How dating outside of my race made me experience a heart-dropping letdown moment.

This is how I learned a valuable lesson.

I settled into freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design the tried and true way most other college students do: I drank.

During one lively night out, I met the. hottest. guy. We'll call him Derrick. As we talked for the first time, I thought he looked like something out of an ad in "Town & Country" — and he was smart and well-spoken to boot.


Not only that, he's the one who walked up to me, and he's the one who asked me out to dinner after the witty banter we shared. This gentleman was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and I fell quickly.


During our first date, we both ate sushi and enjoyed adult-adjacent conversation on television, movies, and what we were planning on majoring in.

I felt like this was what adulthood is supposed to be like. Easy.

After dinner, as we were walking back to his car, he stopped before unlocking my door, and he kissed me. He was pretty great at it. As he pulled back, his eyes opened and suddenly there was a look of confusion on his face. Then he said, “I've never kissed a guy like you before."

“Oh?" I said, wondering what that meant, exactly. Does he think I'm the one or something?

“It's just..."

“Yes?"

“I just realized I've never kissed a black guy before. I've never been into them."

“Oh," I said, wondering if this was supposed to be a compliment.

“But you — you're different. You're hot," Derrick said, and he smiled.

At the time, I smiled back and thought nothing of it. I thought this was a compliment. I'm so good-looking to this guy that I transcend what he finds attractive.

Turns out, it's a lot less flattering to hear that you're the first black guy a white guy has dated, found attractive, or would ever sleep with — the sixth or seventh time you hear it.

Me, after hearing it for the seventh time.

In the four years of dates I had in Rhode Island, I heard all sorts of colorful things, but that statement was the most consistent.

As I heard it more and more, it started to make me angry — and I really had no idea why. I thought to myself: "Why am I so mad? They're complimenting me! They think I'm special!" But gradually, it began to dawn on me: It wasn't a compliment. It was an insult in disguise.

I'm not the only one who has fallen prey to this "compliment." Other colorful things my friends and colleagues have heard include:

  • "Your butt looks like it belongs south of the border."
  • "I love the contrast of our skin."
  • "You're such an exotic person!"
  • Said to a black person, while making out: "Will you be my n*gger?"

Do any of those things sound hot? Maybe. That's why they were said. But they hurt the person they were trying to attract. That's a problem.

It's OK to find a new person attractive. Sometimes it's shocking who you find alluring from one day to the next. But when it becomes clear that the only reason you're into someone is the way they look — and that look is different or exotic to you — that's a problem. It's called “othering."

Let me give you an example:

Say there are two types of kids that go to my high school: the popular kids and the geeks. I'm a popular kid. I love being popular and everybody else in school knows I'm popular. I just got nominated for prom king. I'll probably win.

When a nerd looks at me, I'd think, “How dare he." He's not as good as me. I'M POPULAR.

This is essentially what Derrick was doing with me. Whether he realized it or not, he was saying black people aren't good-looking enough for him to be attracted to, but I was an exception to this rule.

“But you — you're different. You're hot," Derrick said, and he smiled.

Derrick believed, deep down, that white people are fundamentally worth more than black people (in the looks department), even if he didn't acknowledge it and would probably never admit it to himself.

I have some dating advice for ... everyone, really.

Tip 1: Black or white, thin or fat, old or young: You may find yourself attracted to someone who is different from you.

I love this picture. Courtesy of @mrchunkyexpress
A photo posted by Nickelson Wooster (@nickwooster) on

It happens! I have a deep, relentless attraction to fashion maven Nickelson Wooster (the freshly dressed fellow above), a man who is 24 years my senior. In the past, I've mostly dated around my age, but the past is the past. Let's all embrace the possibilities!

Tip 2: Everyone wants to feel wanted — for everything they are, not just a superficial attribute.

Your soulmate could look or act differently or have different political beliefs than all of your exes or anyone you've ever known. But don't feel compelled to differentiate them from everyone else you'd ever think of dating. After Derrick and I stopped seeing each other a few months later, he could have met another black man he found cute. And maybe they eventually got married. Who knows!

Tip 3: If you find yourself surprised by someone you're attracted to, it's a very good thing!

This is the most important tip. If you're expanding your horizons, great! You know what Cupid says: Variety is the spice of life.

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True