Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The one that got away?

I was reading Busty Satan's post about finding out on Facebook that an ex-boyfriend is now married, and it got me thinking about past relationships, first loves, all that jazz.

I only know of one guy that I've dated who is married now. Souley, the man I dated while I was living in Senegal. As I said in my comment on BS's post, I found out a couple years after I moved back to the US that he had married a French woman and they had a daughter together.

By the time I found out about this, I was already dating Torsten and I was long since over Souley. I thought of him with fondness and wondered how he was doing, but I didn't miss him and I didn't miss being with him. I knew that a long-term relationship with him would never have worked out, and I had no regrets. So, when I heard that he was married with a child, I was mostly happy for him.

The one thing that gave me pause was the fact that his wife was French. The woman Souley dated before me was Dutch, and white. Their relationship was long-term and very serious. I didn't think too much about it, at the time. Two foreign girlfriends could be totally coincidental.

But three? Three stops seeming like a coincidence to me. Three starts seeming like a pattern. Three foreign women (and I am presuming, though I don't know for sure, that his French wife is white) starts to seem like a desire for a change. A desire for a visa, more specifically.

Maybe I'm jaded, because when I was in Senegal I received marriage proposals from strange men on the street pretty much every single day, and many of them were quite up-front about wanting a white wife who could get them a visa and a ticket out of Senegal. This isn't some paranoia in my head. I am always generally skeptical of relationships between Senegalese men and white foreign women for this reason. Souley seemed like an exception to me, especially since we had discussed at the beginning of our relationship the fact that it would end when I moved back to the US. We agreed. That was the plan. And we stuck to it. So I didn't see any ulterior motives.

But now, with the third foreign woman in a row? I don't know anymore. I suspect that he was looking for a foreign woman. I suspect that part of the reason why he even noticed me to begin with had to do with the fact that I was white, foreign, American, rich (relatively speaking). I don't think that's the whole reason. I don't think you can fake five months of being in love the way we were at the time. But I think it was probably a factor.

But the thing is? It doesn't matter. We had a great relationship. We really enjoyed each other. We cared about each other. We walked away from that relationship both feeling fulfilled and happy. My memories of my time with him are positive. And now I've moved on, and so has he.

Maybe he wanted a foreign wife. Maybe that's part of why he dated me. But that doesn't change the fact that we were good together, we had fun together, we supported each other.

Maybe I'm a subjectivist, but if we both look back on our relationship positively, and we've both moved on and are now happy with other people, having found what we wanted... does it matter why he was interested in me in the first place? Does it matter why I was interested in him?

I don't think it does.


  1. I found out on FB that Red was engaged to his new cougar of a girlfriend. I cared for about 3 minutes until I remembered how happy I am with Achoo.

    And you know what, regardless of his motives, he was an important part of who you are. Because if you didn't meet and date him, you wouldn't be who you are today. Every experience good or bad matters, because they make you who you are!

  2. I think that the realization that the people who have shaped our past have moved on will always cause us to pause and reflect - even if we've also moved on and know that the past was the past for a reason.

  3. Oh, what a very thought-provoking topic! I wonder if it could also just be what he's attracted to, like white U.S. guys who date one Asian girl after another.

  4. Ah yes, I was 15 (!) when we lived in Dakar and I vividly remember the many marriage proposals.

  5. What a thoughtful and well-put together post. As usual, I dig your writing.

    What impresses me the most about this post, I think, is that you realize the context for the "romantic" economy at work, here. It seems to me that all too many white women go overseas and think that suddenly, they are the hottest thing on earth, without thinking for a second about the history, the politics, the violence that underwrites such things. Of course, men all over the world exploit the hell out of this vulnerability (often the white women who don't fit into the Cosmo beauty ideal in their home countries and are thus often vulnerable to this sort of think)... The beach boys in the Gambia, or hell, the rent-a-dreads in Jamaica (who prey on middle- and upper-class sistas, too).

    I get a different experience when traveling... Since I have the generically "mixed" look, I am not approached for marriage so much as just sex. It has a lot to do with the way Brazilian women are perceived worldwide, and that I am often taken for Brazilian, especially in Angola. But, you know, Brazil is no one's ticket out of poverty, I guess...

    This is not to minimize your personal experience. It's just that none of us are outside of the matrix of history and power.

  6. I've only had one boyfriend in my life who was from the same country as me! I was born and raised in New Zealand and certainly had no desire to leave (yet here I am married to an Australian and living in Aussie). I didnt even intentionally date international men, it just happened to work out that way.

    My older sister dated an Indian man for years but always suspected he might be after an easy ride into NZ so she dumped him. Two years later he got permanent residency in New Zealand and the first thing he did was ring her and tell her he loved her for her.

    Sometimes things are innocent and joyful with no alterior motive. I'd choose to believe that if I was you.

  7. i was going to say the same thing as swistle - i know a bunch of girls here in the states who ONLY date black men, for example. or my own boyfriend, who is asian, has only ever dated white women (and was born here / grew up in dc / etc). not to say there aren't plenty of senegalese men looking for a (white, marriage-able) ticket out of senegal... :-)

  8. Alice: By "girls you know," you seem to mean "white girls"?

    This is not a simple question of "taste" outside of history. Just ask your boyfriend about what it means to date a white woman, and how it would be for his folks if he took me (a Black American woman) home.

    Even (especially) within the U.S., this is so much about power...

  9. As has been said already, maybe his preference is just for white women. Or women from other cultures. It is interesting dating people from backgrounds different from your own--as you must know, having married a German. :)

  10. I have always been surprised by my girlfriends who have a "type." It just seems like you shut yourself off to so many wonderful people that way.

  11. Do you know if he lives in Senegal with his French wife?

    I would think, too, that if he IS just more attracted to foreign women (as you said, France has a significant population of women of color), then he must constantly be battling the assumption that it's about a visa.

  12. Like swistle I was wondering too if white women happened to be his type. But one thing you said that I love is that you did have a good relationship and no matter his motives, you never had reason to doubt the mutual feelings the two of your shared.

  13. Souley definitely had a thing for a white woman. But, if a Visa is all he was after, you'd think marriage yes, children not a chance. Maybe he actually does love his wife.

    I've seen plenty of white men who like Asian women, black men who like women with a little junk in the trunk ... let alone the leg-guys, chest-guys and so on. A lot of people I know (men and women) have a type and if it works for them, why knock it!