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7 Rules for Interracial Dating

Updated on December 14, 2012

I fully believe that folks are folks are folks. Folks have similar problems, similar faults, similar needs, and similar desires. Folks sometimes ask me to give them advice on interracial relationships because of my 23-year relationship with a gorgeous woman with beautiful eyes, who just happens to be black with a touch of Cherokee. These folks think I’m on expert on interracial romance because of the novels that I write and my life experiences of dating the rainbow. I’m no expert, but I will try to give you some advice on dating other folks.

I have a discussion group at Goodreads.com, and I have seven rules for that group that coincidentally apply to folks who wish to date interracially.

1. Bring a sense of humor.

Why do you need a sense of humor? You’re going to need it. Let’s first establish a few important facts. Folks are funny. You are folks; therefore, you are funny. You are. You can’t help it. Accept it. Savor it. I believe that folks who wish to date interracially transcend funny and go on to hoot status because they don’t give a hoot about the status quo—the way things are in the dating world. They’ve decided to buck the system, to go against the grain, to throw caution to the wind and care about someone else with their hearts instead of their eyes.

Because you are reading this, I will assume you are a hoot. The world needs more funny folks like you because you have learned that your eyes only see what they want because your eyes are greedy and shallow. Your heart, on the other hand, sees what it needs, your heart gets what it needs, and your heart usually keeps what it gets. Your heart generally has a good, strong grip on what it needs because you have given your heart muscle many workouts over the years.

By the way, the folks you’re interested in getting to know better are a hoot, too. You just don’t know it yet, but you will once you start bucking this romantically challenged, homogenized relationship universe of ours.

Humor in any relationship will help you through the tough times—if you have any. The world is funny, too, and the times they are a-changin’. Maybe no one will even blink if you date interracially. I won’t. Will you? I have learned to live a little, love a lot, and laugh even more because life is a nonstop hoot if you let it be. If any small-minded folks mess with you, smile at each other, and you’ll eventually crack up. If you want to date interracially, bring a sense of humor.

2. Bring an open mind.

If your mind is closed, you won’t find an opening. Get over yourself and your preconceived notions of what other folks are and aren’t. Don’t believe the hype, the stereotypes, and the warnings of others concerning those people: “Oh, you don’t want to go out with one of them. Girl, I heard that they are this, that, and the other.” Instead, tell yourself, “I’m a folk, and that person is a folk. We’re folks. We already have something in common. And we’re funny. We’re a hoot, and we deserve to face life with a smile together.”

If you truly have an open mind, you won’t say inappropriate things. You won’t say, “Hi there, other-raced person.” You won’t say, “I don’t usually do this.” You won’t say, “This is so not me.” You won’t say, “I’m going through a hate-my-own race phase, right now—want to join me?” You won’t say, “I’m looking to broaden my cultural horizons.” And you definitely won’t say, “I’ve always thought you were cute … for a white guy.” Sound familiar? Truly open-minded people don’t even think those things.

Open your head and allow your natural curiosity to rule you. Become five years old again. Remember when you were playing in the sandbox? There are little plastic buckets and maybe a Tonka truck inside the sandbox, and you’re building a sand city to demolish later. Look at the kid next to you. That kid in that sandbox isn’t someone who will one day break your heart, jump up and down on it, and hand it back to you. That kid is a kid, nothing more, nothing less.

If you go through the sandbox of life with an open mind, you can see other folks as folks, nothing more, nothing less. When you look at folks with your heart, you don’t see race. Maybe you see a scared, shy, nervous person just like yourself. Why, when you really look at folks, it may be like looking in a mirror. And since folks are folks are folks, you can be open-minded, scared, shy, nervous, funny folks together, right? If you want to date interracially, bring an open mind.

3. Bring brownies with walnuts.

I’m not kidding about this rule. It may be the only rule you remember.

Food is the ultimate icebreaker at the beginning of any relationship because folks get hungry and need to eat. My wife and I shared a Happy Meal at McDonalds 23 years ago on our first date. Sure, that McDonalds is now a Japanese steakhouse, but so what. Chicken McNuggets with hot mustard sauce got us started. I don’t know anyone who would turn down an opportunity to eat some McDonalds fries, do you?

And don’t worry about whether other folks will want to eat at Chubby’s Barbecue or the Carriage House Inn or Stavros Pizza or China Wok. Just … go. Folks eat at least something from every menu on this planet if they’re hungry enough. But what if the folks you want to impress don’t like your culture’s food? Food is food is food, right?

There are many advantages to eating out with new folks, especially if you’re nervous. If you’re eating, you don’t have to talk the entire time. You can actually fill those awkward silences with another bite of hummus or a spoonful of egg drop soup. If you want to date interracially, bring brownies with walnuts.

4. Hot tea is optional.

My father told me that if a woman couldn’t hold my attention over a single cup of coffee or tea, she wasn’t worth my time. I think someone invented Starbucks and other coffee houses just for this purpose. If the other folk says, “I’m not really that hungry,” offer liquid sustenance. All folks need hydration, right? Go down to the nearest Starbucks and order yourself a tall half-skinny half-one percent extra hot split quad shot in a venti cup with the room filled with whipped cream and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. I have no idea what you’ve just ordered, but as you sip whatever is in that cup, you can talk about all the mess you just put into your coffee with someone new. If you want to date interracially, hot tea is optional.

5. No experience is necessary.

Please don’t go reading any how-to books like The Interracial Dating Book for Black Women Who Want to Date White Men or white man's guide on how to get a hot black chick! or How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men or Dating for Dummies. Those are actual books currently available on Amazon.com.

