April 5, 2010
Just last week, I picked up a provocative new book: Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women from Dating Out (Gallery Books, $24.99) by Karyn Langhorne Folan. A sister who’s a Harvard Law School grad, former law professor and novelist, Folan plays off the unspoken admonition many of black women have received for generations. The author herself is married to a white American man, and in her book includes real-life anecdotes from black and white men and women as she explores the “notions” that keep interracial dating off the table for many sisters.
But what interested me most is her last chapter: “It’s the Same Story Around the World.” Here, she writes how “Traveling the world—and meeting men from other countries and cultures—can offer American black women a new view of themselves as desirable.” She shares the stories of sisters who’ve lived in Europe, who talk about the very different dynamics of interracial relationships on that continent versus in the States.
Many mention feeling attractive, desired, and appreciated FOR their blackness, rather than in spite of it. Some talk about feeling “freer” to be themselves, both personally and in relationships, when they are abroad. And, as Black Women in Europe blog and social network founder Adrianne George reports: “I want black women to know that, in the wider world, we are perceived as smart, hardworking and talented. In short, the world thinks you’re awesome.”
Folan also writes about BlackGirlTravel.com, a tour company started by Southern California-based Fleacé Weaver that takes large groups of African-American women on trips to the French Riviera, Spain, Dubai, and beyond. Its signature tour is “Bella Italia,” which has for the past four years has taken “Bellas” (the female travelers) around Italy, where the ladies receive much love. (Which of us globetrotters hasn’t heard the line that Italian men LOVE black women?)
Says Weaver in Folan’s book: “Italian men are very affectionate, very aggressive. They love women of all nationalities and for black American women, it can be overwhelming. Black women aren’t used to the level of attention they get from the men in Italy. In a way, that’s kind of sad. But it’s also why the ladies have such a good time. It’s fun when 50 or so black American women descend on a popular club in Rome and find themselves to be quite literally the ‘bellas’ of the evening.”
I’ve written in this blog about a romantic encounter with a Frenchman in the South of France, being asked out by a young Italian after dining at his restaurant, and generally being treated as a fascinating creature by men of various backgrounds when traveling solo around the world. And of course, there are other tales. The point is, many times African-American women feel more love from men abroad than we get here at home. Perhaps guys in other countries and cultures see us as exotic and different; perhaps they’ve seen Hollywood films, heard rap songs and buy into stereotypes of black women as hypersexed and easy. Who knows? But many genuinely find us attractive—natural hair, mocha skin, and all. And what woman doesn’t want to feel adored and appreciated for who she is?
But at the end of the day, as Folan writes (and we all know), “regardless of race or nationality, all men are men.” Lord knows they ALL come with baggage and hang-ups and issues, as do we. Still, there’s something to be said for keeping our minds open when on the road. Folan wraps up her global chapter this way: “… For what we spend in shoes, we could have an experience that completely changes the way we see ourselves and what we know about the wide world. So start putting your shoe money aside, ladies, and go, woman, go!”
I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences. Do you find that when you travel abroad, you’re approached by men of different ethnic backgrounds? Are you more open to dating across cultures when you’re on the road than you are at home? And have your experiences with men of other races and national backgrounds shaped your perceptions about black women’s beauty and desirability? Do share!
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