating statistics. Of course, given the grim statistics on incarceration and African-American men, it makes sense that marriage would seem unlikely.  Nothing wrong with having had a bad moment in life and having had to go to jail/prison, but it does make getting married more problematic.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

So, why I am writing about this?

Well, because I am frankly tired of reading the negative online commentary about Black women, whether it is about our hair, our skin colour, or weight, or our strength of character and fearlessness (a.k.a. our masculinity).

Men who have a problem with strong women, ought to avoid dating Black women, in my opinion.  Black women are not raised to be cowed by anyone.  We understand clearly where the dominant society has decided to relegate us and how some (apparently a majority) of our male counterparts view us.  (Let me not get into this statement: “black men who, according to social science data, are more likely than any other group of men to maintain relationships with multiple women.”)

 

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

We understand clearly that a good portion of our male counterparts are eager to mobilize themselves by marrying up and thus marrying light. We get it.  We get it that the kinkier and nappier our hair, the broader our thighs, the bigger our lips, bottoms and hips, the louder our voices, the more likely others will to try to shut us down or shut us up.  We get it.

The thing is…

We don’t give two cents about it.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Unworthy men and women (for our LGBTQ population), please continue to ignore us.  Please, continue not to respond to messages. Trust me, it’s much better this way, because we won’t be wasting our time on you.  And who would want to?  I am beginning to feel really sorry for those who do.

You see, while some people may see Black women as available (sending so many messages) and desperate (responding to so many messages), the fact is some Black women simply won’t do two things:

  1. Wait for permission to say what we want, and
  2. Be impolite to someone just because we don’t like them.

Have you ever thought about that?  Have you thought about the fact that some Black women simply own our sexuality and are polite?

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Can people get beyond the need to assign to us the roles of either

  1. the gold-digging concubine or
  2. the food stamp baby-making mammy?

Can we get beyond this already?  

What? No, we can’t? It’s far too important for maintaining the status quo?

Oh, well, forgive me.  I thought it was okay to be seen as human.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Of course, this is all just my personal opinion.

 

[Relationships] To Rebound or Not To Rebound? Um…I don’t think we actually have a choice…

For a few days now, I have been thinking about that space in between relationships, oftentimes called the “rebound” period.  Why?  Well, because I am in it, but not just in it…

I am actually recognising and admitting to myself that I am in it.

Now, for some people, this may seem quite a strange concept.  The inevitable question is: how could you not know that you were on the rebound?

Image Found: SomeEcards.com

Well, the answer is easy enough.  I just never thought about it.  I simply lived with a kind of go with the flow mentality that led me easily from one relationship to another from the age of fifteen.

I am sure I am not alone in this.  More than likely, there are many, who just never seem to be out of a relationship or out of the dating experience.

Of course, there are some people who might say, “Hold up, D! I know you were single from years XXXX to YYYY! I was there listening to you complain!”

And while that may be technically true, i.e. that I was not in an established relationship, I was most definitely casually or seriously dating on a regular basis in between and complaining about those dating experiences…and not my last relationship. 😉

The other day, I was talking with my friend, V. about being single.  V. is about eleven years younger than I am and told me that since he had started his dating life, he had spent more time being legitimately single than not.  His words gave me a serious pause for thought…especially as I was just about to head out the door to what could be seen as a–oh, I don’t know–date.

Image Found: Fremdeng.ning.com

His words acted like a very loud warning bell, stating oh so clearly, that I needed to back up and think about what I was about to get myself into! (Thanks, V.!)

Seriously, if I were to add up all the times when I was not in a relationship and not dating in any fashion between the ages of fifteen to thirty-five, I think I would come up with less than five years (and that figure is really generous on my part).

Five years of being single out of twenty years is really not a great deal of time.  Not only was I operating on a permanent rebound status, I was also not being fair to the people who dated me, either casually or seriously.

Even more importantly, I wasn’t being fair to myself.  I wasn’t allowing myself to heal and to learn lessons from my experiences, so that I could make better choices moving forward–not that I am not grateful for everyone and all the experiences I have had.

