No, Trayvon Martin Is Not Appropriate First-Date Conversation
So, like any other living breathing human being, there are certain things I feel very strongly about. One of these things is dessert. (Seriously, who actively dislikes dessert? If you consider yourself to be one of these dessert-haters, I just don’t get you.) Another one of these things is institutional racism. As a member of a field, Art History, that is still attempting to break a centuries-old tradition of institutionalized prejudice, this is something I spend a ludicrous amount of time thinking about (when I’m not thinking about dessert) and something I would love nothing more than to dedicate my life to changing.
That being said, just because I enjoy obsessively mulling over the whos whats wheres whens and whys of our frustratingly racist society to myself in my own brain absolutely does not equate to: “Please, interrogate me about my feelings regarding the Trayvon Martin case in this dark people-filled bar on our first date while you stare at my chest.” Like peoples’ relationships with their parents, sexual histories and my period, the Trayvon Martin case is not good first-date material. It’s not even good third-date material. Just don’t talk about it on your dates. It’s not fun, kids. Don’t do it.
This aforementioned stress-dream of a situation occurred just a few days ago on a first date with a guy I met online and agreed to go out with. He was a law student, and I was really looking forward to getting to know him. I was curious about why he decided to go into law, what he was planning on doing as a lawyer, all of that fun basic first-date crap. T he date started off fine — I mean, aside from the fact that he essentially called my field of study complete bullshit and literally could not stop looking at my boobs. But who’s keeping track, right? Insulting someone’s passion while objectifying them — he was obviously a keeper.
After a couple of drinks in a packed bar, he asked me why I was interested in law as someone who is not in a law-related field. It was an innocent enough question, to which I responded that there had been many recent instances of the justice system failing the same people it was designed to protect. I told him I was interested in law because I felt that the justice system in this country was completely broken, and I wanted to figure out how we as a society could change it and make it better.
He then asked me to elaborate on some of these “recent instances,” and I froze slightly. The alcohol-greased gears of my brain squeakily turned. Was he really going to open this can of worms? Could I just say, “Oh, you know, that one mumblemumblemumble,” and get away with it? Fuck it, I thought. If I say I don’t want to talk about it, he has to respect that, right? Naively assuming that this whole respecting-other-people-and-their-feelings thing was a universal human value, I very carefully stated that I believed that the Trayvon Martin case was a perfect example of the justice system failing the people, emphasizing that I absolutely did not want to discuss the case itself any further, though I would be happy to continue discussing the law in a generalized sense.
Then, of course, the shit hit the fan and everything got weird and emotional and uncomfortable. Obviously. Because, silly me — saying you don’t want to talk about A Thing gives the other person free rein to bombard you with questions and accusations regarding The Thing. (I’ll have to just put that reminder in Evernote later so that my poor little liberal woman brain can remember it for next time.)
If there’s one thing that makes my brain-to-mouth filter shut off immediately, it’s the phrase “what you don’t understand is” — especially when it’s followed by something that I do actually completely understand. Literally the moment that those words leave someone’s mouth and are directed at me, it’s Game Over. The End. The rings are coming off and I’m not fucking around anymore. Prepare yourself for annihilation of the same caliber as the Red Wedding.
He tried to turn the entire case into something out of a law textbook, completely divorcing it from real life, from the consequences and precedents and actions and reactions. “If there are 99 people and you know one is guilty, do you put them all away or let them all go?” I’m sorry, but did I miss something in the case? Was I too distracted by the thought of late-night ice cream? Were there 99 Zimmermans? Were there 99 Trayvons? Forgive me, O Great Law Student, for I am not as wise as thee and numbers and word problems make my brain hurt.
I could feel venom surging through my veins, my heart pounded, the wires between my brain and my mouth shut off completely. “An unarmed child was killed,” I spat at him from across the table. His life is over. He’s fucking dead. Period. This isn’t a hypothetical situation, this isn’t numbers, this isn’t statistics. This is a teenager’s life.
He then proceeded to share with me a completely irrelevant monologue about how one time he was a server and only five people had ever tipped him 0%. “They were all black,” he said. “Is that a coincidence?”
I’m pretty sure my eyeballs were like 1/100th of a millimeter away from falling out of my head. I literally could not with this shit. I just could not. All I could think was, “Are you sure they didn’t just not tip you because you’re a douche?” He continued to yell at me, talking to me as though I had only a single brain cell bouncing around in my cranium, as though he, Man and Law Student, were being so generous in enlightening me, Woman and Art Historian, in the True Ways of the World.
That was when I started to cry. Not that loud, annoying, sobby-girl crying, but the silent-and-powerful kind of crying when you really don’t want to cry, but you just can’t fucking help it. I cried out of frustration, out of anger, out of embarrassment. I cried for Trayvon and for all of the people like him who have ever been automatically and wrongfully categorized as dangerous because of their age, sex, and/or race. I cried for the people who genuinely believe that we live in a post-race society. I cried for the people who refuse to see that though this case is about many things, race is definitely one of them.
However, I cried mostly because how could I, an art historian, make a difference in this racist society when there were lawyers who thought and acted this way? Who saw each defendant or plaintiff as a number, as a case study? How could I ever hope to make a difference and cause positive change in this world? “I want to go home,” I said angrily. “I need to go.”
Apparently making me cry and being the poster child for Worst Date Ever wasn’t enough for this cad, who then followed his douchey tirade by saying he would pick up the tab, “unless I wanted to overthrow gender roles.” I told him he was an ass and paid for my half. He then started his Goodbye Forever with, “I just want to say, that if you want to reach people…”
I laughed in his face, dear readers. I laughed loudly. I told him not to even finish his sentence. I told him I was perfectly capable of reaching people on my own and that I didn’t need his help or anyone else’s. He smiled, one of those petulant shit-eating grins people give you when they think they’re better than you and all you want to do is throw them on an island with all of the other jerks of the world, Hunger Games-style.
I left him there, still finishing his second beer, looking as though he knew he had fucked up but would never actually admit it aloud. I strutted out of that bar with my head held high, and although due to a combination of a naturally horrible sense of direction and intense anger I couldn’t find the train home for 20 minutes, I did not stumble. (Neither literally or metaphorically, the former of which was really impressive because I actually bothered to wear heels for this disaster of a date.)
I returned home, where I enjoyed the rest of a pint of sorbet. Because nothing washes the taste of Racist Date out of one’s mouth quite like mango.
A | A | A
Describe for us the threesome with your OKCupid hookup.
If this doesn’t become the biggest video on the Internet, then I have no faith left in humanity.
I’m about to finish up my sophomore fall of college, and friends from home are getting married and having babies and sufficiently freaking me out.
He was a perfect date. I later got drunk and hacked his phone (who uses their birth year for a password? It was 1986, by the way #teamcougar). What I found was a text to a Kristina explaining his aforementioned sex dream he’d had about her while sleeping next to me in a luxurious hotel bed.