Reactions to my relationship — I’m dating a much older, white man by the way — are like having a stable of single, opinionated aunties ready to dish out their much unsolicited — and often inaccurate — assumptions. But only these people aren’t family. They’re associates, colleagues, and in some cases, a handful of friends, who draw conclusions about my interracial and intergenerational relationship based on limited knowledge and social media.
“Hey girl, you done came up!”
“Where’s your rich, white daddy at?
“This is Terrence. He’s dating a rich, white man.”
“You gotta find a sponsor like Terrence.”
“We all know Terrence is a well-kept man.”
I’m always confused — and frankly insulted — by the above comments regarding my relationship. Where did I “come up” from, because I didn’t realize I was down? I’d like to meet this mystery rich, white “daddy” I’m supposedly dating that is providing for me financially. The last time I checked, I was dating a very loving, caring, compassionate man with a huge heart. The only “sponsor” I have is Burrell Communications, a.k.a. my 9 to 5, like most people in the world. And as for “well-kept man,” who’s keeping me exactly?
Above all, their assumptions are problematic because they sustain white superiority, which positions Blackness as inferior.
As the famous Elvin Bishop song goes, “I fooled around and fell in love.” And anyone who has ever been in love knows that some of it is free will, but a large chunk of the process relies on an unconscious willingness enveloped by blissful insanity. Sure love is a choice, but who you fall in love with just sort of happens.
And I just sort of happened to fall in love with a 50-year-old Australian white man.
To the outside world, we couldn’t be more different. He’s a white foreigner and I’m a Black American. He’s 50 and I’m 31. He works in opera and listens to Renae Fleming. I work in social media and listen to EDM. And anyone who has ever been in love also knows that interlopers will unapologetically insert their judgments into your relationship. Although our differences are surface deep, people will leverage them as a way to propagate their perception.
My partner and I love to travel, and we travel well together. Last Christmas, I went to Sydney to meet his family and friends. And ever since then, we’ve been seeing the world together. This past year, we’ve been to Mexico City, Paris, Belize City, and Reykjavik. There’s a certain intimacy in sharing first-time experiences with your partner, and our travels have brought us closer together.
But our global excursions have also been used to fuel people’s negative perceptions, particularly why I’m with him.
There’s an assumption that my partner pays for everything, including all of our trips. There’s also the very naive assumption that I haven’t been exposed to global travel. People fuel this projection each time they rant about “my rich white daddy” and hint that I’m “coming up” solely based on pictures of our travels together. God forbid we are just two people who work hard, love and enjoy each other and want to see the world on our own dimes.
“Rich white daddy” is an assigned social status that counters Blackness. So, when people say “rich white daddy” they’re whispering “poor, Black boy.” My partner’s ethnicity is superfluous information, and his perceived wealth is an unsubstantiated claim that is birthed from his whiteness.
The thought process behind the phrase “coming up” is another way of assigning social status. “Coming up” in this context implies that my value has now increased simply by dating an older white man. The assumption completely disregards any global exposure I might have had prior to our involvement.
My family saw the value in traveling abroad, and promoted that in me. I spent a summer in Australia when I was 18 before I started college, and I backpacked through Europe right after my postsecondary graduation. I was afforded the privilege to learn so much more about the world and myself through traveling, and I can now continue these global lessons with my partner. “Coming up” parallels the same tired assumption that Black people are uneducated, incapable, and underexposed. The only “coming up” that needs to happen are people’s low thought conditions.
The entire “white sugar daddy” narrative paints my partner as emotionally inept and desperate, and villainizes me as “getting over,” “playing,” or “taking advantage” of the “poor, innocent, unsuspecting white man.”
On a macro level, villainizing Blackness is detrimental because it caters to white fear. White fear isn’t just clutched bags and crossing the street upon the sight of a group of Black men. White fear is trigger happy, and it is absent of regret or restitution. The white sugar daddy trope perpetuated by many is rancid with racist subtext, and paints any young Black person dating an older white person as the dark villain.
Regardless of race, sexuality, age, gender or socio-economic status, people will always have something to say about your relationship. Perception is never really about you; it reveals much more about those perceiving than those perceived.
I’m dating an older “daddy” type. I get it. I also understand that many of the comments are just silly banter. But there’s even a depth of implications found in jest that people seem to be unaware of. Banter and perception can easily sneak its way into a culture’s ideology unbeknownst to people because they were “just saying.”
At its organic root, perceptions are just thoughts with the absence of facts or the whole truth magnified by a personal bias. None of us are our thoughts and we certainly aren’t other people’s perceptions. But I’ve learned that when people use their perceptions to point a finger, there are always three more pointing at them.
Photo: Terrence and Michael, NYE 2016 – Sydney, Australia
Terrence Chappell is a Chicago-based writer. He covers an array of topics ranging from social justice to more brain candy content such as pop culture and infotainment. Terrence has been featured on JETMAG.com, Huffington Post, Advocate.com, Windy Cindy Times, and the Black Youth Project. When he isn’t writing, Terrence works as a social media manager at Burrell Communications.