My hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey is a cultural melting pot, known as a ‘stuck’ town, consisting of newly arriving migrant people who end up finding jobs and never leaving. My childhood coincided with the influx of arrivals coming from Puerto Rico that occurred during 1960-1980. Though New York City was probably the desired destination, we had our fair share of Puerto Rican families that remained behind in my little industrial corner of the world, and for that, I’m grateful.
I began my love affair with tan skin boys in first grade. His name was Jessie, and besides sharing the first name of my Dad, he stole my heart with his caramel skin, dark, thick eyes and smile.
Things would never work out between us, we did have an *interlude* later in life, after having became close friends after graduation and during mid high school. He was already on his way to becoming someone whose personality would not meld with my own. I knew we were doomed back in first grade, though, when I tore out a page from my favorite coloring book to give to him, and he happily took it and then commenced to color the entire thing black.
His lack of imagination and dark side tendencies were evident early on, but I digress. He’s still very attractive, unmarried, and…………..so where was I?
Since I don’t recall anything Earth shattering as I write this now, I presume life moved on after the coloring book incident, and I survived second grade without too much of a hitch. Jessie taught me that no matter what you give a man, or how good your intentions are, it doesn’t mean he’s gonna take what you give and do good things with it. Giving people important parts of yourself is no guarantee that the person will use those resources to do as you intended them to do with them.
Be mindful of giving.
It was easy enough to get over Jessie, as soon as I laid my eyes on Richard, my heart swoled up in my chest and popped. We were well beyond the first few days of the beginning of my third grade school year. The majority of us were familiar with each other since we had been in attendance at this school since at least first grade, others arrived for kindergarten and had been friends even longer.
Richard was in a new school, and visibly upset with wet eyes and ruddy cheeks from crying, his last name bought him to his present location, seated among other like last named children.
Little did he know he would be cursed with spending an additional five years in close proximity to each of us, end of the alphabet, folks. I felt bad to see him cry that day, and I attempted to cheer him up by taking my braids and tying them under my chin into a bow and crossing my eyes at him.
He laughed at my silliness and I fell in love with a boy whose family came from a place called Chile.
“Puppy Dog” eyes is what the teacher would say as he would pout at her, as he did when he hoped to get a pass for incomplete homework, and it sometimes worked. Brown, liquid, eyes, hovered beneath dark eye lashes and full dimples in his cheek when he smiled.
He sat behind me for nearly our entire grammar school career. We talked each and every day, about childhood things that parents do, and how teachers behave. Later on we would talk about what would become of us, grown, in high school and away from these halls that echoed when you spoke.
He would whisper in my ear, lower than the teacher’s lecture, of course. So much of what he said was one way conversation, as I sometimes didn’t know how to fix what was wrong, or what to say to bring back his smile, and gleam in his eye. We attended a strict private school with nuns who were also ninjas, but as kids can be inventive, we had our ways of communicating with each other when we needed or wanted to. School work was an after thought for most of us, support and friendship (and throwing candy across the room when the teacher turned her back) was what made school interesting and bearable. I looked forward to seeing him and a few others every day.
Richard and I were in choir together and I’m sure he would not know this but he’s the reason I quit singing as a child.
When our new music teacher was putting each of us through scales no one expected that Richard’s hormones had caused him to have a rich baritone voice that went up several octaves and down to a reverberating roar with ease.
His voice was so beautiful to me that it bought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t focus on my own vocal development, and after becoming frustrated and bored with spending my almost teen afternoons doing scales in a hot gymnasium, I quit singing forever. Most people who know me don’t know that I can sing. In a past life, I was a second soprano.
Richard, I, and the rest of our classmates went on with life and partied, fussed, and fought with each other on towards the unavoidable 8th grade graduation.
But not before I made him my first kiss.
Eighth grade graduation parties are way more interesting when Spin the Bottle is played. When he was challenged with his punishment of receiving a kiss from a girl, or some other dire consequence, I jumped at the opportunity to have justice served upon him.
I elbowed every girl in the room until I was front and center in front of him. I took great joy in placing my pooched out pucker lips on his as I stared into his pretty face.
