Dear Care and Feeding,
My partner and I have been living together for over a year. It’s been going amazingly well. He’s a very considerate, loving, and generous man. We plan to marry and have children within the next two years. He is Black and I am White. Often, when I bring up the subject of what our kids will be like, he expresses a desire for them to be White, blond-haired, or blue-eyed. I am White, albeit not blond or blue-eyed. I couldn’t care less what they look like, and I always ask him why he feels that way, and point out that it’s rather unlikely. He never gives a straight answer, saying he’s merely interested in how varied mixed-race people will look and that “he’s dated the rainbow.” I’ve dated Black men before and have encountered some men who think being with a White woman is a status symbol. Maybe I’m just sensitive due to that, but this desire for blond-haired, blue-eyed kids feels really off to me.
—Cautious in Connecticut
I am a spiritual person and for that reason I don’t often take coincidences lightly. Last night I had a random thought connected to something I’m writing. I jotted it down for future use. Today I saw your letter for the first time, though you’d submitted it a few weeks ago—which means I missed it when I selected inquiries for my last two columns. Perhaps there’s a reason I saw it when I did.
This was my thought: I’d like to kindly challenge any White woman who is involved with a Black man to ask him this very important question, and to give how he replies some serious consideration: “If I were Black, would you still be interested in me?”
I believe there are a good number of women who’d be disturbed to hear “no,” and another group who’d be horrified to hear “yes.” I’d like to think you’d be in the first category. Alas, while it should be the case that any Black man in a relationship with a non-Black woman could give a clear, full-throated “of course I would be with you if you were Black,” there are more than enough very public testimonies from the mixed children of men who could not make such a declaration to indicate otherwise.
Sure, your partner might still be with you if you were Black and looked like Vanessa Williams or Leona Lewis, but I’d bet good money that your race is part of what makes you appealing to him. Whether it’s your Whiteness or your lack of Blackness that he fancies most (and it doesn’t matter if that’s not the only thing that attracted you to him), it is a deeply unhealthy thing. Desire that is a reflection of someone’s self-loathing is not truly desire, it’s dysfunction.
If you were a friend of mine, I would tell you that you need to get the fuck out of this relationship, that this dude is a whole-ass weirdo with some serious issues. What grown Black person fantasizes about having “White” children who have blond hair and blue eyes? That would be disconcerting even if you did have those features—and he didn’t just say blond and blue, he said WHITE!— but at least now it’s easier for you to recognize the desire for the red flag that it is. He is absolutely fetishizing you as a White woman, just as he fetishizes mixed-race children.
I fear how someone with his desires may behave if his child—a daughter in particular—came out darker than what one might readily associate with biracial heritage? What if she’s got dark eyes and short, kinky hair? What if no one looks at her and says “oooh, what are you mixed with?”? And even if he does get the pale-skinned biracial baby he dreams of, that would still be a Black child who requires a foundation for healthy racial identity development that he most certainly cannot provide at this point … which means the onus of ensuring that these kids don’t have the same hang-ups that their Black dad has will fall on their White mom. Can you raise your mixed Black children to love their Blackness when their own father doesn’t? Do you even want to?
Your partner is not interested in how “varied” mixed-raced people look—he’s interested in having kids who do not look like him. By mating with this person, you would be putting your children’s emotional well-being and racial self-esteem at risk. You’d be co-signing the idea that it’s totally healthy and normal for a Black man to fantasize a version of family that erases his features almost altogether (YOU don’t even have blond hair and blue eyes, so he knows that other things are beautiful, but when he envisions his children … that’s what he sees? HE! IS! NOT! OK!).
If you proceed as planned with this man, you’d be complicit. As you said, you’ve dated Black men who saw White women as a status symbol. You know what this is, girl. That’s why you wrote in. You know.
The only possible salvation for this relationship (and for this man you’re dating, let’s be honest here) is professional help. Your partner needs to confront whatever internalized racism and/or colorism has him dreaming of Creole children, because it is extremely weird. Perhaps you can tell him that you’d like to do some premarital counseling and find someone who specializes in issues of racial identity.
Honestly, I’m not inclined to be optimistic here. It’s not your responsibility to fix what is broken in this man, and it may not be within your capabilities to address it or push him to do so in a way that does. I just hope you see what is before you and act appropriately. Wishing you all the best.
Help! How can I support Slate so I can keep reading all the advice from Dear Prudence, Care and Feeding, Ask a Teacher, and How to Do It? Answer: Join Slate Plus.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 12-year-old daughter has recently taken a deep dive into musical theater. A DEEP DIVE. In addition to plowing through old recordings on YouTube and Spotify, she’s been attending a Zoom theater meeting weekly, writing scripts for her own shows, and brainstorming her campaign to join the school drama club. We are mostly thrilled she’s found an outlet for her creativity and flair for the dramatic. However—and I feel bad saying this—she’s taken it a little far. My daughter has started bringing the drama into normal everyday interactions in a way that is honestly a little annoying. She overacts, sings her way through conversations, puts on affected accents, responds to normal requests in a histrionic manner, and generally treats our home like a little Broadway theater. We thought this was just a phase, but it’s been months now. Her younger sister, 6, has started copying the mannerisms, leading to a regression in behavior/manners (since she doesn’t know it’s acting rather than actual social norms).
I’m by nature an extremely reserved person, and I find myself exhausted at essentially being part of a one-woman show all day every day. Working from home and supporting kids in virtual school makes this harder. Sometimes I just want to have a “real” conversation with my daughter, not a character she’s putting on, but I don’t want to stifle her creativity or make her think she needs to hide parts of herself at home. What’s the right way to strike this balance? Should I be concerned the behavior will bleed into outside-the-home life? We honestly haven’t gotten out much this year, so I can’t quite tell if that will be an issue, but I’m worried.
