“To us, white girls are exotic,”
says my Arab American boyfriend.
At that moment, my brain ceases
to make sense of those words
in that order.
Exotic? White? Girl?
Me? Me. He means... me.
So this is what I say
to my Arab American boyfriend
more culture in his pinky
than all of white America combined.
From what I can tell,
to be white in America is
AM radio on a Sunday morning
with a broken dial
on a back road in the boonies.
It is the culture born by everything borrowed but wrongfully claimed
as its own invention.
To be white, in America, tastes like
cream of wheat
with no hope of brown sugar.
It is a tumbleweed-kind-of-rootless
and just as desert dry.
It is colorless, odorless, tasteless—
and will choke you slowly
if you don’t build up a tolerance.
if you’re lucky enough
to be white in America,
for about a hundred bucks
and a swab of the cheek,
the Internet can tell you
where you came from.
Even if that makes you feel cultured,
tomorrow you will wake up
and still be
white in America.
To be white in America, I thought,
was as far from exotic
as the self-loathing, middle aged guy
behind the counter
at your local DMV.
But white girls, he says, are exotic.
Perhaps it’s because pumpkin spice
oozes from my pasty pores,
or that “there ain’t no laws
when you’re drinkin’ the Claws.”
Maybe he couldn’t resist the fact
that the Starbucks barista
knows my order
better than my name,
or that my hair blowdries pin straight—
no matter the time of year.
I wonder if it’s the combo of
black leggings, messy buns,
and work out tanks—
or the fact that I think I’m saving the whole ******* sea turtle population
with my stainless steel straw.
Maybe it’s my compulsive nature
to buy in bulk, to pet every dog I see,
and to cry over Queer Eye episodes.
It couldn’t possibly be
the steady diet of rom coms,
my collection of Birkenstocks,
or the apple cinnamon candle
burning on my windowsill
that reminds me of “fall y’all,”
but then again, who knows?
To me, my whiteness is a privilege
that will forever be misinterpreted
as entitlement by every person
who checks that “white” box
on the form
without checking themselves too.
“To us, white girls are exotic,” he says.
White girl is just happy
he likes her in spite of it.
Copyright Bitsy Sanders, August 2019