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.