I lived in the upper Haight when I first moved to San Francisco (read about it here and here). My second apartment was in the lower Haight. It was there that I met Jon Reed. Jon Reed was a nerdy punk dude, black, with round glasses, an easy shy smile, and he lived across the street in a large apartment building across from mine and Nicole’s Haight and Webster second floor Victorian flat. Nicole had moved out and Josh had moved which meant there were more guys around and Jon Reed was one of the guys who came around the apartment to eat my fried potatoes, drink beer, and listen to punk music before going to shows, sometimes over the Bay Bridge laying down flat and freezing in the back of another neighbor’s pick up truck.
Jon Reed wasn’t my type, or at least that’s what I told myself, but I liked him a great deal. Anyway, I was dating a white scenester who was on tour with his band, and I was trying hard not to kiss anyone else while he was gone – not that I was entirely successful, but I did not kiss John Reed. In fact, kissing Jon Reed was the furthest thing from my mind, even though he’d hang around the apartment and want to have real conversations, laugh at my jokes, and listen when I had something interesting to say.
Growing up in Tuolumne, I had only dated one person of color (there weren’t too many of us to begin with), but he was Mexican, so that had been easy, but I only knew three black guys from those days, and while I did kiss one of them one time, I didn’t think they were my type. Of course, that idea, “not my type” is suspect because it can be code for all sorts of ugly –isms that have been internalized whether we like it or not, things that nobody likes to admit about themselves. Sometimes when women say that they like tall men, they might really just be saying that they believe that a big guy can take care of them, suggesting that they believe men should take care of women, should save them. And sometimes when someone says a such and such kind of person is not their type, their beliefs about “their type” are a complicated tangle of internalized racism and societal standards of beauty. While it was easy to do since I was dating someone else, someone who did fit the societal standards of beauty, white, tall, blue eyes, I wrote Jon Reed off as a romantic interest even because he was a little nerdy and he was black. Growing up in Tuolumne, growing up in America can do that to you.
I said the same thing when I met my husband. “He’s not my type.” He was too Mexican, too fresh off the boat; he wasn’t in a band, or into punk rock music, though he did like Kate Bush. He was a nice, but nerdy, Mexican guy who wore the same style of clothes, probably the same clothes, he’d been wearing since the late 80’s when he got here and was finally able to afford to buy himself some. By this time, at least, I desired his dark skin. Still, I almost wrote him off because he didn’t fit my bizarre ideas about what or who I thought was “my type.” Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized that his coming around the café where I often ate during my lunch breaks, and listened to what I had to say, laughed at my jokes, and made me laugh too, meant that he liked me, thought I was interesting, someone worth spending time with, and it was during all these lunches where I learned how much we did have in common, how we did match. Somehow, I fought off the inner chatter about “type,” sensing by then that there was something ugly at work there, and that on the other side was something really beautiful.