(The Root) —
"A guy contacted me on a dating site and started off with 'I don't normally date outside my race or my comfort zone, but you're beautiful and caught my eye.' I feel a certain way about that statement. I want someone who will be comfy with dating a black woman. Am I reading too much into it?" —I.S.
Not at all. Since he contacted you, it's safe to say that he's interested in getting to know you on some level, and I'm sure he intended to pay you a compliment. But he clearly went about it all wrong, since you now "feel a certain way" and rightly so.
You're not "reading too much" into his comment. If he'd said, "Wow, you're beautiful" and stopped there — what he should have done — all would be right with the world, and maybe you would even be out on a date somewhere. But he had to go and speak his mind and ruin what could have been a good thing. Who knows?
Essentially what he opted for was a backhanded compliment. Possibly without even being aware, what he said was, "You exceed the expectations I have for the attractiveness of black women, so I'll do you a favor by lifting my rule about not dating people who look like you and grace you with my presence (even though I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea)." It's another, but worse, version of telling a deep-brown sistah, "You're cute for a dark-skinned girl" or a plus-sized sister, "You're cute for a big girl." And all of it is obnoxious.
Sometimes I think single women have been brainwashed into thinking that everyone deserves a shot, lest a woman find herself single forever because she wasn't open-minded enough. That's the only way I can make sense of why you're questioning yourself about making too big a deal about what's an obviously offensive comment. You can turn this guy down or flat-out ignore his interest and not doom your chances of meeting someone, including a nonblack guy, with whom to build a relationship.
To be clear, expecting an interested suitor not to offend you when he attempts to get to know you isn't asking a lot. It's the absolute minimum. You're not obligated to accept his offer just to have a date. You're single, not desperate. The two are not synonymous.
This guy was rude, even if he didn't know it. But don't let it shake your attempts to find a partner via online dating or even with a nonblack man. Just like in the real world, some guys get it right, and unfortunately, many get it wrong (which is likely why you turned to online dating). There are plenty of black and nonblack men who desire to date a black woman, have dated one before and are more than comfortable doing so. They can also string together an opening line that won't lose you at "hello."
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.