It’s official; dating in Australia is a fool’s game. By that I mean that it’s frustrating, sparse, and unfortunately for me, sometimes mildly racist. More generally though, dating culture is fairly new in Australia, and not wholly successful for non-Aussie’s coming from countries where casual dating is just a part of social life.
As I mentioned in a previous post, living in a new place requires a keen study of its cultural rules, in order to have a more peaceable existence and to feel a part of your chosen society. But according to many sources much more informed than my limited experience has allowed, dating practices in Australia are slow, scarce, and somewhat uncharted.
And unfortunately, I am fighting the odds on more than one front. The unfamiliar and as yet unestablished dating rules on one hand, and racial stereotypes that go beyond the offensive on the other hand, plus the fact that as a black woman I am at the very bottom of the online dating pool (see this Guardian piece, this article, and this article from NPR).
My mother called me the other day asking how dating was going, and I told her that she didn’t want to know. She asked me to elaborate (because she in fact, did want to know), and all I could think to tell her was that it felt like my generation of men had lost the ability to talk to and communicate effectively with (black and brown) women, as if not believing that we too, are actual human beings. I think I exclaimed rhetorically:
“Where have they been raised?!”
I assumed by wild animals, but let’s not insult every other animal that isn’t human. We’re by far the worst species at everything (for current examples see: Drumpf election and the treatment of Indigenous communities in Australia).
What I didn’t reveal to her was the detail behind all of the ridiculousness. Instead I’ve saved that for you, dear reader. So here is just a tease, a snippet if you will, of the kind of online messages I have received from the few (white) men who have gotten in contact:
“Do you only date black guys?”
The answer to this question is no, but that’s none of his business; he only asked when I didn’t reply immediately to his greeting of “hi”.
“You look like a Nubian queen”
Must have been the crown I wasn’t wearing, that’s what gave it away. Oh, and my skin colour. Got it.
“But where are you really from?”
Every person of colour mentioning that they hail from a western country in their profile, that doesn’t fit with a fixed stereotype that many people have in their heads of someone with your complexion, gets asked this dumbass question.
“I’ve always wanted to be dominated by a black woman”
Why though? We are PEOPLE, not commodities, interests or fricking fetishes! The only scenario in which this kind of message could receive a positive response, is if I were Bilquis (see: American Gods, Season 1, Episode 1 (not for the faint-hearted)).
I could go on, but instead I’ll end with my most recently received message. It may well have had nothing to do with the colour of my skin, but had everything to do with the fact that I am a woman and therefore apparently demand little to no respectful greeting from men that I don’t know.
“You look like you have great lips for giving h***!!”
I considered blocking him, but leaving him to torment other women without letting him know how wrong he was, seemed in itself, wrong. So instead I replied with a politely British DRAGGING, and then I blocked him.
“That cannot be the way your parents raised you to speak to women. If it was then they did a terrible job and you should be ashamed of yourself.”
I try not to miss a chance for a teachable moment. I promptly deleted the app afterwards and was reminded again for the 1000th time that online dating has and continues to be, trash for me 90% of the time.
I’ve shared only the tip of the iceberg here, and haven’t even mentioned a (white) man I dated briefly (it was only two dates spread over too long a period) who thought he was being endearing when he called me “ebony” (ew). OK well, now I’ve mentioned it.
If you’re reading any of this and thinking “Ah, that’s not that bad”, then guess what? You’re part of the problem.
I have much more to say on this, because the horrors of dating never seem to cease, but I’ll leave it here for now.
I think it’s safe to say though, that dating in Australia in particular seems to be a struggle entirely in and of itself. And being a black woman on top of that? Pssh, forget it. I may as well get my pajamas ready now for snuggling on the sofa and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, whilst my phone buzzes every ten minutes to tell me how close my Uber Eats driver is. Although to be honest, that really doesn’t sound that bad. Much better than being constantly reminded by potential suitors that your skin colour matters and “not in a good way”.
Image credit: chat love by Angriawan Ditya Zulkarnain from the Noun Project