“How to Date a White Boy” by Amy Alvarez

Amy Alvarez


Never be the first. You are no one’s
enigma or experiment. Find evidence:
an old photo online, in a dusty shoebox
under his bed. Do not be his melanated
test drive. Do not feel flattered.

If you meet his parents, prepare
for disappointment. You will want
them to be pleased with your philosophy
thesis/your grandma’s pearls. You will
hope they are immediately rude so you
do not waste another fertile year on their
son. They will invite you to a cookout (they
will call it a barbeque, but it will be a cookout).
Don’t get too upset when you overhear
the grandmother say you are darker/smarter/
prettier/more or less articulate than expected.
She will be dead before the wedding if there is one.

So, you’ve fallen in love. Remind him
before you create a joint Instagram
account, before you adopt a shelter
dog, remind him that you wear the same
MAC foundation number as Sandra Bland.
That your brother looked like Tamir when
he was little. Before you argue names for
imagined children, remind him of what
could happen to a boy with your face.

So, your white boy thinks you should move
in together. Take him to un-gentrified Bronx
neighborhoods where old men play dominoes
on the sidewalk and children have no bedtimes
in summer. Take him to your favorite auntie’s
house. Let him get a tongue lashing from your
Hotep cousin while you “help” in the kitchen
by taste-testing arroz con pollo/collards/quinoa salad.

So, your white boy has fallen in love with you.
He has told off Johnnie Come Woke-ly friends.
He is asking whether you have ever thought it
would be easier with someone browner than him,
whether your parents, best friend, your abuelita
would be happier. Hold his hands in yours. Notice
his red face, tear-filled eyes. Tell him the truth.

from Rattle #64, Summer 2019


Amy Alvarez: “I am the daughter and granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants and a native New Yorker. I decided to become a poet at fifteen after a poetry class at my public high school in Queens, New York, helped me realize the immense power that comes from putting one’s ‘best words in their best order.’ I became an educator so that more young people might realize how poetry can set them free. I taught in New York City and Boston public high schools and now teach in the Department of English at West Virginia University.” (web)

Rattle Logo