I floated on that cloud for a long dam time.
Imagine my surprise when I found Richard on Facebook, now grown and married and living as a professional singer on the other side of the world.
Osvaldo had amazing hazel green eyes. He was tall and soft spoken. He spend most of his childhood in our alphabet circle also, though he wasn’t as chatty as the rest of us.
While rough housing over a text book as we were packing away our knowledge the for next year’s class, he struck me in my face by accident.
I yelped and the pain exploding in my face as my eyes filled with tears and pooled down my cheeks. I covered my face with my hands, and was busy making sure my nose was still attached to my skull, when I heard another howl.
I didn’t expect him to burst out in tears and get more emotional over his hurting me than I was over the shiner he gave me under my eye.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her….” was all that I could make out in between his sniffles and snot bubbles. I learned something from that………. boys sometimes don’t know their own strength and they hurt girls unintentionally due to their own ignorance.
The Spanish boys were very different from the Black boys, I would come to learn.
Spanish boys would come through to see you when they were interested.
Black boys would show interest and then go missing if a better prospect came along.
Spanish boys bought you home to meet their family, and would show you off to their friends, while Black boys would deny they knew you let alone gave a dam about you. Unless you were ‘claimable’ which isn’t a prize either, as you’re freedom to date others will be interrupted by the Black boy who thinks you ‘should’ be his, whether you want to or not.
Spanish boys had mothers who would greet you with a smile, and asked if you were hungry, and they insisted that you come in and eat something at the kitchen table. AND HAVE SECONDS!!
Black boys often didn’t have friendly mother’s, and didn’t have food to offer, or a home to invite me into, or so it seemed.
My mother spoke so derogatory about Black males that I actually didn’t date Black boys until……never mind.
My initial attraction had more to do with the way Latino boys would treat me than it had to do with physical attraction.
I can say for sure that I am ultimately attracted to men of color, the shade and tone don’t mean as much as the way I’m being treated. I am preferential to men of darker complexions of any race.
Spanish boys had feelings, and some point of reference when it came to women in general.
Spanish boys had sisters, Tia’s and Mothers whom they loved, revered, protected and respected.
Spanish boys had uncles, fathers, and brothers around who showed them how to treat a woman when you want the woman to like you enough to cook for you, clean for you, make love to you and maybe even marry you and have some babies ‘for’ you.
Spanish men remembered that they wanted women to be all that women are to men, and in order for that to happen there had to be some form of reciprocity.
My first official boyfriend was from Newark, Sammy De Jesus.
And there was David, the teenage Puerto Rican artist who lived around the corner from me. The neighborhood kids called him a nerd because of his glasses and conservative Jahova’s Witness family.
I thought he was sweet and a talented artist. I would ask questions about his artwork, and try to engage him in conversation for as long as I could just to have him talk to me. He was always polite but never seemed interested in me. It could have been the age difference or his religious restrictions or he just flat out didn’t like me. I still liked him, and his artwork, a lot.
You win some, you lose some…..
Latino men have feelings, “soul” and a sense of dedication and fulfillment when it comes to their family, including their women and children. Latino men aren’t solely wrapped up in expressing their masculinity by beating on their chest and peacock walking to make up for their feelings of inferiority.
IMO, Latino men have a similar background as Black men, though a little less damaged behind racial disenfranchisement and a lot more aware of individual civility, community engagement and shared culture.
Luis, red curly hair, blue eyes and all fire and tease. He was fine and he knew it.
Always flirting with me. Eating me with his eyes and introducing me to his latest girlfriend and a new pretty baby each summer.
I knew I could have easily rode that train but chose not too. He grew up to be a mechanic or something vocational and lucrative where he had enough disposable income to make either he, his penis, or that charm worth the while for several neighborhood girls to sire him children. Passed around penis, I call it ‘community property’, is like having no name canned goods from the grocery store. Anybody can have that!!
I like to look, but I don’t need to touch.
If you’ve never been on the party boats that are available nearly every week from the New York harbor then you don’t know what you’re missing. A party yacht circles the NY harbor with party goers who have two, sometimes three floors of various music playing.
