AN EQUATION TO TELL YOUR MOTHER YOUR BOYFRIEND IS BLACK
1. If I dated (a black man)
Then that does not mean I only date (black men)
The rules of multiplication do not adhere to romantic relationships, past and present. It is the result of the events and experiences that determine whether or not the current relationship is lasting, whether or not it is the one. But my friends seem to think differently. One of my guy friends’ asked me if the man I am dating has a big dick, if he was the eggplant to my fried rice. I asked my guy friend how big his eggplant was.
2. If I (lie)(and don’t get caught)
Then my mother will not be hurt.
If I (lie)(and get caught)
Then perhaps she will remember that I don’t lie all the time, and that the truth is an additive inverse. Perhaps this will cancel each other out and there would not be an effect.
3. I’m not sure where the racism comes from but she is not the only mother who cares that her Thai daughter is dating a Jamaican man. To her and her friends who were born and bred in Thailand’s high society, where ladies who lunch carry Hermés bags with their handles wrapped with matching scarves as to not ruin the leather, even a dark skinned Thai man is too lowly for them to marry. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity the man is really, just the color of his skin.
4. In A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes says, “I must resemble whom I love… I want to be the other, I want the other to be me, as if we were united, enclosed within the same sack of skin.” To my mother, my tamarind-colored limbs make me look like the maid’s daughter. She asks me why I like to swim at noon, when the sun is at its brightest, and I tell her that the water is warmest then.
5. Dear Reader,
You can see how my black boyfriend’s skin needs to be thinned out to properly blend into the family portrait my mother would want to hang on her living room wall.
6. In 2012, I was still in graduate school studying to be a writer. Ben worked at the coffee shop I frequented. He would give me free mochas without whipped cream. We went to dinners at restaurants with French names I cannot pronounce and sometimes we held hands. Most of the time, we stayed in bed and talked about puppies on YouTube videos and potential drink combinations. I still have yet to try a Manhattan.
7. I wondered why I kept telling the same lies and expecting different results. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend,” I would say.
8. In Eileen Myles’ An American Poem, she says, “I’ve spent the better half of my adult life trying to sweep my early years under the carpet and have a life that was just mine and independent of the historic fate of my family.” I agreed with her: “Can you imagine what it was like to be one of them?”
9. Everyone has a (home face) and a (public face.)
In a world where we are made out of shapes, I wonder where they meet,
If my (home face) was square, and my (public face) was a circle,
and my (home face) could fit into my (public face)
the corners of the square would still scratch the circumference,
no matter how wide the diameter of the circle became.
The square would rattle inside it.
10. On my first date with Ben, I learned that girls have said, “I’ve never dated a black guy like you before,” and “You’re so articulate!” and “You’re too big for me,” and “Do you really ride a motorcycle?” and “Do you like hip-hop?” and “Can you dance?”
11. I write so that my mother can one day read me. She’s not dead, nor illiterate. We just happen to speak two different languages: Me, English. Her, Thai. Me, a pomegranate tree. Her, Ceberus.
12. Sometimes I rattled against the circle that held me. Gold or not, she holds me.
13. This is her nightmare: Walking into a classroom staring at rows and rows of children with their heads bowed over books. They are writing. She stands by the door, her schoolbag empty, her shoes unpolished, and unable to remember the homework she’s supposed to hand in. Her teacher, a stern faced man with grey hair, sends her back outside to stand on one leg with a ruler in her mouth.
14. My mother never finished high school.
15. My mother never finished high school but she can multiply without a calculator. She adds hundreds of checks to divvy out salaries to her employees. She adds the cost of hotels, the cost of flights, the cost of tours, and calculates our income. She adds two lies to make the truth.
16. My mother calculates my worth like this: Twenty-seven. Single. Clean, light skin, like the women featured in the Pond’s Flawless White beauty facial foam commercial. The cleanser washes dirt and soot off your face, leaving you pure and white. “White men are better than Thai men,” she would say. “White men would never cheat on you.” I didn’t know how to tell her that any man can cheat.
17. On our first date, Ben asked me if I’ve ever dated another one like him before and I stuttered. I didn’t want him to think that he was all I dated, and he looked curiously at me with his large black eyes, and no, I have not dated him – a gentleman – before.
18. I was eighteen when my last boyfriend came in me and stained the bed sheets under our bodies. I didn’t know what else to do but push out what was left of him, small splats on the sheets, and wipe it off. He laughed and said, “You said I couldn’t come in you but I did.”
19. He was also black, but not a gentleman.
20. “Race is a sexual factor for many individuals even if you can’t control who turns them on,” said OKCupid’s Christian Rudder, in Dataclysm.
21. Love is a factor for many individuals because you can’t control whom you fall for.
22. The compulsion to date one that is not of your own kind is a sophisticated city-girl compulsion. That is what I tell my mother. “If you wanted me to date just Thai men, we should have stayed in Thailand,” I said in one of our many disagreements. She turned red, her face hot like a clay mold.
23. Born and raised in Bangkok, my mother has never lived more than a thirty-mile radius from her mother’s house.
24. The relationship between my mother and I is the only one I have with a parent. My father ran away with his younger mistress four years ago and my mother has been unable to love since. This is why she holds onto me so dearly, the little pomegranate she bore from the dead soil of her broken marriage.
25. My mother loves me more than what I can bring home to our table. She simply wants a man to take care of me, unlike my father. When I tell her about Ben, the handsome Jamaican product designer, she asks: “What kind of people are Jamaicans?”
26. Dear Mom, so what if he’s black?
We have been dating for two years and I want you to meet him.