Think about it: how do most relationships get started? Two folks meet and they talk. Sometimes they eat and talk. Sometimes they drink and talk. They find common interests. They smile. They laugh. They flirt. His hand brushes hers, or her hand brushes his, there’s an awkward moment with the check, you both stare at each other’s shoes … You don’t need a manual to know how to do that, do you? Experience is the best teacher. Would you rather read about how to meet folks or go Nike and just do it?

Dating is a lot like fishing. I learned to fish by fishing. I didn’t read a how-to book. I baited my hook and cast out the line. Sometimes I got a nibble, sometimes I got a strike, and occasionally, I caught one. Oh sure, I released some back into the wild … Have I just described your social life? Dating is, indeed, like fishing. You bait your hook, cast out your lines, and try to catch a keeper.

What am I really saying? Learn to date interracially by dating interracially. Bait your hook—you decide on the bait. Brownies with walnuts and hot tea always worked on me. Brown eyes and a smile, too. Shyness and a soft, whispery voice. That’s some good bait, too. Then cast out your line. And please don’t use any of the following pick-up lines, especially you gentlemen folk.

  • The voices in my head told me to come talk to you.
  • I like your gum.
  • Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ten I see.
  • I don’t have a library card, but can I check you out?
  • Your name is Leslie? Look, I can spell your name on my calculator!
  • Are you Asian/Jamaican/Hispanic etc.? I love Asians/Jamaicans/Hispanics!
  • I have amnesia. Do I come here often?
  • Wouldn’t we look cute on a wedding cake together?
  • Baby, you are so fine I could put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit.
  • Well, here I am. What were your other two wishes?
  • My lips are Skittles. Wanna taste the rainbow?
  • Your name must be Mickey because “you’re so fine you blow my mind hey Mickey … hey Mickey.”

Want to know the pick-up line I used on my wife in 1989? I don’t know if I should tell you. I’m thinking of having it trademarked because it’s that powerful and might lead to a long-term relationship, two kids, a mortgage, and a dog. You really want to know? Okay.

I said … “Hey.”

I told you it was powerful. I said, “Hey,” and then she smiled. I smiled back. She looked down at my shoes. I looked down at her shoes. And then she said, “Can I have your phone number?” Lines don’t have to be complicated. Simply say … hello. If you want to date interracially, no experience is necessary.

6. All rights are reserved.

You have the right to remain … yourself. In the immortal words of Billy Joel: “Don’t go changin’, to try to please me."

I speak from a great deal of experience here. I once thought that I had to immerse myself in Amy’s culture to win her heart completely. I bought subscriptions to Ebony, Essence, and Jet magazines. I did. I read them cover to cover. I changed my radio station from WROV, the Rock of Virginia, and the John Boy and Billy Show, to Vibe 100 and the Tom Joyner Morning Show. I started watching “106 & Park” on BET. I tried to learn how to dance. That was a lost cause. I parted with all my flannel shirts and corduroys. I bought Flavs and Stacey Adams. I grew a mustache and a goatee. I read and saw Waiting to Exhale three times. I tried eating chitlins and faked liking them until I learned that Texas Pete hot sauce was the key ingredient. There were T-shirts out back then that read: “It’s a black thing—you wouldn’t understand.” I wasn’t trying to act black. I was trying to understand.

Thankfully, Amy stopped me before I went any further. “I love you because you’re different,” she said. “I like our contrasts. You’re like no one I’ve ever known before, and if we keep our differences, we’ll never run out of things to talk about. Ever. Even though I make fun of some of the music you listen to, I like that you listen to different music. And even though I think you watch whack TV shows, I know that one day I’ll own the remote so it won’t matter what show you want to watch. I know that you’ve tried to learn how to dance, but seriously, stop trying and just hold me, man …”

They say that opposites attract. While Amy and I have plenty in common, our differences endear her to me and me to her the most. “Stop trying and just hold me, man …” If you want to date interracially, all your rights are reserved.

7. Void where prohibited.

This one sounds ominous. Annulled, cancelled, invalid, negated where forbidden, banned, illegal, outlawed, or taboo. If you believe that dating interracially is taboo, don’t do it. If you believe that dating interracially is somehow better or more exotic because you believe it is forbidden, don’t do it. If you only want to take a walk on the “other” side to be rebellious, don’t do it. If you’re only dating interracially to get back at your ex, don’t do it. If you only want to be able to say, “I dated a fill-in-the-blank once,” don’t do it. If you believe that there’s some jungle out there where you can catch a really cool fever, don’t do it. If you have any doubts that folks are folks are folks, don’t do it. If you see folks only with your eyes and not with your heart, don’t do it.

Notice that I didn’t say, “If you know your family and friends are dead set against you dating interracially, don’t do it.” That thought might factor into your decision, but it shouldn’t be the overriding factor because you could lose the love of a lifetime. That’s what makes love colorblind. My mother-in-law wanted to kill me in 1989, but love (and a grandson) found a way to heal her hatred. My friends disagreed with my choice of a girlfriend, but love found a way for me to find new and better friends. Ignorant, petty people still give us a hard time from time to time, but love finds ways to keep us safe, happy, laughing, and smiling.

Dating interracially should not be some phase or some experiment or some game you play for kicks. I have heard far too many folks say: “I’m just sowing my wild oats” or “I just want to see what it’s like” or “I want to see if the grass is greener on the other side.” Just as you should do in any relationship, take dating interracially seriously. Don’t front. Don’t fake the funk. Don’t be a player. Go in with your whole heart, or don’t go in at all.

By now, I’m sure you realize that these seven rules are for any type of relationship, interracial or not. Bring a sense of humor. Bring an open mind. Bring brownies with walnuts. Hot tea is optional. No experience is necessary. All your rights are reserved. Void where prohibited.

And always, always remember from this moment forward that folks … are folks … are folks.

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