Image Found: Examiner.com

Still, it would have been far better for me and for those who had been involved with me had I waited and sorted through the feelings that can emerge when a relationship ends, such as sadness, fear, anger, jealousy, envy, guilt, shame, and that general sense of abbandonment (even if I had been the one to end the relationship).

Instead, I found myself in many emotional tug of wars.  However, I was the one working both sides of the rope,  attempting to pull people closer to me when they seemed too far away from me at one moment, only to pull them far away from me when they seemed too close to me in the next moment.

After my conversation with V. and subsequently my therapist (yes, I have started therapy again ), I began asking myself why was it that I hadn’t chosen to remain single for long periods of time.

Certainly, some might imagine that it would be an issue of fearing being alone…but anyone who knows me would easily refute that.  I love being alone, even in a relationship. Furthermore, I rarely experience loneliness.

Seriously, I really enjoy solitude. 🙂

Julie Andrews, Sound of Music. Image Found: TheAge.com

Perhaps I thought that that was what ought to be doing, i.e. dating and “moving on with my life.”  You know, gallivanting in meadow with the magical spring weather that forces you to embrace the warmth of new love…or something like that.

I am of the mindset that it is more than likely this.

Perhaps it was an effort to “reset” my last experience, which oftentimes enough had provoked some kind of painful emotional response.  Thus, being with someone new was a lesson that intimacy wasn’t something to be feared–remember, I really like my own company and so it is easy for me to isolate.

Well, the point is that I am embarking on a journey to understand this experience of being on the rebound and also working through it.  Thus, when the time comes for me to actually have another relationship, I will be better able to understand what I want from it and what I can give it.

If you are like me or the contrary to me (actively staying away from dating and relationships), then taking a moment to pause for thought on this subject might not be such a terrible idea. 😉

Until Next Time,

D. 

Fruit stands, and why I choose not to date…

Rome, romance…They would seem to go hand-in-hand.  Taking a look at the multitude of tourists who are perma-grinning all over the place all the time here, perhaps they do.  For me, romance is something I am choosing do without (as mentioned in a posting a couple of days back).

It isn’t just the need to focus on my well-being.  It is simply the craziness (to me) of it all.  I have found that dating doesn’t seem to quite exist here.  Many people either seem to be looking for an interesting fling/story…or they are ready to have you cooking and cleaning their houses (notice, I didn’t say marry…because, for some that is not quite what they have in mind). At this point, you may be wondering, D, why on earth are you thinking about this?

(I was attempting to find a video on attraction.  I found Yanni instead.  Makes me smile :))

The answer is that I went to buy some tangerines at the fruit stand today.  What?  Yes, it all happened at the fruit stand, where I was openly solicited by a handsome twenty-two year old, who was being actively encouraged by his older brother to ask me out.

Anyway, after laughing off the matter and abruptly extricating myself from the situation, I went home and began to think about my “dating” experiences in Rome.

And honestly, I haven’t really “dated” here in Rome.  I have met some very interesting people.  Half of whom were too young and looking for a mother/caregiver/advisor person.   The other half were older and looking for someone to dominate and exoticize.  Suffice to say, I saw through all of that easily enough, and have thus remained single.

More importantly, however, these experiences and this episode made me realize that I needed to ask myself a serious question: That is, just what is it within me that is attracting these types of people?  After all, there must be something that I am seeking to have so many of the same types of people come my way.  I am quite positive that there are many eligible, single, socially adaptable, independent, successful, internally and externally attractive people out there in the world.  So, what exactly is going on with me?

Some people may say, Well, D, you are a strong woman.  And strong attracts weak. And to those people, I will say, perhaps you are right, but I am willing to wait for the universe to present me with someone who can recognize the balance of strength and weakness within himself or herself and in others.

So, Mr. Young Fruit Stand Man, thanks but no thanks…I’ve learned this lesson too many times already.  🙂

Until Next Time!

