I’m 50 percent Irish, 25 percent Swedish, the rest European mutt. I tell you that because for the purposes of today’s post, race and ethnicity is relevant. I’ve had people tell me I’m too pale and should go tanning, which I think is very rude. But that’s about as far as the judgements about me based on skin color seem to go. I don’t usually mention race, ethnicity or sexual orientation when describing someone because I think it’s insignificant. I think it’s far less important than the content of one’s character.

I was at dinner with a black guy from the Caribbean when he stopped and said, “I have to ask, have you ever dated outside your race before?” I told him I had. There was a guy from India. The Caribbean guy told me about growing up in the Bronx during a particularly racist time. When he was 16, his mom left him and his brother in New York because she had to return to the Caribbean. He found himself forced to choose a path. He knew being in the wrong place at the wrong time could result him being accused, so he chose to always be in the right place. This decision made him something of a sell-out to the people he grew up with.

I listened to him speak fascinated. Fascinated that a 16-year-old would have to make such a difficult choice. This anecdote told me a lot about the content of his character. I also found myself wondering what he saw in this Midwestern girl, who at 16 sat outside drenched in tanning oil while flipping through Seventeen magazine.

I told him I appreciated hearing his background, and that it’s not something I could ever relate to. He said he knew. I’m not the first girl from the Heartland he’s ever met.

But I bet I was the first to show for nice Italian dinner date in a dress that showed off the huge bruise on my knee. And the first to give him a second chance when he failed to show for our first date because of work. And I hope that’s how he chose to judge the content of my character.

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