Eds. Note: Read columnist Deonna Kelli’s response to this piece: “Dating White, Dating Brown”, here.
“I have some questions about things you’ve written about,” John asked last week. We were chatting during happy hour at the annual conference where we meet and catch up. He is one of few white folks in my circle of friends.
“It was an article in which you talk about how difficult it is to date,” he continued. “I don’t understand. You’re smart, attractive, and confident. Do you feel like its Los Angeles? Do you only date Muslim men?”
“Dating in Los Angeles is harder than other cities I’ve lived in. And no, I haven’t dated Muslim men exclusively. Though, when it comes to choice, which is what online dating is all about – that’s what I would prefer. But I am open.”
“What about dating white guys?”
“I don’t date white men,” I state frankly.
The phone rang, waking me from deep morning slumber. Naturally, I don’t pick up, though when I see the number my heart skips a beat.
It’s my college roommate. She never calls me. In the past decade since graduating, our lives took very different paths. The only times I hear from her are for celebrations or deaths. She called me for her engagement, marriage, baby one, and baby two. What else could be left – it must be sobering news.
Sure enough, a text message follows: “Give me a call as soon as possible.”
This Ramadan has been hard. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough, and the wondering why piety doesn’t entail feeling more.
It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.
This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.
He was undoubtedly attractive – tall, lean and muscular, caramel colored skin, full lips, high cheekbones that framed his deeply intense hazel eyes. But his black leather jacket, felt fedora, acoustic guitar swung over his shoulder and beatnik poetry journal in his back pocket were really the accessories that put me over the edge.
He had a very expressive face but there were two expressions that stuck out the most – an affable, goofy grin, and the furrowed brow intensity of a poet deep in thought. The thing that everyone noticed about him off immediately was his strong New York accent – though he’d never been to New York in his life. Let’s call him Jay.
We had met in the world music section of Amoeba Records when I was visiting San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury for a weekend. Our eyes locked over Bollywood records. He said he loved old-timey Bollywood too. I asked if he was Desi, and he said he wasn’t though he got that a lot.
I’ve never been one to get along with conventionally attractive people – probably a residual internal bias against the “popular” crowd in grade school that incessantly teased me for my Otherness. As an adult, my wariness of attractive people has manifested in awkward conversations (which I’ve masked well with my quirky personality… I hope).
Interviews are the worst – whether I’m interviewing for a job or being interviewed by the media. If the person I’m supposed to make eye contact with is attractive, I know immediately that the interview will go badly. Fortunately, in my line of work as an activist/organizer, I don’t interact with ridiculously gorgeous people too often.
It’s not that I have a crush on them – it’s just that attractive people have the ability to make me lose all my conversational skills. (It almost makes me empathize with those religious types who argue that women should be covered up to keep the male of the species from getting distracted. Almost.)
This is why it should be no surprise that I have terribly awkward doctor visits. Because my doctor is incredibly attractive.