DEAR HARRIETTE: I think that my boyfriend might be a colorist. The other day I asked him what he likes about me, and one of the things that he named was my “light complexion.” (We are both African American.)
This immediately raised a red flag. I always assumed that he liked me for me, not my skin tone. I also don’t like the fact that perhaps if I were a few shades darker, he would not have been interested in me. I don’t think that skin tone ever should have been a factor in his mind.
I can’t look at him the same after this revelation. Would I be overreacting if I ended the relationship over this?
Dating a Colorist
DEAR DATING A COLORIST: We all have preferences. It isn’t innately wrong for your boyfriend to be attracted to you because of how you look.
You probably like him, at least in part, because of how he looks. So, yes, it would be overreacting to end your relationship for that reason.
Rather than walking away, dig deeper. Talk to him. Learn about his values, interests and commitment to your culture. Does he harbor strong negative feelings about all darker-skinned people, especially women? It could be that he is just naturally attracted to you without being against other people.
Find out where he stands, what his values are and why he believes what he does. Let him know that his comment about your complexion was jarring to you, and that you want to understand more about how he thinks because right now the red flag is waving.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I was unable to help someone I really care about during a rough patch last year.
We were working on the same project, and lots of things went wrong. The boss of the project hired her as a social justice hire, I think. She is a very talented African American woman but different from workers they have hired in the past. She never felt accepted or valued.
I couldn’t help to make things smooth for her, as much as I tried from my consultant role. Both of us are long gone from the project, but she basically doesn’t speak to me anymore. I value her a lot. How can I mend this fence?
DEAR DISCONNECTED: Do your best to get to the bottom of why this woman has chosen to keep her distance from you.
Reach out to her and ask if you can talk. Tell her that you are sorry that things got rocky when you were last together, and that you want to clear the air. This will let her know that you are looking for an honest and frank conversation.
Be prepared to hear exactly what’s on her mind. Since she has distanced herself from you, chances are, she believes you are somehow connected to the way that she was treated at the former job. Go back through your memories to try to recall your involvement, what worked and what didn’t work. Be honest when you talk to her about what you believe about that job, and be willing to listen to her side.
Have forgiveness and reconnection as your goals. Let her know that you want to rekindle your bond. See how she responds.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.