Best,

D.

 

P.S. Excellent quote I found on ViewOnBuddhism.org:

“When we accept the way things are we are able to love everything and everybody. When we are not able to accept even one thing in this world right now, then how could we ever develop boundless love? Lack of acceptance is conflict. Conflict is pain. It is psychological pain. It is a spiritual illness. As long as our hearts are tormented by that pain, we do not have the strength to give our heart to anything and because of that it is impossible to bring about inner awakening. Enlightenment, you see, is just another name for boundless love.

It is almost impossible to practice loving-kindness towards all living beings without addressing, in a meaningful way, the innumerable problems arising in our own lives. It is a contradiction, you see. It does not work. If our heart is tormented because we are not able to accept things the way they are, then it is impossible to open our heart. It is impossible to let go of all of our defenses and embrace others. Therefore we have to constantly practice and deepen our awareness. We have to remind ourselves to accept things as they are. This is pretty much what the teachings called Mind Training are all about. Mind Training in Buddhism is about carrying those perspectives and even reciting slogans, phrases like “I shall accept the way things are.” Anam Thubten, No Self, No Problem

AMBW… What??

I have a tendency towards researching things.  Yes, I am a bit obsessive.  However, when I speak or write about a topic, I like to be as well-informed as possible.  In my last posts, you may have noticed that I have been using information from Asian countries, i.e. expats living in Asian countries like Japan and Korea.  I have been researching on YouTube what it is like for Black women to live in countries where they are a perceivable minority…Little did I know that this research would lead to…

Apparently, there is a growing celebration of interracial relationships between Asian Men and Black Women.  I had no idea.  Of course, I think it is brilliant that people of different ethnic/racial/religious/etc.  can and want to get together.  I am, however, a bit concerned by the seeming exoticism of it all…

I know in my life, I have tried to stay clear from people who are seeking to be in a relationship with me because they have a prepared plan of only dating Black women, because Black women are x, y, and z…,or who are seemingly fixated on my cultural background.  So, I am uncertain as to what is happening here with this AMBW push.

More importantly, I have noticed that there are even virtual battles that are being waged about the beauty of Black women and where we stand on the beauty standard totem pole…And according to some, we are at the bottom.  There are even some arguments that Asian men and Black women should get together, because we are both on bottom in terms of desirability…And I am like (yes, I wrote “like”), “What??!!”

Have I missed the boat here?  Was there some big thing that happened culturally that I wasn’t aware of it?  It’s true that I don’t watch television, listen to the radio, avoid newspapers and magazines.  So, it is quite possible.  When, however, did minorities exoticizing other minorities become in vogue.

(Very good YouTube video that addresses this issue. Video by Charly in Korea)

 My apologies for the tirade, but…

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

P.S.  This guy is just too much :D…

 (“Interracial Dating – Korean Guy’s Perspective”

by famousamos on YouTube)

Love: is it really necessary to state it?

Reading manga and watching anime has recently turned into a pastime of mine.  I enjoy this aspect of Japanese culture and am a very visually-inclined person, thus it works out.  As I have been going along with my soon-to-be-obsessive manga/anime thing, I have come to recognize an important difference between Japanese and American cultures.  That is, in America we use the actual words “I love you” as though we are automatic ticket dispensing machines… you know, the ones at the deli, or in a waiting room, at the post office… the ones that you push the button and out comes that little slip of paper that let you know that you will receive service?

When I first began read manga, I thought that the statement suki desu (“I like you”) were a direct translation of the English “I love you” as this is how it is often translated.  I was shocked to discover that the word aishiteru was actually “I love you.”  Furthermore, that this word was rarely used.  Initially I was dismayed at the thought of what life would be like without hearing the words “I love you,” then it dawned on me… “I love you” as it is used in English seems to hold very little meaning.  We use this statement seemingly freely, we love everything and everyone–disclaimer:  I know that I am generalizing here. 😉  Just bear with me.

