Those two rules were easy to abide by. The only boys that ever saw where I slept were glossy ones I duct-taped to my bedroom walls from magazine cutouts. Dating prospects didn't come around until college. So did a third (and final) parental limitation on dating.
It was freshman move-in day at my large urban university in North Philadelphia. My family had just finished lugging plastic bins of backup paper towels, picture frames with faces I would replace and an extra fluffy mattress pad. I was saying goodbye to my mom and dad as I watched them raise their eyebrows at the mob of diverse freshman unloading their college supplies.
"Don't come home with a black boyfriend," my dad said in a raspy whisper as he pointed one finger unintentionally at my heart and gestured towards my co-ed dorm.
My dad's comment infuriated me. I held my breath and shook my head, saying nothing. Knowing the dynamics of the word "home" were about to change, I let a nervous giggle escape without unleashing my usual well-meaning but uniformed 18-year-old ideas about racial injustice. The Frisky: Dear Wendy: "My Boyfriend's Mother Is Racist"
A perpetual comedian, my dad's parting words were not unlike his jokester self. But like every daughter of an Irishman knows, there's a bit of truth to every sarcastic remark.
Throughout my time in North Philly, my dad's harsh command never came up. Neither did dating. But black guys did. They were everywhere—complimenting my dress on the street, asking to borrow a pen in class, and filling my beer at parties. So were white guys. But I drifted to anyone who was different from what I was used to.
I don't believe my parents are racist, but they're uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. For me, it's the opposite. It was time for my undergraduate liberal education to put me in a cultural blender and press puree on everything I thought I knew about religion, feminism, and race. It was time for my inner-city girl, wannabe journalist self to roam free.
After my fair share of empty make-out sessions on the weekends, I started fully embracing singlehood without much concern over finding a boyfriend. The Frisky: Dating Don'ts: How NOT To Pick Up A Guy At A Bar