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A fresh shave followed by a ton of cologne (he’s Dominican, and it’s important to him that people know he’s coming, and know he’s there), and then blow-drying his hair to get that perfect coif. My pops would explain that as a young man in the Dominican Republic, you had to work so hard perfecting yourself, preparing your mask, so that when a young European or American woman came through, she might choose you, as he would put it, might take you home with her, like that was your only way out. At 30, I woke up one day, took a deep breath, looked at her and thought, “I don’t think I can date white women anymore.”Maybe I wouldn’t have broken up with her if it hadn’t been for all the judgment coming my way.Even years later, my pops still took longer to get ready than my mother and sister combined, delicately taking a black Sharpie to any stray grays that might pop up in his goatee. Later he made his way to New York City, where he met my mother, who is Colombian. Over the years I have dated brown women and black women, but mostly white women.First, some history: When I was a child, watching my pops get ready to go out was something to behold.He would spend hours preparing his mask every morning for whatever crowd, person or community he faced.Clearly I was first and foremost a black man to her… She probably wouldn’t have been having the conversation with a straight black guy either.As pick-up talk goes, it wasn’t even remotely promising. Maybe she wanted me to know that she had done well.I talked around it, mumbling about how I was trying to figure out who I was or whatever. Like the ones who — even after I’d been dating their daughter for six months — kept thinking I was from Puerto Rico. Or the ones who said upon meeting me, “Oh, I love ‘Buena Vista Social Club.’”Yeah, for sure, that’s a great movie, but so is “Gladiator.”And the ones who asked me if I speak Mexican. So is the father who opened the door and said, “Sorry, it’s not taco night,” and then closed it in my face, only to open it again because he was “just joking.”I’ve been with people in grocery stores who point to the dulce de leche and say, “Look, Chris, that’s you.” Actually, I’m lactose intolerant.

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I think I broke up with my last girlfriend because she’s white.

Which means that in the eyes of others, the color of the women I date is a big deal. Like I’m betraying my people if I date white women. I see people watching me with a stink eye, noses turned up, as if they think black and brown people would somehow be better off if I dumped my white girlfriend. Along with each watchful eye, the whispers of, “Pick a side, Chris, pick a side,” fill my already noisy mind. Yes, the black body has done more for society than it has gotten in return. How do I love as a brown body in the world in a way that makes everybody happy?

I started reading James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates and other black and brown authors looking for guidance, a road map, help on what it means to be a brown man in the world. Yes, society seems to want to embrace a lot of things associated with blackness without actually being black. If everyone is so woke, why are things so terrible? I fell for a white woman and she fell for me — simple as that — yet I feel as if I’m doing the wrong thing by dating her. Do white women find me attractive or do they see me as some exotic idea they should find attractive?

She had absolutely no ulterior motive and no shot with me. I hate any kind of exclusive or discriminatory thinking when it comes to race and sex, even when it works in my favor. But in reality as well as on TV and in movies, the highest-profile interracial couples have been white women with black men.

She must have read my mind when she made the disclaimer about finding white men attractive, too. She was a “chocolate queen,” but she was open to other flavors. But from a distance, I’ve noticed that when a straight white woman dates a straight black guy, it’s less likely to be part of a pattern, her were TV’s first interracial married couple, and they were played by Franklin Cover, a white actor, and Roxie Roker, a black actress who was also married to a white man offscreen (TV producer Sy Kravitz, rocker Lenny’s dad).

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