The above thought left me transitioning from feelings of anger to sadness, sadness to fear, and back again to anger, only to end with resolve.  My anger stemmed from the many times I have heard, whether in my own personal life or hearing the tragic love stories of others,  the statement used “I love you” that should have been really daisuki desu “I like you a lot” or better yet “I like you a lot until I find someone I like even more.” 

No, this isn’t bitterness.  Yes, I own the fact that I have grown more skeptical throughout years, especially in more recent ones.  This is truly an attempt to understand emotionally honest and how clearly we can state our feelings given the limitations of our language.  Somehow we have lost the ability to describe our more intimate feelings using words such as “adore,” “dear,” “smittened,” etc.  Somehow it seems that we can only go from zero to one hundred in our feelings, and subsequently zoom down the love highway.  We seemingly go from “I like you” to “I love you” without hesitation, but why?

Is it that we can no longer take the time to accurately identify and aptly describe our emotional state in relation to each other?  Are we so very worried that if we do not say “I love you” that the feeling will not be conveyed accurately?  I want to return to a world where I can say that I adore, am smittened, find dear, am enamored, find beloved, yearn for, desire, long for, want,etc…

So, what does this all mean, D.?  Well, simply that I tip my hat to Japanese culture and am choosing to embrace in my life taking the slow lane to stating the profound feelings embodied within the words “I love you.”  Afterall, life and people are too precious not slow down, understand, and clearly state my feelings.  In the long run, it is simply with the aim of causing no or little harm.

 

Ugly D…

Unmasked, self-portrait by Diedré M. Blake (October, 2010)

I am not a beautiful woman.  At least, this has been the feedback in one form or another that I have received since the start of the year. You may wonder why I would choose to write about such a topic.  Well, the reason is simple.

I am amazed by 1) the audacity of people to believe that they have the right to give feedback, whether positively or negatively perceived, on other people’s physical appearance, and 2) the ability of men (specifically in this case, Italian men) to reduce a woman’s worth to the rating that they believe they have the right to give her physical appearance.

I have decided to present this image on the right of myself, without make-up and with my face fully exposed as well as others in the posting in order to explore the issue of my physical appearance.  After all, if the point of this blog is self-exploration.  So then let’s have at it.  Indeed I have, time and again, written about my feelings and thoughts, so why not my physical self.

Some say “Ugly…” 

Yes, my nose is wide, and my lips are full, and my forehead is indeed a Tyra Banks four-finger, possibly five, high.  My eyes are almond-shaped and my left is smaller than my right eye.  My right eyebrow is seemingly permanently arched, because I am always arching it in response to something or another.  Of course, my features may have something to do with my mix of African and Asian ancestry.

I have scars…

I have a visible scar on my forehead on the right side.  I have scar marks by my left ear from when I had the chicken pox at age sixteen (a horrifying and mortifying experience, I can tell you ;)).  I have scars under my chin from having fallen as a child and also as a teenager from once when rollerblading.  I even have a small scar on my nose from when I was 18 and felt a need to be rebellious and got a nose ring, which didn’t end up being such a great idea in the end.  I decided to stick with tattoos thereafter.

Imperfect teeth…. oohh and facial hair 

Waiting, photography by April Rivers (Fall, 2010)

If I were to smile, you would see that my top two front teeth have small chips on either sides from when I had fallen during a field trip to the pirate city of Port Royal.  I am predisposed to facial hair and like most women I tweeze my eyebrows–no, they don’t just grow like that!  Thankfully I do not have a moustache like some women do–that would be extra work that I would rather not deal with.

Kinky, Nappy hair… Now short!

Until November 26, 2010, I had very long dred locs, which I had been growing since September 1999.  I cut my hair in mourning the loss of my dog, Petie, who died on Thanksgiving Day 2010.  Being without my hair has made me painfully aware of the existence of a “hair bias” in the world against women with short hair.  I do not believe I had ever really noticed it before.  My hair grew over the course of the past year, but I chose to cut it again on January 1, 2012 to the previous length in order to start the new year fresh.

