Sometimes Sorry Isn't Enough

I low-key wish I had a better, more legitimate, reason as to why I’ve been gone for so long, but the truth is that the past few months have really put me through the wringer emotionally and I couldn’t focus on repairing myself and my relationships and function as “Sexology Bae”. It felt disingenuous.

Instead of spending 18 paragraphs going into detail about everything that has gone wrong in my life recently, I found it better to welcome myself back into the blogosphere with a reflection and unpacking of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few months. My general goal as a writer is to write things I’d want to read, and this is something I really need to hear right now.

In relationships, romantic, platonic, or whatever, we’re bound to do things that hurt people we care about. Sometimes it’s by accident. Other times it’s an intentional lashing out because of our own pain. And occasionally it’s that fucked up I-know-what-I’m-doing-is-wrong-but-I-don’t-want-to-consider-consequences-right-now-because-I-think-the-short-term-benefit-is-worth-it. It might even be a combination of the three, but the point of it is that the result is the same—someone you care about is hurt and it’s almost completely up to you to fix it.

 Image of the author, 2018.

Image of the author, 2018.

I don’t believe in taking complete ownership over anyone’s healing but my own for a myriad of reasons, but we have some measure of accountability to people we’ve hurt. It’s hard to process when you’re as apologetic as can be but that isn’t enough. Vowing to change your actions—and actually changing them—might not be enough. I’ve had to sit with this feeling for a while now, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

What do you do when you’ve done all the “right” things and still get hit with “i’m good luv, enjoy” or the more timely “thank u, next”? If you’re me, you wallow in self-pity, completely isolate yourself, and pray that the other person (or people) comes around and doesn’t leave you hanging. And then you eventually face reality and start to move on with your life knowing that you’re the friend/ex/lover/whoever that someone thinks about when they have a flash of emotional pain.

Not owing anyone forgiveness is a very powerful sentiment and one that I agree(d) with, until I was on the receiving end of it. Don’t get me wrong, I still agree with it now, but it SUCKS to move on and take your L knowing that there’s a very good chance someone you once had an extremely strong connection with wants absolutely nothing to do with you ever again, and it’s your fault. We want to believe that we’re fundamentally good people and because we’re good people, our mistakes can and should be forgiven regardless of their actual impacts on another person.

This may come across as me trying to position people who hurt people as the true victims. Let me clearly state, I am not trying to do that at all. If you’re an abuser or otherwise intentionally cause people harm you can go straight to hell. What I am saying though, is that we are all people, capable of very genuine and very horrible sometimes-unintentional mistakes.

No one should feel obligated to hold grace for someone who caused them harm, though, and that’s a very painful lesson I think we all learn at some point or another in our lives when we’re the offending party. Right now is that time for me.

As someone who’s caring to a fault and more often than not puts the needs of others ahead of my own, I’ve mostly been the injured party in my dealings with others, not the one who caused hurt. But I’m on the other side of the fence now and working to heal the pieces of myself that were broken enough to allow me to hurt others and find comfort in these lessons. It’s easy to go on an apology tour with the people you’ve hurt and run down the list of ways you can (and have) change(d) in order to convince them you’re worthy of being part of their life again. It’s harder to do that and live with knowing that, at least for right now, it’s not good enough. And very well may not ever be.

Yes, time heals wounds and changes our perspectives, but I’m not banking on that. There’s always a chance it might not and I’ll end up in a worse situation than before trying to make amends with someone when I spent months or years refusing to confront myself and my actions because I thought it would all turn around for me.

I’m coming to terms with being okay with not being okay with what I’ve done and the resulting fallout. It’s something I have to carry with myself, and much like accepting any other flaw undoing the shame and stigma of being a kind of shitty person is sticky because it’s new territory for me. But I’m back, as much as I can be, with new perspectives and a lot of growth I’m ready to share with you all.

"My White Boyfriend" YouTube Videos and Self-Fetishization in Interracial Relationships

Talking about relationships has always been weird for me. I’m very private about my personal life--as much as someone who talks about their relationship and sex life on the internet can be. When my high school boyfriend and I broke up, because we were so public with our relationship, our breakup played out for the world to see and it was not pretty.

