For the last 28 years of my life, I have tolerated several dozen relationships with old white men. I don’t mean the sexual kind, though, as a married woman, I suppose I need to say goodbye to that possibility too. No, I mean the platonic, tax write-off mentor/mentee relationship that earns the old white man philanthropic points at his next Memorial Day lobster barbecue and earns me premature wrinkles from all of the expressive looks of agitation.
It was only recently at my mom’s 50th birthday party that my family and I hosted at a lush country club in Manhasset that I realized it was time I had the talk with these men and let them know it was over…for good.
Now, before the Piers Morgans and Donald Trumps of the world judge me for being an essentialist, an inflammatory racist, etc., obviously, there are good old white men out there, but I’m talking about a very specific breed of old white men that I have time and time again allowed refuge in the warm shadows of my life. No more, after today. Here are 4 reasons breaking up with these geezers is necessary for all of us:
1. They refuse to admit that they know nothing about technology.
At this 50th party, there were two old white men who also happened to be the club managers. My brother wanted to play a tribute film for our mom, so I wanted to confirm that their projector would be able to read a USB. With great arrogance, both men answered, “Of course it can, after all we have wifi.” This is not the first time a beloved old white man has mistaken a USB for wifi or logging on to a computer as being connected to their email, but it will be the last. After trying to explain, re-explain, and re-explain again that I needed a VGA to HDMI and that didn’t mean a look inside a 10-year old Dell laptop, I realize this relationship needs to be over for the sake of all future 50th birthday party tribute videos that may be in jeopardy.
2. They’re misogynists and racists in the worse way.
In the case of this 50th party and in previous places of employment, my voice of reason was dismissed because I’m a brown girl and clearly can’t know as much as an elite 60-year-old white man. The problem is though, there’s no logic in that line of reasoning. In fact, my brown brother and I have gone to school in a decade that knows more about science, technology, and literature than ever before. Sure, in 20 years, my education will be nothing compared to the class of 2036, but I’ll be sure to admit that. See, any successful relationship is built on knowing there are other people out there who simply know more than you. And if there’s a part of your being that refuses to admit that because of how shameful it is that those who know more are brown women, brown men, gay, trans, young, etc., well then, I’m sorry, we just can’t be in a relationship anymore.
3. They’re volatile.
Must I say more? Look at Donald Trump. He’s not an aberration. He’s a confirmation of the old white man we’ve all been coddling. The old white man who I let tell really tacky jokes because if I don’t, he’ll call me oversensitive or not give me the overtime hours I need. The man who screams at you at work, but it’s okay because it’s a “character trait.” Enough is enough. If I have to keep my emotions in check while on the job, then you dear old white man, you need to keep a check on yours.
4. They’re powerful and I’ve been complicit.
Yes, this was perhaps the toughest thing for me to realize: Because I haven’t broken up with these men earlier, because I haven’t called them out on their tragic flaws, they’re now club managers, directors, and Presidential candidates. I’ve been complicit in their journey to more power. More power that has allowed them a bigger platform to silence voices, spew hate-mongering rhetoric, but most simply, a platform that should have never been theirs in the first place because they’re not freaking qualified. My fear of shattering an already fragile sense of whiteness means the next Presidential election can include a reality star with no real ideas and the next technology summit can include an old man who prides himself on his ability to “open his computer’s cd drive.”
So it’s over old white men. And I’d like to tell you something I’ve been too scared to before: You are old, you aren’t as smart as you claim, and yes, you’re just not as fast as you used to be. Take a seat and consider taking a nap for a little while. Rest might do you some good.
P.S. Having a Facebook profile picture with 2 likes (one from yourself and one from a client from a few years ago) is not as cool as you think it is.