OK. Before you judge me, consider the fact that I live in New York City. One of the most expensive cities in the world, that realization didn’t phase me until almost a decade later when I examined my depleted bank account and configured the amount of hours I was toiling away.
The city was manufactured for socialites and sons of old money mascots. Moving here as an eager-minded ingénue waiting for her big break was a valiant endeavor, but despite the cheers and silent acknowledgments, I was still grappling with the basic requirements of life. So, I moved to LA for a year and a half, but I missed the neighborhood delis, being able to walk off a bloated lunch and most of all the easy access between boroughs without committing to a four-wheel deal.
So I moved back to the city, but this time I was determined to be strategic. I wanted to enjoy The Big Apple in a refreshingly unfamiliar way. I plotted my way into the top temp agencies in the city and demanded jobs that would situate me amongst the cream of the crop. The future Rockefellers needed to understand the fact that I existed, and I needed to benefit from their remarkable discovery.
I have always been able to move mountains whenever a daunting task presents itself, and this time was no exception. Before long I was posted to some of the top financial institutions in the country. Being the hardcore hustler that I am, I ended up landing the job of a lifetime. I gained a long-term stint in the famed Private Bank of what I considered to be the top financial firm in the world.
Yes! I had arrived! I was eager to settle in and begin the task of convincing my new family that I was as good as it gets. It only took me a month to achieve that goal. Meanwhile, I was starting to realize that my increased paycheck came with a daily bonus. The parade of good-looking guys that populated my floor gave me every incentive to blow a good portion of my paycheck on bags of Century 21 confectionary.
Forget earning a living, I suddenly became aware of the fact that I could very well gain a hot young guy, soaked in the drippings of his newly minted trust fund status. I did my best to impress, and worked hard to engage the hot spots of my concrete jungle.
Elevators were the best traps, thanks to the slow pace that plagued every ride. It literally stopped on every floor during lunchtime, which annoyed almost everyone except me. This was my opportunity to show off my flared skirt and vibrant silk blouse.
The day I donned that ensemble, two men entered the already frenzied space. One was delightfully young with a full head of hair and striking stature. The second occupant was considerably older, shorter, and definitely not as cute. But as luck would have it I ended up catching the eye of the latter, and that was how I became his willing mistress for two years.
He was everything I never imagined I would be committed to; older, married, and conceited. I was fascinated by the fact that he was crazy about me. He clearly didn’t have much respect for people of color. Sound familiar? The hoopla surrounding ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, and the woman at the center of the madness, V. Stiviano, has forced me to recall my own stint with a guy who unfortunately shared similar views. My guy certainly wasn’t as old or quite as rich, but he was successful and housed a callous disposition. When I listened to the incriminating evidence against Sterling, I detected the same undertones of hate that I was once exposed to.
But for whatever reason, I couldn’t tear myself away despite the flapping red flags. He knew how to make me feel like he was my assigned guru, dedicated to rescuing me by substantially elevating my quality of life.
I enjoyed incessantly discussing political trends, and he would try to convince me that I was really a Republican because I wasn’t a “typical” black American woman. And for the record, this wasn’t the first time a privileged corporate raider tried to get me to switch sides. I have always wondered why older white gents are drawn to a particular type of black woman? But that’s obviously a topic for another conversation.
He hyped on the fact that I was educated, well-spoken, and well-traveled. He was also obsessed with my slim template and exotic features, and he loved that I had an African name. He took me to places that require a badge of honor for admittance and spent an exuberant amount of his earnings tending to my well-being.
I didn’t care about his arguments against welfare or his disdain for the level of laziness that he thought consistently crippled the black community. Those were his views, not mine. At 59 years old, he had spent the majority of his life swimming with Ivy Leaguers and like-minded bedfellows. What could I possibly say or do to dissuade him?
Looking back, it’s disturbing to me that I hardly felt any remorse for the fact that I was sleeping with a married guy who truly believed that black people were inferior compared to other races. What was wrong with me? I guess I was lost in a daze of convenient nonchalance and charmed by the materialistic tendencies that were keeping me comfortably intact. I didn’t want to go back to fending for myself. I was selling my soul and betraying the very essence of my being.
But as we entered our third year, I started to get restless. His comments were becoming more invasive and when he joked about our First Lady Michelle Obama’s resemblance to a monkey, I suddenly felt as if I had been rudely awakened from my slumber. I was dating an asshole! A married asshole!
This was another debilitating pattern I was having trouble releasing. Unavailable men have always been drawn to me, or was I the one seducing them? I have since explored this territory professionally. But the point is that I finally realized a little too late that this wasn’t the kind of guy I wanted to spend my time with, even if he was making it possible for me to comfortably maintain my Upper East Side residence while also raiding the shoe department at Bergdorf’s. I needed to reclaim my dignity.
As easily as I met him, it was even easier to release him. I basically laid it all out on the table. I could no longer date an older guy who happened to not only be married but was also disgustingly prejudiced. He reacted calmly, almost as if he had endured my monologue many times before. It was clear that he never really cared about me. I was a business transaction that had reached its limit. How could I have possibly expected someone with such loathsome values to be empathetic?
I still grapple with the aftermath of that situation, and even though I have forgiven myself, I simply can’t forget how I lazily rejected the tools I needed for self-preservation. I battled to find the epicenter of the pain that led me to turn on myself.
I found it, and conquered the demons, and I am now in recovery mode. I am a proud black woman who will not tolerate racial inappropriateness ever again. We parted ways and I regained my self-respect and self-confidence. I am not sure how he fared and frankly, I don’t care.