I’m more mature now and my current boyfriend is an incredibly private person so we both feel comfortable keeping our relationship business to ourselves. It doesn’t bother me when a couple likes to share details about their relationship, it just doesn’t appeal to me. Interestingly enough, I’ve had people tell me they thought my boyfriend wasn’t real until they met him because I don’t talk about him much on social media and almost no pictures of us together exist publicly. For context, two of the five pictures of us on my instagram have been posted in the last year, and we’ve been together for five years.

That being said, I love love and seeing happy couples warms my heart. I’m a huge fan of “relationship youtube”, the genre of videos about couples sharing their experiences, advice, or participating in different viral challenges. However, the videos of interracial couples (WoC/white men specifically) almost always make me very uncomfortable.

It sounds hypocritical to say that as a Black woman in a relationship with a white man, but the way those kinds of videos are marketed and find popularity in certain corners of the internet reveals something about the way that marginalized people in relationships with more social power than them can feel compelled to justify their existence. Most of the time, these videos are used to demonstrate how normal this relationship is, that ultimately love is love and skin color shouldn’t matter when you care about someone. That perspective doesn’t personally resonate with me, but I understand the logic.

At the same time, it comes off as if these couples are trying to demonstrate how unique and special their love is because it's different, which creates a contradiction that is off-putting to me. More than anything though, I find it annoying that were I not in an interracial relationship myself, I'd probably come across as a hater or a bitter bitch for critiquing how people express their love (I still might come off like that anyway). 

I think my discomfort is rooted in how in a lot of these videos, the women (mostly Black) seem obsessed with pointing out that their partner is white, almost as if they’re seeking validation from others? That’s an assumption of course, and probably isn’t the real intention of the videos, but that’s how it looks to me.

It seems counterintuitive to constantly point out how irrelevant race should be in a relationship and in the same breath exclusively make content that points out the differences between you and your partner. Filming yourself holding a sign that says “my partner is white and that’s special so you should pay attention to us” would have the same effect as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard people in these videos claim they’re just trying to spread understanding of the challenges that interracial couples face, which I can understand if you believe there's a market for that kind of thing (I don't) but I don’t agree that parading yourself as some sort of exotic "other" is the way to do that.

 16.4 MILLION results. 

16.4 MILLION results. 

There's so much to unpack about why people choose to invest in romantic relationships with people of other races. Be it a way to seek acceptance from the majority, preconceived notions about that race because of stereotypes (see: Fetishization 101), or whatever, the rationale unfortunately does not negate the social reality of that relationship. These relationships can't be seen as just love because we don't live in a world that sees people as just people, for better or worse. Navigating the world every day is a political statement for some of us, and our relationships reflect that. My relationship is not "just love" when people tell me that "mixed babies are the cutest ones" or ask me how my boyfriend feels about my natural hair.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I think its irresponsible to create content from a "we're all human" mindset when it's almost guaranteed that it won't be seen that way. To you, it's a cute video about sharing some aspect of yourself or your culture with your partner. To some of us, it looks like we're supposed to be entertained that your boo is looking at you like a sideshow act.

But I get it, I really do. For many people in interracial relationships, owning that and claiming it for others to see is a big deal, which I respect even if I don’t feel the same way. The landmark Loving v. Virginia case was only 50 years ago, and I’m not so naive to believe that there aren’t people today who oppose interracial couples solely because they believe that races shouldn’t mix. I know they exist, so I understand feeling like you have to defend your relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've had to defend myself and my relationship because I've been accused of self-hate. That in and of itself creates so much insecurity, I used to obsess over proving to people how "woke" my boyfriend was, how much he "gets it". I don't do that anymore because i learned that people who are going to have an issue with your relationship, regardless of their reason, are probably going to do it anyway no matter what you do. 

Even in those moments where my commitment to Blackness was challenged, my response has never been to show off how my partner loves me even though he’s never seen my real hair before or eaten some food from my culture. At that point, all I would be doing is reducing myself to the things I think people want to see from me because I’m Black in an attempt to normalize that. I'd be fetishizing myself for who's benefit?

I don’t take this position because I want us to adopt a race-neutral perspective when talking about relationships. In fact, I think that the healthiest relationships are those where all parties are able to acknowledge their privileges and empathize with the other’s marginalizations (if they’re not the same). To me, being in an interracial relationship should go beyond acceptance or tolerance. There is an extra layer of complexity when it comes to navigating our race-conscious world with a partner who's different from you. But if love is just love, we should be able to talk about our relationships without trying to justify their existence or prove a point to others.