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The other day, I was on the subway platform playing my usual game, and I caught the eye of a black guy.It felt different this time, like the flirtatious version of the “black nod” at work — an acknowledgement between two black employees who might not even know one another, but who have a shared experience.Whenever I’m standing on a subway platform, I play this game: I hover near a person I think is cute and try to slowly make my way over to him so we get in the same car. Like most of the girls in my class, I wanted attention from the boys.When we do, I look his way every so often to see if he’s staring back, to see if we’ve got what my best friend and I call “the affinity,” a mutual acknowledgement that we one another. But while they chased after blondes and brunettes, I was ignored.They’re in the streets, calling senators and congressmen, attending community board meetings, and holding sign-making parties. But while the political universes of my white friends are cracking open, I’m feeling more inclined than ever to cloister myself.I’ve gone on a few dates with white guys in the last few months, and the same thing always happens.No matter how close I held the mirror up to their faces, sometimes their good and liberal wells of understanding and compassion were simply inaccessible.On election night, I thought about all those moments, and I felt overwhelmed at the possibility of taking that on over the next four years.
Despite knowing I can feel intimacy with white guys, right now what divides us feels like a chasm.
It’s a pretty good way to pass the time from Brooklyn to midtown. I spent my childhood surrounded by black and brown kids, but when I got to high school, suddenly everyone around me was white.
And on those rare occasions a white boy kissed me in the copy-machine room at our high school, or when a white boy told me over the phone he had a crush on me, the acknowledgement made me feel chosen. The white boys I grew up with were cool: They rode their skateboards on private property. White men have preoccupied me my whole life, from the schoolyard to the subway, but these days I’m seeing them differently.
They smoked weed in their parents’ houses with abandon. If they wanted me, I thought, it was because I seemed free like them. Since college I’ve had five boyfriends, and all of them have been white. They’re no longer the object of my affection, a mirror for my self-worth, or an affirmation of my beauty. The night Trump was elected, I wrote about feeling lonely.
I wanted to be comforted — but I wanted it to be by someone who had an inkling of the anxiety I felt for my family, my loved ones, and for myself.