27. In 2014, the OKCupid trends for dating revealed that:
1. Non-black men applied a penalty to black women
2. Black men showed little racial preference either way
3. All women preferred men of their own race
4. Asian women think black men are 14% below the average
28. “People prefer dating someone of their own race,” Christian Rudder wrote.
29. But I prefer masturbating to someone not of my own race.
30. “Behind the Green Door” (1972) was one of the first pornographic films to feature sex between a white actress and a black actor.
31. “I’ve met a handful of girls who thought their families would be more OK with finding out they did porn than finding out they did interracial porn. It’s a hard concept to swallow in 2013,” Aurora Snow, a porn star, says in an interview.
32. Even equations exist in porn.
33. Most common phrases in an interracial porn scene:
- Fuck me with your big black cock
- Do you like my sweet white pussy?
- Stretch out my little tight pussy?
- Fuck me like an animal.
- Breed me.
34. I’m surprised there’s even a variation to the requests.
35. These are some of the requests I make in bed: Fuck me now. Fuck me from behind. Fuck me hard. Never once do I allude to the color of the man, but perhaps I tell him how big his cock is so that it’s still hard.
36. Jane Jacobs writes about the joy of living in cities in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She argues that politics that separate parts of the city for its own “uses” (i.e. residential, industrial, commercial”) destroy communities and innovative economies by creating isolated, unnatural urban spaces.
37. It creates sameness.
38. “But homogeneity or close similarity among uses, in real life, poses very puzzling esthetic problems,” Jane Jacobs says.
39. I think we are cyborgs and underneath our skins, I wonder if we are made out of metal? Of molten gold that has to be contained by different colored containers of flesh?
40. My mother asked me if I was mentally ill for not wanting to date my own kind. “What is my own kind, Mom?” I asked. “Didn’t you tell me that all Thai men were cheaters?”
41. There is (me) in (me)n.
42. A little bit of me gets sanded after every relationship, good or bad,
Barthes says, “I keep myself from loving you.”
The square always forces itself inside the circle,
as if the curved line offers some form of protection,
some form of comfort,
some form of place.
43. “Society will never accept your relationship,” she said to me, after I asked her what she thought of if I hypothetically dated a black man.
44. She seems to draw the line between what is black and what is right.
45. How to convince my mother that Ben was suitable for me:
1. His parents are still together.
2. He makes over 120,000 dollars a year.
3. He doesn’t have children.
4. He doesn’t have a wife or mistress.
5. He owns his own house and car.
6. He has three graduate degrees in Psychology, Product Design, and Mathematics.
7. He keeps his hair neat and tidy.
46. How Ben convinced me he was suitable:
1. He gave me all the blankets when we slept together.
2. He shared food with me at the restaurants, serving my plate first.
3. He kissed me on the forehead when I came home stressed.
4. He kissed my sex before he made love to me.
5. He leaves hidden post-its on my laptop wishing me a good day.
6. He bought me books when he travelled.
7. He told me I was just enough for him.
47. My mother has no opinion on whom my brother chooses to date. Well, she’s bound to have many opinions about the woman my brother chooses to marry, but for the past twenty-seven years, my brother could bring home a blue woman and my mother wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.
48. How do you check a list that changes over time?
49. Perhaps she feared that if I married Ben, her grandson would be born a Minotaur.
50. I start to write on a piece of paper, “Dear Mom, he’s Black.”
51. I started to list my relationships from when I was thirteen to twenty-seven. In my calculations, I have dated tall men; short men; young and old men; red heads and blondes and brunettes; religious men; a man who hushed me when I spoke; a man who snored too-loudly; a man who liked to sniff my dirty underwear; another writer old enough to be my father; and a server at a four-star restaurant. I have dated over a hundred men and I will date over a hundred more.
52. Is there something wrong with Black men who date Asian women?
53. During World War II, Japanese prostitutes were treated better by African-Americans than White-Americans.
56. According to African-American female G.I.’s: “Some of these fools from the backwoods, who perhaps never had a girl in their lives, think they are living great with a little straight-haired girl fawning all over them. Some of them spend al their earnings on their girls and their families while their own relatives back home are suffering.”
57. Black women look at me curiously and I wonder if they are thinking the same thing.
58. There are certain kinds of Asian women, and I happen to fall under the International School-graduated, British-Accented, My-Parents-are-Rich in America kind.
59. If you are born in Bangkok, but ethnically Chinese,
Your genetics make you lighter
You are immediately worth more than someone who isn’t as light
According to advertisements on facial creams and cleansers
According to my mother.
60. “When I take him from the tournament to the country club, some of them reject us,” said Kutilda, Tiger Woods’ mother. “I said, Tiger. It’s their problem. It’s their ignorance. You cannot control other people’s actions or their minds, you can only control yours. And be proud of who you are.”
61. Famous Blasian celebrities with proud parents: Chanel Iman, Ne-Yo, Kelis, Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford, Amerie, Sean Paul, Will Demps, Rae Dawn Chong, Cassie, Kimora Lee Simmons, Karreuche Tran, Jhene Aiko and my future baby.
62. When do we claim Tiger Woods?
63. When will my mother claim me?
64. Confucius believed that marriage lies within the foundation of government, that is marriage has transformed strangers into families and societies together.
65. Perhaps I am the asshole that doesn’t consider what would happen to joining two very different families and cultures together. I wish I were the daughter that cared, that rolled over when her mother asked her to love the person that was picked.
66. There’s an awful moment when you try to fit a square into a circle.
PLOY PIRAPOKIN‘s work is featured and forthcoming in the Bellingham Review, Fiction International, the East Bay Review, the Asia Literary Review, the Griffith Review and more. She has received fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, the Anderson Center, the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts and others. She holds an MFA in fiction from San Francisco State University and lives in San Francisco.