click here for pt 1
Maggie was pretty in a girl-next door who could be a model if she were slimmer and taller kinda way. But, with that ambition shattered, she became a cosmetologist instead and hustled Clinique products at Lord & Taylor’s wearing a white lab coat and a brilliant smile. I used to call her a lipstick Scientist cuz that was her specialty, and she’d laugh so hard. She was really very attractive. She had these alluring eyes and she’d turn them on just for me whenever we were in close quarters.
When she’d asked me did I want to hang out, after a pause for the cause, I had agreed. “Sounds good to me,” I’d said. But, I also told her that between school, work and study, I really didn’t have much time for hanging out. She’d said that was cool, that whenever was alright with her. She was just happy that someday she’d get to know me better.
I don’t remember how it began but sometime before our first date, we were getting to know each other really well…right there in the stock room. It started with a single kiss, soft and wet and menthol-y (she was a smoker, too.) And then it was on like popcorn!
It was a thrill fooling around during work hours…I mean, literally a thrill! I’d feel this charge of excitement every time I was near her. It felt like we were breaking the law. Like if we had gotten busted we would have been worst than fired…we’d have been executed! It felt like taboo. I was always looking over my shoulder. I’d never experienced this taboo feeling before. But it was like the chocolate syrup on a sundae. She felt it, too.
We didn’t talk much. We didn’t need to…well, at least I didn’t. She’d just come down to the stock room to restock some lipsticks or Skin Clarifying Creme or something, see me, hit me with those sexy peepers of hers, and the passion would overtake us and the next thing you know I’d have her pinned-up against some cage damn near ripping that Lab coat off of her. I just had to have her. The contrast of her fair skin and my dark skin was mesmerizing! Her blond hair was intoxicating…she smelled like Kraft Caramels and tasted like Mountain Dew. Her thin lips, her button nose, the odd dirty words she whispered floating on deep passionate breaths. All this combined to make every moment with her fresh and exotic!
Yeah, you guessed it:
It was my first bout with what came to be known as Jungle Fever, and it made going to work something I really looked forward to.
After a few weeks of carrying on like this, though, Maggie started questioning my intentions.
“So, Loco, when are we gonna hang out?”
“Huh?” I’d forgotten all about it.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I love being with you like this…but don’t you want more than a fling in a stock room? I do.”
“Really?” I said, perplexed. “Well, um, let’s see, then…uh…”
“Don’t you like me?” She asked, looking pained.
“Of course I like you!” I snapped. But, actually, I didn’t even know that much about her except that she’d giving me a charge like I’d never felt before.
There were two conflicting ideas in my head about white women at that time. Both were racially charged, and neither augured well for Maggie and I.
The first was what I call the Mandingo Syndrome.
The name I derived from the book and movie of the same name. The syndrome however dates back much further, to the days of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This Taboo feeling I had is derived in part from this syndrome, I believe.
(Sorry about the captions some idiot put on the clip, and the lousy editing of the sex scene, but it was the only clip I could find of this pivotal scene from the film.)
Mandingo is one of the best films I’ve ever seen about slavery in the US. It’s totally raw, no moralizing plot and utterly unapologetic! You don’t feel any agenda behind it, unlike many other films about slavery. It just paints a picture of life on one plantation and in doing so critiques an entire industry that America was built on; America’s so-called original sin.
I know it was kinda ridiculous for me to think of this situation in modern day NY, right? I mean, that film was about Slavery days, right? Well, I can’t say that I consciously dwelled on this. But, it dwelled in my subconscious for sure.
Remember those postcards of those lynchings from pt. 5 of this series? Shocking, weren’t they? Well, those were not taken during slavery time. Uh-uh. Those lynchings occurred post-slavery, in the the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s!!! And, can you guess what the number one given reason was for those “people” (I use the term loosely here) committing those hate crimes? Yep, you guessed it: some white woman had cried rape.
Whether or not the rape occurred is irrelevant (but I suspect that if black men knew that they’d be barbecued or castrated by a white lynch mob for just the accusation they’d keep as far away from white women as possible. I would’ve.) The point is, this phenomenon was a part of the black national psyche in the generations previous to mine. And that psyche filtered down to my generation by various means.
The other idea bouncing around my head was what I call the: Iceberg Slim Syndrome.
Iceberg Slim was a former pimp who became the writer of such classics as “Pimp: The Story of my life” and “Trick Baby.” Again, if you’ve never read these books I HIGHLY recommend them. His influence can not be overstated. His books have sold more copies than almost any other African-American author’s- over 6 million copies- and his appeal crosses race lines, having been translated into a number of languages.
A couple of the by-products of the Iceberg Slim syndrome persist even to this day. One is that white women who craved black men were looked upon as depraved sluts or victims of their own racial stereotyping, or, for whatever reason, weren’t getting the loving they needed at home so lured black men (unintentionally more often than intentionally) to their detriment, and sometimes their deaths, with sex.
I believe this is the most accurate definition of Jungle Fever.
The other by-product is, by virtue of the white man’s insane reaction to a biracial union (hence the lynchings and other inhumanities…basically just terrorist warnings to keep away), black men came to think of white women as the most prized possession of white men and so procurement of a white woman was akin to achieving revenge for the debasment of black people and, in effect, spitting in the white man’s face, protected by his own laws (anti-miscegenation laws were looser in the North than in the south but they existed until the late 1960s, and socially still exist.)
And, in the eyes of other black men, it spoke to your courage and “power.” The audacity to diss the white man in what was essentially his land (America). Kudos were in order. The first time “You da man!” was used was probably when some black guy saw another black guy with one or two white chicks on his arms. “The Man” originally meant “White Man” or “White Power” as in “The man sent me to prison for 10 years when they caught me with some white bitch!”
Yep, interracial dating taps into some shit most people, black or white, would rather not deal with.
But, my temperature was running high at the time…and I wanted to really experience Maggie…badly!
So, yep, against the judgment of racial history, I dove in…head first.
…to be continued