Zac is a Facebook friend of mine, quite smart, quite cute, and has a lot of deep thoughts. He hails from Chicago. Hit him up on Facebook here.
I never had a type. Sure, I remember those conversations; I just didn’t have anything to contribute. Like anyone, I could list those qualities I’d like to find in a significant other- but that wasn’t really the point was it? Yeah yeah, you want a girl with a sense of humor but what’s your ‘type’? Who moves you, instantly? What sort of woman captures your attention immediately and makes you imagine what it might be like to know her personally? Intimately? Who makes you want to be perhaps, more than you are at present, so as to merit her attention?
For some time I felt like identifying a type seemed a little arrogant. As if, by describing my type I am also saying that anyone not matching that description can go kick rocks. That didn’t feel right. At least not for me.
I didn’t speak on those women I didn’t know or relationships I hadn’t experienced- but as I got older there was an undeniable pattern. And while I knew it, I hadn’t really voiced it. The truth was I loved black women.
My reluctance to sing it from the rooftops was because, again, like in my youth, it felt off. As if I were suggesting all black women were the same. That would be insulting. Or that I freely transferred my emotions from one relationship, in anticipation of the next -wherein the women were of the same ethnicity. Again, insulting.
It wasn’t until a girlfriend asked me about it, after learning that she wasn’t the only woman of color I had been in a relationship with. “So, you only date black girls Zach?” she asked. I remember feeling defensive, although her tone was playful. I told her “Yes” but more importantly, for the first time, I explained it.
My parents were divorced when I was two, my mother remarried when I was eight. My stepfather, Alonzo, is a black man. Father to two daughters, who were at that time, ten and twelve.
In an instant my world was taken over by New Edition, candy curls and box braids. My mother was an Opera singer, who was now teaching voice, and as a young boy I was learning to play piano and sing. I had no idea how to play ‘Mr. Telephone Man’ but I would learn. They made sure of that.
My mother’s family was small, and I wasn’t close with my biological father- so holidays and all special occasions were spent with my new extended family. (I had no idea green beans could taste so good.) My stepfather had two sisters and three aunts, they loved to cook, and laugh and tell stories. They also shared painful moments from their lives, pain caused by discrimination and racism, physical pain in the case of my great aunt, who as a little girl marching with her mother, was hit by a police water cannon, throwing her to the ground, shattering her tiny hip. She would limp the rest of her days. I was ten when my mother told me what had happened to her. She was tucking me in when I asked. I remember it vividly. I cried. It was the first time I cried for someone else.
I was being exposed to heavy truths, to great joy, to courageous women, I was learning and listening and loving. And being loved. The ‘being loved’ part is no small thing. I’ll never forget being thirteen and having my sisters force me to play and sing in front of some of their friends. “You can really sing Zach!” It was a silly moment, but it was so much more for me. I was being encouraged, and supported, and loved. I’ve concluded that it’s selfish, but significant, I was being told that there was something special about me.
I’m hardly the only person who plays the piano and sings, or sees the world the way I do, or has the interests that I have or finds humor in the things I do, or wants to fight the fights I do, or wants to love the way I do- but in being made to feel special I found the courage to be more than I was ever going to be- and being clear about the qualities of the black women that I regarded as beyond special, I was only too eager pursue such a woman in my personal life.
Understanding where your true happiness exists, and why, and then working to be worthy of it, is a journey I’m so fortunate to be on. A journey that only exists because of amazing black women. And New Edition.