—Mama of a Drama Queen
Dear Drama Mama,
Put on your actor’s hat one more time and approach your daughter with a grand plan. You are a demanding director, trying to cast the perfect actress for the part of a “normal” 12-year-old. You understand that she’s a faaaabulous theater diva-in-training, but you need to see her tap into her more subtle, nuanced side. In order for her to nail this role, you want her to go undercover and do a little Method acting. You’ve found a great family for her to interact with—very normcore, very reserved—and she’ll need to give her best performance alongside them to be “cast.” Identify certain scenarios in which she needs to be in character (during meals, on long family car rides, while in school) and times where she can be her true theatrical self.
Also, talk to her about the times when her gregariousness can be overwhelming without making it out to be that she is overwhelming. There are many different types of energies. Yours is more understated and low-key, and I’d imagine that if she were surrounded by folks and spaces that reflected that, she’d feel overwhelmed in her own way. Help her to understand that she must be sensitive to spaces and people that are not the right place for the most accentuated parts of her routine, and that she can still enjoy and thrive around them nonetheless. Work on finding the balance between her getting space to be free and loud and her allowing you to have the quiet you need. Scheduling is key here. Good luck—theater kids are FUN!
• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.
• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!
Dear Care and Feeding,
My 15-year-old daughter is laser-focused on getting a breast reduction. She does not have any medical issues, such as chronic back pain, but rather states that she is unable to comfortably wear the kind of clothing she likes and is embarrassed by the size of her chest. She feels she would look better and have more fashion options with smaller breasts. For reference, she is a 34DD and 5-foot-5. I have been the same bra size/frame size as her since high school, so I can sympathize to an extent. I have tried buying her properly fitted bras, including minimizers, but she is still unhappy.
She asked her pediatrician if it would be OK to do a reduction at her age, and they didn’t have a problem with it (which surprised me). Her father and I are totally against this. 1) She is only 15, she has a lot of maturing to do, and possibly more physical growing still to come. 2) This is major surgery. The thought of her going through something this serious medically for cosmetic reasons seems like an unnecessary risk. 3) This is a very expensive procedure that will not be covered by insurance (we have already checked). In the meantime, she is crying and begging and imagining her bra size ruining her life. How do we say no while acknowledging her feelings?
—Blessed in the Chest?
I’m glad you used the question mark on your signoff because the answer seems to be no. Big breasts are only a blessing if you want them. Hopefully, your daughter will come to a point where she likes her bust, no matter how large or small it turns out to be when she’s done growing, but you definitely can’t sell her on the idea of it being an attribute. It doesn’t matter that other people would kill to be naturally booby; she doesn’t like it and that’s what matters.
That said, your reasons for saying no are very fair, and I think she should get an opportunity to hear all three quite clearly. Help her to truly understand that surgery is inherently risky, that there would be a painful recovery period, that she is not done growing and could have a reduction now only to end up the same size in two years or wishing that she were the same size two years down the line. Also, this is not a matter of saving up to buy a pair of expensive sneakers—“we can’t afford it” would be a totally fair justification.
In addition to seeking out minimizers and bras that fit well, help your daughter find clothes that flatter larger busts in a way that don’t treat her breasts as a problem to be solved. While the noble minimizer can be an important tool in the wardrobe of the large-busted person, even the name implies that her chest is an issue to fix. Does she have pretty bras yet? Bras that match her underwear? If you can, let her pick out some stuff that fits her style that also makes her feel supported.
Hopefully she will grow out of this phase, but in the meantime it’s important that you are empathetic and that you let her know that “no” to surgery does not mean “no, we don’t care about how this makes you feel.” Best of luck to you all.
For more of Slate’s parenting coverage, listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting
Dear Care and Feeding,
I know that this is parenting advice, but I have seen other kids on here so here goes: I am a 13-year-old girl. I recently noticed that I have been more and more anxious lately, and there have been a few incidents where I can’t stop crying and get upset about really little things. However, I researched anxiety attacks and while some of what I read sounds like my experience (fear, worry, etc.), other symptoms do not (like chest pressure or feeling like I’m going to die).
As some background, my parents are pretty supportive of me; they’ve accepted my bisexuality, and I feel they listen when I talk to them most of the time. I’ve been asking them subtly, as I’m not entirely sure that I am experiencing anxiety attacks, about things that might help me, such as fidgets, which can sometimes calm my attacks, and emotional support animals (my dogs calm me down pretty effectively too). Am I crazy? Is all this just my hormones? Please help.
You are NOT “crazy,” and even if you are experiencing anxiety or a challenge that is outside of your control, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong about you.
I can’t tell you for certain what is going on, but the things you are describing certainly sound like common anxiety symptoms. It’s great that your parents have typically been supportive and understanding, because they need to hear what’s been going on with you—and not “subtly.” Please tell them exactly what you have been going through so they can help you get some support. If for some reason they don’t respond well or proactively, find another trusted adult to speak to and ask them for support in getting through to them. You have been managing some very scary feelings, perhaps because you didn’t want to worry anyone, but you should not have to bear that stuff alone. And remember: Nothing about you is wrong. You’re great. Anxiety sucks, and it’s not your fault.
More Advice From Slate
My husband and I are expecting a baby girl and have chosen the name “Charlie.” I realize this is a slightly unconventional name for a girl, but I think it’s adorable. As we have started sharing the name, we have gotten more than one rude comment (usually from acquaintances or strangers who ask). These comments are generally along the lines of: “For a girl?” or “Wouldn’t you like to save that name for a boy?” What is the best way to respond to these comments?
Get more Care and Feeding
Slate Plus members get more parenting advice every week. They also help support Slate’s journalism.