You are a girl who looks like the world," a friend once told me.
I knew what she meant: My caramel-colored skin and curly hair, the product of a '70s-era marriage between a white Midwestern woman and a black Southern man, marked me as the living embodiment of the triumph of love at the time. And my biracial heritage gave me a vantage point to see the world from different perspectives.
It reminded me of seeing so many successful and powerful black males — politicians, businessmen, entertainers — who appeared alongside lighter-skinned, sometimes white female companions. It wasn't for me, so I either outright rejected black men or begrudgingly went on dates with them only to write them off well before the dessert course arrived.
Caucasian men were another problem: I didn't believe they saw me as a potential romantic partner, given that I knew so few white male/black female couples.
And although I socialized and worked with white men, the romantic relationships I entered into with them were brief and unremarkable.
I didn't trust them either, assuming they saw me as a novelty, as a way to sample another culture, or as a stand-in for all black women.
In hindsight, my distrust of men didn't get me far.
I hadn't yet learned that giving others the benefit of the doubt was an important part of finding love, both from others and within myself.I was ignorant that appearances could be both deceiving and alienating — that my racialization of romance kept me at arm's length from deeper intimacy. I have proof: a letter I wrote to "my future daughter" when I was 11 years old.Not trusting that white or black men would see beyond my skin color let me stay apart, aloof, even a little superior. There it is, in proper preteen cursive handwriting:"When I grow up, I'm going to marry a surfer with blond hair and brown eyes.It gave me an excuse to overlook the fact that I had trust issues with all men, that my hesitations and presumptions were less about fears of being rejected and more about my anxieties over really being seen. In my mid-30s, I met and married a dark-haired white Australian. He's not going to be a Mexican."Before you judge me, know that I'm a Mexican-American myself. As a child in Oxnard, California, a coastal town near Malibu, I loved hearing my father recite the works of 19th-century poet Amado Nervo, eating (fried pork skins) as an after-school snack, and showing off my limited Spanish slang.He was well-acquainted with interracial relationships — two of his sisters had babies with men of color — and was generally less concerned with appearances than I was. " he once pointed out after I'd tried — and failed — to get a tan while on vacation. But as much as I treasured those memories I felt only a Mexican family could create, my parents — especially my dad — told me that, for my own good, I should look outside of our culture for love.One day when I was 8 years old, I tagged along with my dad to his job as a janitor at the city airport. Although he had worked there for three years, many people didn't know his name.