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. 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.
“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. A perpetual comedian, my dad’s parting words were not unlike his jokester self.
I could see the muscular definition in Qinisela’s arms and better inspect his sexy skin that was the color of my parent’s fears. But like every daughter of an Irishman knows, there’s a bit of truth to every sarcastic remark. They were everywhere — complimenting my dress on the street, asking to borrow a pen in class, and filling my beer at parties. But I drifted to anyone who was different from what I was used to.
It was time for my inner-city girl, wannabe journalist self to roam free. When she asked where he grew up, I said France, quickly choosing to edit out the part about Africa. I told her my relationship with Quinn was off and on. He graduated and found a sought-after desk job crunching numbers and salivating over spreadsheets.
After my fair share of empty make-out sessions on the weekends, I started fully embracing singlehood without much concern over finding a boyfriend. He cooked African cuisine and introduced me to plantains for dessert. Throughout my relationship with Qinisela, I lied by omission (the worst kind of lying, in my opinion) every time his name came up in conversation with my parents. I was running my student magazine, planning photo shoots and designing advertisements.
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 held my breath and shook my head, saying nothing.
The first involved age — no going on dates until I turned 16.
The second was about sex — no boys allowed in my bedroom. The only boys that ever saw where I slept were glossy ones I duct-taped to my bedroom walls from magazine cutouts. So did a third (and final) parental limitation on dating.