I had gotten bored of my wall flower girlfriends and had wandered down to the Salsa floor while exploring the ship. Peeking my head into the door I saw men and women of various ages, sizes and shades spinning and twirling each other around the floor to Soca music.
Old danced with young, male and female, with intent and enthusiasm. A far cry from the Black men grinding on top of willing women on the R&B Floor/Hip Hop/Soul floor.
I love to dance, and can dance in several forms, but you won’t know that from how I behave on a dance floor if I’m not in the mood to be pawed on. The Spanish music floor was jumping, and before I knew it, a gentleman extended his hand and snatched me into the fray of gyrating hips and two steps.
From one strong set of hands to another, I was spun around and passed from person to person, some women, and men of various shades of brown skin, and beautiful smiles. Never once disrespected, these men were accustomed to leading during a dance and were comfortable with being in charge of what happens next.
I returned to my friends hours later, out of breath, and with a pocket full of phone numbers and invitations for drinks after the ship docked.
Having a man flirt with you in a language that you don’t understand is such a turn on to me.
Body language comes in handy during times like these.
“What are you staring at”, I yell across the street in Condado, P.R.
This same guy had passed me in the street before, the men of Puerto Rico are aggressive with showing their appreciation of a woman they find attractive but they would never approach me or my dark chocolate girlfriend. I had been in the county for almost a week and had yet to have as much as a greeting from a guy.
I caused a public confrontation with this particular one because stare, and stare, is all he would do. Why didn’t he speak to me? I was gonna find out!
He stops and crosses the street, followed by his companion. During our exchange I find out that the companion, his cousin, is from NJ, and speaks English. My new friend, who was now eager to speak to me, could not communicate with me much, since I don’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English.
We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to hang out with them later on in the evening for a tour of the island.
My friend and his cousin chatted each other up in the front seat while me and my guy were in the back seat. I saw him staring at me out of the corner of his eye, we exchanged smiles, but couldn’t do much else because of the language barrier.
We used our friends to translate but they were busy in their own conversation. I focused on him and smiled, he scooted closer to me and grabbed a handful of my hair and sniffed it. The way he exhaled his words into my hair made me sure that he found pleasure in the scent. He leaned forward and kissed me on the side of my forehead. I leaned into his chest and settled in to listen to his cousin’s detailed tour of the island he was giving us.
By the time we returned to the hotel, a storm had arrived that had knocked the power out on our half of the island. We invited them to our room to have drinks on the balcony and to wait out the storm.
I wasn’t able to focus much to what was being said. I was too busy looking off into the horizon at the homes that had lit candles to make up for the lack of electrical lights. The rain fell silently and in a mist, not so much rain as it was a sheen in the air. My friend and I sat silently while my friend and his cousin talked. His hand had been massaging my back and I wanted nothing more than to be elsewhere, somewhere alone with my new guy. Leaving my friend to go my own way crossed my mind but she was a safety first cock blocker and so I didn’t bother.
It was getting late (or rather early), and our flight was schedule to leave in the morning, so we bought the night to a close. As we stood on the side walk with those other two still talking, I regretted not being able to communicate with my guy; he was drop dead gorgeous, gentle and seemed very sweet.
American land line phone numbers were exchanged so we could keep touch once we returned to the states. Cheek kisses and hugs all around, until it came time for me and mine to say goodbye. He leaned in to plant a kiss on my cheek, as he had kissed my girlfriend on her check, except at the last minute I turned my head and his lips met mine.
We lip locked like they do on the big screen.
And then I threw my arms around his neck.
And then he picked me up under my hips and I wrapped my legs around his waist and just hung there (thigh muscles!)
And then I grabbed his face and stared into his eye before doing it again.
And then my hater ass girlfriend and his cousin pulled us apart.
He walked his way, and I walked mine.
I turned around to catch one more glimpse of him, and he turned back around too.
We both smiled and waved and walked out of this place and time.
Yeah, I have had a life long love affair with Latino men……….
And I don’t care if Ricky Martin is gay, he’s still my husband in my head……………*sings* If you’re not here…..by my side…..Only your love…keeps me alive……#Menudo.