Black skin is thick and lush, sensuous to the touch, like satin and velvet made flesh. There's only one patch of skin on a white man's body that remotely compares to nearly every inch of a black man's skin. The first time I caressed black skin, it felt like a luxury I shouldn't be able to afford. I craved it more strongly than Carrie Bradshaw craved Manolo Blahnik shoes. That phrase, "Once you go black, you never go back" is all about the feeling of the skin. And I had the socially acceptable explanation for my craving. I used that paucity-of-available-white-partners rationale to explain my relationships with black men for several years. A white woman past forty is often passed over by her white-male contemporaries. She goes younger or ethnic or foreign-born or down the socioeconomic scale or darker or she spends lonely nights at home with her cats. Black men are happy to get the babe they couldn't have when she was twentysomething and fertile. The laws of the marketplace do prevail. It's not me, it's them being the white guys who weren't after me anymore, or so I claimed. That's a lie. The truth is, I attract about the same percentage of available white men my age (and far younger!) now as I did when I was thirty and that's not including the unavailable white men who want to play around anyway. Enough white men want me that I was hardly facing enforced celibacy, but I don't want them. I want black men. They want me. We look at one another and exchange a visible frisson of sexual energy in the lingering glances. And our attraction is based first on race. We are not those couples who "happen to fall in love" with someone of a different race or more purposefully come together but out of some greater sense of interracial understanding and respect. Not as politically-correct men and women do we seek one another out. The Internet has made it a lot easier for us to find each other now. Men advertise: ebony seeks ivory. Women write: seeking tall, dark, and handsome. Very dark. We are not the same people who say: Race is not important. It is important to us. We have race-specific desires.
Even in a time when nearly 40 percent of single Americans have dated outside their race, that deliberate seeking of the specific other makes some people, especially black women, damned mad. We are what they denigrate and castigate: white women and black men who choose one another because of our racial differences. They resent our taking their men. Black men are two and a half times more likely to marry a white woman than a black woman is to marry a white man. Black women can point to that statistic in justifying their wrath. But in truth, black sisters, we're after the sex, not the ringand these guys aren't the marrying kind anyway. Yes, the sex! The woman who goes after black men is a variant of sex journalist Susie Bright's "white bitch in heat," a woman who puts sex first even though women aren't supposed to do that. According to one school of thought, white women turn to black men when their sex drives kick into higher gear and their social inhibitions recede into the rearview mirror. It's a "yes, baby, now I'm ready for you" reaction. When we get to the "yes, baby" place, they know it, and they are ready and waiting for us. Black men have more energy, style and edge than white men. They know how to flirt, a nearly lost art among the rest of us. A black man is so damned sexy because he knows how to make a woman feel sexy. Black men have something white guys don't have anymore: confidence in their masculinity, their sexuality. They clearly know they're men. White men appear to be waiting for the latest sociological research study to let them know if they are men or not. Yet black men are gentlemen, something else white men no longer are. They make me feel like a woman, both respected and desired. I can let go of my inhibitions, my need to control, when I am with them. How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her too? I often felt in my White Period that only during heated sex does that little layer of air bubbles between me and the world pop and disappear, leaving me open to intimate connection. It takes a lot of friction for two white people to get that close. These black men, so alive with erotic electricity, cut through the bubbles with a touch, a caress, a kiss and the freedom means I can truly touch them. I am like a pampered passenger in a Porsche with an expert driver at the wheel. I know I could suggest a route change, but I never really want to do that. On the other hand, the last time I had sex with a white man, we slogged along a bumpy road in a really old VW, the driver like the typical bumbling tv husband who would neither ask for nor accept the directions he badly needed. My current lover, a handsome businessman, seduced me via eye contact at a neighborhood bar while I was eating burgers with a friend. Without saying a word, he paid the compliments, asked the questions with his expressive eyes. He didn't move over to sit beside me and ask if he could buy me a drink until he knew the time was right. Both soft-spoken and assertive, he has impeccable manners and charm. I was kissing him in a cab 30 minutes after that drink. On another night in that same bar, a different black man, an artist, knelt and kissed my knees. I am sure there must be some black men who aren't good in bed. Personally, I have not experienced one who isn't. (True, I am not dating down the socioeconomic ladder, but I didn't do that when I dated white either, so the racial comparisons seem valid and fair.) They look better than white men, they touch and kiss and make love better than white men. Statistically, their penises are only a fraction of an inch bigger on average, but they seem bigger and harder. White men over 40 have lost their waistlines and their zest for life if they ever had it. They carry resentments, grudges and extra pounds in their basketball bellies. Perhaps a good part of that bloat is unhappiness. Even the thin ones look flabby somehow and deeply aggrieved. They nurse the smallest perceived slight longer than their double shots of Scotch. Surely our culture as much as biology turns them into softer, spongier, less-interesting versions of their youthful selves just at the point where women and black men and other minorities are emerging strong. Society overvalues the white man, leaving him angry and bitter when he realizes, around age 40, that he's not all that. With the exception of some Italians, white men don't turn me on anymore. That admission puts me in the same category as the older man only interested primarily or exclusively in young women. While women my age scowl and frown at these aging, Upper West Side Boomers pushing strollers as the hand of the thin, blonde wife 20 years their junior rests lightly on their arm, I feel a kinship with the old goats. We are the same, me and that bald white guy, drawn to the exotic other, not caring that the object of our desire has no childhood memory of a Kennedy assassination or a typical WASP Sunday dinner of over-roasted beef, lumpy mashed potatoes and soggy vegetables. Analyze the roots of attractions all you want like scientists have done and you won't come up with a perfect explanation for why we crave what we do. Desire rises from our depths and is gloriously oblivious to the good opinion of others. Yet until recently, I pretended that my lust was an equal-opportunity craving, because that seemed like the right thing to do. Halfway through the first glass of wine in my last date with a white man, I realized that little clouds of sadness and self-pity were regularly fluffing off his psyche like the dust clouds kicked up by that dirt-smudged "Peanuts" character as he walks through Charlie Brown's life. This guy was at least mildly depressed, and I wanted to tell him to exercise, lose weight, trim the combover and get interested in something outside yourself. I would have walked out on him immediately, but he seemed to expect that. I couldn't deliver the blow to his ego proffered like the naked neck of a martyr to the ax. My Southern cousins would describe his general demeanor as a "hangdog air." Into the second glass of wine and glancing longingly at the exit, I wanted to hang that dog myself when he mentioned that his face was flushed, I hadn't noticed, because he'd taken a Viagra "just in case." What did he think would entice me more: That he assumed sex was probable because I'm a sex journalist or that he would need chemical help if sex did occur? I cannot even imagine a black man bungling an attempted seduction in such a sad way. That was my last token white guy. I recently came out of my racial-preference closet and told my friends, "I love black men. I'm not attracted to white men over 40, and I'm not dating them anymore. Really, it's not them, it's me. Nobody was surprised.