Most times, my telling people my surname is Weeks (or, more explicitly, that I’m married to a white man) yields disbelief – or, as an Indian-South African telephone agent recently (virtually) accused me of identity-theft: “that can’t be you, the registered name is Mrs SM Weeks!” Of course, there are times when it attracts flat-out disapproval. Yet, often enough, it prompts people (as Dan has noted, usually black people) to expressly comment that I have done something “different” or “unusual” – maybe even asking me why not a black man or asking Dan if he paid lobolo (bridewealth/dowry). In case you’re wondering, he did.
But this blog post is about those times when it yields the rather amusing response of people treating me as though my middle name were “Interracial Dating Service”.
Whether I’m at Johannesburg International shopping for last minute gifts before boarding a plane to see my in-laws (really, “in-loves”) or doing fieldwork in deep rural KwaZulu-Natal, somehow this question finds me: can you find me a white man to marry?
Usually the question comes out in an exchange that goes something like the following iteration – a conversation I had with the black cashier at Out of Africa at Johannesburg airport.
Cashier: Are you together? [nodding at Dan who had just left to go to the bathroom, presumably after seeing Dan hand me his hand-luggage]
Me: Yes …
Cashier: [after a pause; her curiosity clearly getting the better of her] Oh, do you work together? [a common first guess]
Me: Oh, no … He’s my husband.
Me: Yes! [laugh] Really!
Cashier: How long have you been married?
Me: Just under two years …
Cashier: Wow! … Do you have kids?
Me: Not yet …
Cashier: Oh. [A brief, pregnant pause] Where did you meet?
Me: At university … in England …
Cashier: [Another pensive pause] You know, … I’d really love to meet a white guy. Can’t you find me one?
Me: [Laugh out loud; partly out of discomfort] Why do you want a white guy?
Cashier: I just do. I haven’t had much luck with black guys; they don’t want to marry … So I want a white guy who’ll marry me.
Me: Hmmm … Unfortunately, I don’t know any who are looking … But I hope you find someone soon.
The topic of some black women’s views of white guys (as successful and committed partners) vis-à-vis black guys (as drunks, abusers and unfaithful partners) is one that deserves its own post and will get one soon. What’s at issue in the present post is the fact that there is a market for consciously interracial dating. And, it’s not just one-sided, with some black women looking for white men!
Interestingly enough, this being mistaken for an “Interracial Dating Service” is not my fate alone. Dan was recently approached, at a friend’s wedding we attended in the US, by a cheery white guy who said in no uncertain terms that he wanted to meet a black woman.
As Dan recalls, the twenty-something good-looking gent (assisted by a drink or three) confessed to having been “spoiled” by his travels abroad and said he felt rather little compunction to go for the classic white American belle others had in mind for him to marry. He wanted a black woman who (all-too-stereotypically) embodied the rugged virtues of being “strong” and having “overcome”, as well as having a bit more “soul” than he was used to finding in these parts. He asked Dan for advice or introductions and was even curious to know “What it’s like?” to be with an African woman, a question Dan (less inebriated) judiciously ignored. Whether it occurred to him that there were eligible black women aplenty in his own USA, Dan wasn’t sure…
Had Dan and I only known, we could’ve referred these seekers to the numerous dating sites online: some for interracial dating, generally; some for black-white dating, in particular; and others even as specific as, “White Women-Black Men”. There’s a review on (or series of adverts for) the top ten sites in 2013 here.
Of course, these people looking to cross the relational colour line are by no means representative of the majority. (Even Dan and I fell into it with each other without specifically seeking it out.) However, it does suggest some desire out there for people to date people who don’t necessarily look or sound like them. Seeing someone who is in such a relationship must be just the nudge that some people need to make them articulate it in words. In that instance, Dan and I don’t mind being mistaken for an interracial dating service advert. We only hope that we’re a good ad – i.e. give interracial relating a good name – is all. And, while it bears repeating that we don’t think everyone should necessarily marry across the colour line to make the world a better place, we certainly don’t think this that has been called “the beiging of America” is a terrible thing either.
Postscript: Dan and I like to let our posts sit and “breathe” for a day, a week or even a few months – to see whether any further thoughts come to mind, and to make sure when we post them we are really ready to do so. About a day after writing this one, as if a confirmation that this was a story worth telling, I bumped into a black lady who maintains the bathrooms by a beach we had visited. She asked me if the white guy in the car I had gotten out of was my boyfriend. To which I responded that he was my husband. With glee, she and her friend giggled and she emphatically said, “Get me one!” After the normal banter I like to enter into with the ladies who ask for my “services”, the most reason I could get out of her for her desire to be partnered with a white man was, “There’s love there!”
Here’s to not taking the whole issue too seriously and recognising that, at the end of the day, it’s just about “the love connection: the vibe between a man and a woman”!