Tattoos, cellulite, muscles, stretch marks, flat-chested, large thighs, and an ample derriere… I like saving the best for last! 

I am a person who believes in change and in letting go of the past and of that which not longer serves a purpose.  I am also a person who has undergone many changes, some self-imposed, some that have been imposed upon me.  Due to my genetics, age, health, my love for tattoos and changes in my lifestyle (see my c.v.), my body has changed and I have had to adjust  to these changes.  That’s life and I do not make excuses for the way that I have lived it.

The reality is that our bodies will all age.  What “beauty” others may perceive that we possess will change or be perceived as having “faded.”  It is no wonder that cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons, health clubs, diet programs make so much money.  They prey upon the insecurities that have been planted within the minds of women (and men) about their appearance and its relation to their worth as human beings…  Truly, given the onslaught of advertisements in a variety of forms of what one ought to look like, no one really needs to spend their time giving feedback to anyone else about their appearance (unless this person is actually an undercover agent for the ad company, or for the beauty industry, or any of the others already mentioned… then drumming up business by destroying self-esteem makes perfect sense).

D. for dichotomy

Self-portrait, August 2010, photography by Diedré M Blake

Thus, this body is the canvas upon which I paint everyday… because, in reality, I see dressing oneself as  a process of creating art.  After all, why bother going through the process of dressing if not to make it interesting for oneself?

I call myself “D.”  One of my professors says that I am a minimalist.  Perhaps, perhaps not.  “D, ” however, is a construction of myself.  It is an aspect of who I am and not my entirety, because it is only recently (in the last 8 years) I began calling myself “D.”  It has been an evolution (see pictures below).  One that has resulted on an image of myself that is to my liking and which I find most representative of who I am.  It is unfortunate that it is hard for some people to balance the seemingly dichotomous images of “D.” and “Diedré.”

Constructing D.

Self-portrait, Winter 2011, photography by Diedré M Blake

But who or what is “D?”  Simply “D” is my expression of happiness, whether felt or not.  I dress in bright colours to bring a smile to my face when I feel like doing anything but smiling.  I put on make-up to remind myself that even the bleakest of days can improve.  I wrap my hair in bold scarves, shape them in intricate fashions and wear them like a crown to remind myself to hold my head high with self-pride throughout the day.

Every article of clothing I choose, from my undergarments to my dress, or my skirt, my shirt, or my pants, is chosen with care and consideration for the body with which I have been blessed.  Some people have been endowed with an ample bosom, I was not.  This is why there are stores like Victoria’s Secret and things like the miracle bra and the wonder bra, etc.  Some people have been granted rock hard and narrow legs and can wear freely the short skirts and shorts that are craze of modern fashion, I was not.  This is why I wear vintage clothing from the 1930s to the 1980s.  Some people have small feet, I do not.  I wear an Italian 39, US 9.5.  Thus, it is typically harder to find shoes in my size and also in the styles of my liking (typically vintage-styled).  Constructing “D.” is an act of self-love and care, and an expression of joy as well as celebration of my body.

Learning to love and laugh at myself and life in general…

The journey of my life has been the process of learning to love myself through learning how to accept myself in all aspects, from physically to emotionally to psychologically.  I believe each day that I take a step closer to achieving this.  At the very least, at this point I am quite happy with who and how I am, imperfections and all.  So, for those people out there who find me either ugly or beautiful (some have even said “spooky”), truly there is no need to offer me feedback as I am quite aware of what I look like and of who and how I am.  If you do choose to give me feedback, please think about from where within you and your own “stuff” your feedback is coming, and consider well if your judgement is wise and your feedback constructive enough to share.

Images from starting from top left to bottom right, ages 16 to 33.

“My idea of the perfect woman is… A) she’s gotta be hot!…”

(from the documentary “America the Beautiful”)

— Please, visit the link.  Unfortunately, I could not embed the video…

and please notice the man making this comment!

Until next time!

Best,

D.