I‘m sure the real world does this too, but people at the University go a little crazy around Valentine’s Day. There are flowers for sale and speed-dating events and date auctions and something called the Kappa tuck-ins for all the ladies who want the honor of doing whatever the hell happens when Kappa Alpha Psi tucks them in. There are “The Vagina Monologues” and “Yoni Ki Baat: South Asian Vaginas Speak” and the poetry slam that features the Penis Monologues. And, as always, there is a favorite pastime of the University community: dialogue. I think there have been and will be as many events in the two weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day as there will be drunk people skipping class on St. Patrick’s Day.
I can’t criticize the hysteria too much. I did get a date with my first choice in a speed-dating event last Friday, and I can only hope she’s as intrigued as I am. But I can say that I will never again participate in a discussion about relationships and expect to gain something from it. (Unless, of course, that something is the phone number of the best-looking girl in the room, but that’s beside the point.)
Relationship conversations are just something single people do to pass time. What do women really want? Do men really think about sex that much? Why are girls or guys at the University so stuck-up? Sadly enough, during my four years at this university, I’ve been involved in my fair share of these discussions. Usually, I end up getting sucked into representing men at large, which is something I should not do. I can only speak for myself.
Last week, I attended a dialogue on interracial dating, which is like a normal conversation about relationships except a little more venomous. Race and gender issues are combustible enough on their own; imagine what happens when the two are mixed. I didn’t expect to learn much from the discussion and I didn’t.
Why don’t I expect to gain anything from an interracial dating dialogue? Well, because I already have my dating preferences and barring an unparalleled societal shift, they will stay the same. I’m not alone in this sentiment. Because of various social forces, I’m more likely to date black women than those of any other race, ethnicity or whatever other category there is, unless someone else is compelling enough for me to put up with the hell I’ll catch for being with her. That’s an open-minded, yet realistic perspective. What more can the world ask for?
Eventually the conversation turned into a small-scale shouting match. Women in the room got increasingly heated over male behavior. I completely ignored the people who had already raised their hands to comment so I could make my points and counterpoints immediately. Women of color, the majority of the crowd in the room, started attacking – with some justification – the overwhelmingly white standards of beauty in the country. I decided that the few white women in the crowd shouldn’t be alienated and said, “If a woman is good-looking, a woman is good-looking regardless of color.” That’s tantamount to saying “I like white women,” which for a black man in front of mostly black women is tantamount to saying “I’m a white-woman-loving traitor.” People were starting to get angry. It was kind of fun – just not very productive. Just imagine if we’d thrown issues of sexuality in there, too.
The moral of the story is that I like who I like, and if you don’t like it, you can kick rocks. Assuming you make an effort to get to know individuals, and not just stereotypes of people, you should feel the same way about your relationship preferences. If I can leave you with one piece of advice on this holiday – which is nothing more than a red and pink, lace-veiled, economic stimulant – it is this: Don’t listen to all of the crap that other people tell you about women, or men, or black people, or white people or Asian people – get to know individuals. If you do that, then you are justified in sharing my disdain for generic relationship conversations.
Betts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.