Shot Through the Heart

By Denise Balkissoon 

I once dated a man who wore this rhinestone-studded bullet shaped necklace. Yes, I did.

Everything about that is embarrassing, including the fact that this embarrassing “man” told me that he spent $600 on this, a shiny bullet dangling from what appears to be a chain that was once attached to a bathtub drain stopper. That may have been a lie, since he lied about everything. The going price for the Marc Ecko Loaded Bullet is now about $250 on eBay.

Let’s call him Leb, for Loser Ex-Boyfriend, and also because “Leb,” is a term I heard used disparagingly to refer to Lebanese people when I lived in Ottawa. Leb wasn’t a Leb, or maybe he was. See, Leb didn’t know what race he was, and in my humble but correct opinion, that was a big part of his many, many problems.

Leb was adopted in Quebec, in the mid-1970s. He grew up outside of Edmonton, where he was regularly called “nigger,” or maybe, creatively, “sand nigger.” I’m not sure quite how much he was teased and bullied (see: compulsive lying) but at some point decided to take on whatever tough-guy persona he associated with the n-word. His powdery-white parents bought him everything he wanted (including a Porsche) but he still did break-and-enters, just to be a badass. Or something.

In the mid-1990s, Leb moved to Ontario. Overnight, Leb became white. Maybe Spanish or Algerian, but basically white. In Alberta, Leb had been a black guy. Here, he was a white-guy-trying-to-be-a-black-guy.

By the time we hooked up, Leb was pretending to have a sense of humour about this (i.e. saying to friends, “help a wigga out”). From time to time, he’d mix up his hip hop gear with a Diesel-type look; on these occasions, he’d say something like “today, I look like a Gino.” Leb had a brown-girl fetish and while I knew deep down that was idiotic, I kind of liked it for a minute. It was especially intriguing to Leb that I was Trinidadian, since apparently his biological father was too (possibly a lie). He’d ask me all the time if Trinidadians were “smart” and whether I thought he was brown or black.

Fetishists make the current object of their obsession feel like the centre of the universe. And y’know, it was more attractive than I expected, because yeah, every day of my life I’ve been suffocated by tv shows and magazine covers and everything and everything else focused on the apex of beauty, white women. It’s childish and dumb to say “white girls are flat-assed and ugly.” But hearing it was strangely comforting. I knew straight off that Leb was a racially confused soul, but that didn’t bug me at first. What it took me far too long to accept was that he was a lying liar who threw distasteful and scary temper tantrums and planned on funding his champagne lifestyle by bullying money out of me, his friends and his ever-infantilizing parents. Why am I telling you this shame-inducing story? Don’t judge me.

The particular nexus of low self-esteem/absolute insanity that led me into this “relationship” is not something I want to revisit, but in my defense, I did protest the Marc Ecko Loaded Bullet. I pointed out that it was bullshit of the first order to appropriate violence as something shiny and fashionable when one had grown up in a dangerous, strife-ridden suburb called Spruce Grove. He told me that it was just a cool, shiny object and I should stop overanalyzing everything.

But that’s me, dog, I was born overanalyzing. So, I’ve thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and—I don’t think you’re brown OR black. You are totally Portuguese.*

This post is part of the Interracial Dating issue of the Ethnic Aisle, the only publication for which I would publicly regurgitate this much TMI. Inspired by the piece Negroni Season, which made me laugh, cringe and empathize until my abs hurt.

*”White” people in Trinidad are descended from Portuguese colonizers. They’re pretty mixed by this point though. They kind of look Lebanese. [youtube]