Saturday, April 22, 2006


Written for Sunday Scribblings - thanks, Cee!

I am sitting in the tiny airless back room of an old work-place, my arm draped self-consciously over a crumpled work-mate, Dee. Dee is crying and I am doing a paltry job of comforting her. I'm awful at this sort of stuff at the best of times but now it's worse - I really have no empathy with her situation.

She delivered an ultimatum to her boyfriend of many years, Karl, and he did not do what she wanted him to do.

Dee is tall and blonde, a commercial's dream with her smooth tan and invitingly bland beauty. Karl is muscular and gorgeous and black. They make a striking couple. Dee wants the dream - the white wedding and 2 kids, and she's turning 30 soon. Karl is still a child, still wanting to sow his seeds. It's so sadly stereotyped that I fail to comprehend it.

Dee has told Karl that she cannot wait any longer for him to ask her to marry her. He must ask, or leave. Karl chooses to leave.

"I've always wanted a chocolate baby" was Dee's reasoning for why she was so heart-torn about breaking up with Karl. I am flummoxed. I leave to get Dee water and tissues, and cowardly hope someone else will take my place, making the meaningless soothing sounds but with more conviction.

Dee's words shocked me. They were wrong from so many angles. But I didn't discuss it with her - I have a little more heart than that.

Chocolate is food. And a description of colour. But did Dee start dating Karl with the hope that one day his genes would mix satisfyingly with hers to produce a 'chocoate baby'? Has Dee imagined the colour of the child she wants - a smooth dark like the best Lindt, or more milk based? Dee has managed, in this one neat phrase, to conjure up a sickening commodification of children and of race.

A child is a person with all the fullness, complexities and richness that personhood brings. And so is a person of colour. I worry about people who want babies because they're cute. What about who that baby will become? How that baby will become a (hopefully) flourishing human being? And Dee has taken this to a dizzying extreme - not just to hope for a cute child, but one of a certain colour.

I can't imagine that Dee would have made a bad mother, or partner. She was a warm and generous person, but to want a child like a type of cake is repulsive.

To be reduced to the colour of your skin - as a future child because it is the colour your parent wanted his/her child to be or as a potential partner because you could contribute to a child of some wished for colour - is racism. Dee would never have thought so because she was sleeping with someone of another race, participating in an interracial relationship. But I perceive her desire for a chocolate baby as deeply racist - perceiving a person predominantly for the colour of his/her skin.

I haven't kept in touch with Dee. I wonder what her life is like now and whether she has a child. And I can't help it - I also wonder what colour that child might be.


Jennifer (she said) said...

wow. what a take on the theme this week. you wrote: Dee has managed, in this one neat phrase, to conjure up a sickening commodification of children and of race. from a writerly and human and intellectual point of view, i appreciate what you've done with this theme. calling attention to the reasons why it is so disturbing is important, in my opinion. thanks!

Laini said...

Wow, that's such a fascinating response to the prompt! Great observations and writing.
It also reminds me of something that happened to a friend: on an elevator, a stranger asked her when she was "due". Er, she wasn't pregnant! In the awkwardness, she blurted out, "I'm pregnant with a chocolate baby!" and jumped off the elevator as soon as the doors opened. She meant her weakness for chocolate the food, but was a bit horrified when I told her the other possible reading of her statement, especially since the stranger on the elevator was a black man. Oops!

Paris Parfait said...

When I started reading the story, I thought you were going to offer her chocolate. So brilliant, the way you incorporated the "chocolate" of racism in the story!

megg said...

wow, I'm still digesting that post. I'm so glad that your friend pointed you in the direction of Sunday Scribblings. You are an amazing writer. I hope that your old friend learned something after all.

Caroline said...

Maybe she used the word chocolate to sum up all that was sweet and tasty about the relationship and what's more showing that she'd really thought about what colour her babies might be...

Cate said...

Glued. I was GLUED to this post, wanting to find out what happened with Dee. Even though you don't keep in touch with her, your reflections were enough.

Fascinating post--I wonder if they ever got back together?

Joy Eliz said...

Wow! Nice writing with such depth and insite.

Marilyn said...

WOW. I've never actually heard someone say that wish out loud, although I've known people that I suspected it was true of. (And if that sounds judgmental, let me say that I'm in an interracial relationship...we don't have any babies). Yes, it's so very wrong...on so many levels. Karl was smart to leave. I've been struggling with the chocolate prompt--I love the different angle you took.

chest of drawers said...

Very disturbing. Well written.

OTT said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments - very encouraging.

gkgirl said...

i also thought
it was going to be an
offer of chocolate to cheer her up
and then
was suprised
by the twist...

i like how you write...
it grabs your attention
right away.

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