…but can he play Spades?

My best friend growing up is currently going through a divorce.  When I was speaking to her about it one of the things she told me was this, “You know Jessica, when we were growing up we never had to worry about our lights or gas being turned off, we always had new clothes for school, we had computers, we took vacations that’s just how we grew up. [My husband] told me one time that they had a fire at their place and the first thing he did was grab his one new outfit and ran out the door.  An outfit girl! Because he just didn’t have it like that. They grew up struggling. I could never wrap my head around it.”  She went on to say that the dichotomous lifestyles they came into their relationship with would be one of the major things between them in their marriage.  It was in how he spent money, it was in how he saved, it was in how he saw fit to spoil her, it was in his attitude that was determinant on his salary at the time.

I woke up with that on my mind and I wondered if I could ever date someone outside of my SES.  I posed the question, “would you ever date someone of the working class?” to my friends.  It was then that it occurred to me that most of my friends are similar in upbringing to me. There are some differences, but for the most part we grew up in the middle class doing things “normal” families do. We all went to college and many of us have advanced degrees.  We work professional jobs, we have insurance, we have cars and take vacations, we might not have a million in the bank but we are doing pretty okay.  Cleo and I got into the most in-depth conversation about it.

She noted that just because a guy was not a professional didn’t mean he was not a good guy. I agreed.  And then said, but what about how we raise our kids? Would he think french lessons and private schools were unnecessary?  And we both agreed that it isn’t necessarily what a guy does it is where his values lie and where his heart is in the end.  How does he treat me and what does he hold sacred (because that will determine how he lives life, essentially).  But then she asked a valid question, as we get older, will that change the types of men we come in contact with?  I said probably that and also as we become more educated.  We are both black women working towards doctoral degrees…will that matter?

I have noticed that being here in San Diego, things are just different.  People shop at Trader Joe’s and farmers markets, not Ralph’s.  We have sushi and sake dates, we don’t fry fish and play spades.  The lifestyle is different.  I told J I’m gonna have to move to Atlanta, DC, or Chicago to be able to find a plethora of Black men who can live in both worlds…

At the end of the day, I am an Atlanta girl.  I believe in Waffle House, I’ve been to the best (and the worst) strip clubs, I listen to Jeezy and Jay-Z and I say the n-word, I understand Hennessy and apple juice, I love cook-outs and watching the little kids dance…but I also know how to engage in intellectual conversation about politics, the economy, literature, and history.  It was never a conscious decision to “move up” or “out” of my SES, I just had a career goal and am doing what is necessary to achieve it.  The more I learn the more I see the good in both having things and not having things…and I want to continue living my life as a product of 404 and PhD.  I feel as though I live in two very different worlds, I’ve had to because there are so few people who appreciate both and can understand both.  So what are the odds that I can find a partner who does and can?

I honestly think that’s the #1 reason I really do not see myself dating inter-racially.  Sure he can get that sushi, Trader J’s, Coldplay world…but what about the first time I tell him about Sorority X? What about that one time he gets in my car and some old Baby D is playing?  What about being around my family and the circus that is?  Granted…everybody’s family is crazy when all together, but is he going to be comfortable around a bunch of loud rambunctious black people? Or is he going to shoot the shit, fix a plate, and ask if anyone brought cards?

J says that this Nacirema Dream has us buggin.  The fact that we live in a culture within a culture and we are anomalies of both.  The fact that we have less proximity to men who are like us and can relate to our world, and the fact that the men who do have been told to treasure women who don’t look like us.  I mean…I could go round and round in circles on this topic.  I could say well, I’ll just be Dr. Jess and maybe I’ll be dating a plumber…and maybe he’ll own the company or maybe he won’t.  I could say that as long as he treats me well that’s all that matters.  But the truth is that it all does, to some extent.  It’s not about who pays for dinner (trust me…I’ve had it paid for every time and also footed the bill every time, there is flaw in both situations) its about something much larger that doesn’t have a name.  I have to believe that God knows me best and knows what I need in a partner, spades and otherwise.


4 thoughts on “…but can he play Spades?

  1. I am in a interracial relationship and I can say that the color doesn’t matter. Yes there are differences when it comes to culture but the differences of culture is not as bad as the differences of up bring. It’s how we are raised more than anything. It’s that all initial value system. See people are looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. In general people are just people.
    We all crave, desire to be, loved, respected and needed. These things are human traits that are embedded in all of us. We crave these things in all our relationships. And color nor culture play a part in our desire for them. Now with that said, I say with our realization of this fact, we move on to what draws us to a particular individual in the first place. In general we are drawn to those that share basic similarities with us. This is also true when we choose our friends. When we first meet an individual we ask ourselves if this person or persons have anything in common with us. If we hang for a minute and find that there is no chemistry, we dump them and move on. However, to often we rationalize things with our heads instead of our hearts and end up bringing garbage into our lives. Human instinct is by far the most powerful alarm system. We all need to learn to pay attention to it. Now back to the point. How one was raised and with what values is by far the second most important key in a successful relationship. The first of course being instinct. This is not to say that a relationship can not work without these ingredients, it just makes things a whole lot harder if they’re not present.
    Well this is all just my opinion of course and who I am I? My opinion counts for very little, however, I would like to think life has taught my a few things

    1. I both agree and disagree with you for this reason: Yes, our upbringing is very important in shaping the people that we are but I challenge that our culture is intertwined in that. Not just race wise, because I am southern/black/a woman/etc. those things mean something within the culture that I grew up in and because of that my upbringing was the way that it was. I think it is difficult to separate the two.
      And do not devalue your thoughts by closing with “who am I, my opinion counts for very little.” You are absolutely important and worthy of being heard.

  2. My family had working class money but an upper middle class attitude; we went to summer camp, took music lessons, went to plays and museums. In some ways, Tex is blacker than I am–I don’t know how to play any card games and I didn’t start listening to rap music until college. So if anything, my parents raised us to make sure that we would marry up. Tex has a much grander idea of what it means to be comfortable than I do, but we don’t live together yet so it hasn’t been an issue, but I use coupons and buy generic groceries and he doesn’t. We’re both fairly conservative with our money though so I know we can come to a compromise. My sister and her fiance are a bit more extreme though. His family has real money–I’m talking summer house and boat, we pay for everybody to fly in for the holidays money–suffice it to say the wedding planning is going to be VERY interesting!

    1. LOL @ “blacker than I am” what does that mean 😉 I think that differences whether in race or SES can add to the relationship or add to the demise, but its the stuff we have in common that matters most. At least in my fairy tale idea of what love is.

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