"Not my type," she said, nodding at the cocktail waiter who'd just taken her Gibson order. "Just because he's black doesn't mean I automatically find him sexy."
Lisa stretched out languidly on the velvet chaise lounge. She reminded me of a slice of angel food cake -- fluffy, lo-cal and so, so white. She played with a tendril of her platinum bleached hair and eyed me expectantly. "So ask away."
Realistically, I wondered how much I could ask her. I don't know Lisa; I don't know her boundaries. Reading my mind, she gave me a playful shove and began to talk. Her penchant for black men is not particularly shocking, she insisted. It's just that no one feels comfortable talking about it but her.
"Everyone's afraid they'll say the wrong thing -- be accused of racism. And I have such liberal friends! But I know they talk about Darryl and me behind my back. I know they think I'm fucked up."
"Are you fucked up?" I asked, deciding to take the plunge. "Maybe you're a racist because race is a factor in your choice of sex partners."
"Are you fucked up?" she returned. "You said earlier you don't go out with black guys because you don't find them attractive. Maybe that makes you a racist too," she countered.
She had a point. I don't find blond men attractive either -- I wondered if that made me a colorist. "Maybe I am," I acknowledged. "I was mugged once, and I hate the fact that I still cross the street to this day if I see a black guy on his own walking toward me. I have a real guilt trip about it."
"Yeah, and don't think he doesn't notice your little detour," she said.
There was a little silence. "Well!" I said brightly. Our conversation was getting off to an aggressive start. "On a different note, don't you think it's odd that the waiter forgot to ask me if I wanted a drink?" I said. "He was so dazzled by you --"
"And the fact that I'm so blond? Yeah, it happens. But I think that just means he's a bad waiter. I'd never hire him." She leaned back and lit a cigarette. "Stereotypes, you know. Black guys going for the blond babes. When you date a black guy, you become really aware of the truth behind clichés."
Lisa grew up in a trailer park, with her very blond sister and white-bread parents, "straight out of the Archie Bunker realm." She's now a caterer for private events and says she doesn't meet many black people -- male or female -- nowadays. "My father said 'nigger' and 'spic' all the time," she commented. "It was horrible -- I knew it even then. I had a poster of Eric Estrada on my wall, and my dad used to say to my mom, 'See, she's going to go off and marry a spic.' So, yeah, I think maybe initially I had this idea that I'd piss him off, when I first started dating black guys. But now I don't really think about it."
She met Darryl, her current boyfriend, because, as she said, she "just pulled up a chair at this restaurant and started to talk to him." Later he told her he was shocked at her action because white women never spoke to him, or always seemed afraid when they did. "And talk about stereotypes!" laughed Lisa. "You should hear what Darryl used to think about white women." That they all listened to Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan, got their hair highlighted and had no knowledge or appreciation of what the black man goes through. "Your little cross-the-street story? Imagine dealing with that every day," she said, watching me as I winced guiltily.
She said Darryl had ranted about a certain group of white women "who only went out with black guys, as a way of getting back at their racist fathers, or being really taboo among their friends." She cackled for a moment, then her upturned lips stretched to a serious line. "That may have been true at one time about me," she said, with a touch of the pious convert. "But not anymore."
I decided to let her slide on that one. "What about these stereotypes about black men and sex? Is it really better?"
"What every white woman really wants to know?" She sat up. "Here's the truth: absolutely true. All of the sterotypes are true. Especially the main one: They really are hung."
"You do realize this is every white man's nightmare. Is that one of the things that attracts you to black men, do you think?"
"No, not initially," she said, shrugging. "But yeah ... I have to say, it's a real blast. I love big dicks -- always have and always will." She craned her neck around the lounge. "I would love that martini right about now."
"Same here," I said. "Maybe when he comes back I might actually be able to order."
"It's funny," she continued. "No one ever asks me these questions. I put it all down to fear -- fear of talking about race and sex in the same breath. OK, here's another cliché: that they last longer. That's totally true. That they have endurance -- yup. That, on the whole, they're less uptight about sex and just seem to enjoy it more than white men. Last night, I was lying against Darryl, with my leg just right up against his, and it was really beautiful -- very exotic, very Mapplethorpe-looking." She paused, contemplating the perfect cashew she had ferreted from the crystal bowl. A glimmer of self-consciousness flickered across her face. "I guess there is this whole taboo part of it."
Lisa says when she goes out with Darryl, simply walking down the street, she notices the many stares and double-takes. "All the time," she said. "Not subtly, either." But they've only had one frightening confrontation. "We were in Berkeley. And this black woman started following us down the street, calling Darryl all these names -- 'Uncle Tom,' 'traitor to the cause,' 'wannabe white boy.' It was weird! She was really pissed off."
I was about to mention that though the black woman's behavior was totally inappropriate, there was a long history of black women being legitimately upset by watching black men ogle blond chicks ... but just then the waiter appeared. Setting her martini down with a flourish, he winked at her. "Sorry about the wait," he said. "This is on the house."
"Could I have --" I started, then stopped, as Lisa giggled loudly. The waiter had already moved on to the next table.