Never Touch a Black Guy’s Butt

Tina and I were shooting pool at the Hexagon. We went there because, of the two bars with pool tables in my Minneapolis neighborhood, the Hex was the only one that served hard liquor. The Cardinal was limited to beer and wine. I didn’t drink, but Tina still loved her whiskey.

There were two very muscular black men shooting a game or two at the table next to ours. They were dressed to go out, with overly-ornate, tight-fitted button-up urban shirts and colorfully embroidered jeans. Neither could form a sentence without at least two profanities and usually, at least one was the N-word.

“I’d kind of like to play with those two,” Tina told me, conspiratorially.

I didn’t even want to be noticed by them. I glanced sidelong and shook my head.

They had Tina’s attention for the better part of the night. It was getting late and we debated on whether to play one more game or head for home. We decided to step out for a smoke. It was chilly, so we put on our coats and started moving towards the patio door.

Our boisterous neighbors were discussing a missed shot and what the fuck the “nigga” who was shooting should have done to sink that bitch, if he knew what his partner was saying, that is.

A damnably familiar look of mischief seized Tina’s face and she broke sharply left, darting away from me and towards the back wall behind the pool tables. I didn’t have time to react beyond cringing. Shoulders slumped forward to lower her profile in a caricature of stealth, she rounded the second table and came up behind the guy who’d assumed the role of instructor. He was unaware of her approach until she lifted one leg and began to repeatedly bump her crotch into his butt, saying “maybe it would have worked better if he’d done it like this.”

“TEE-NAH!” I shouted in horrified reproach.

The instructor first checked the beer in his hand for spillage, then very slowly turned his head to regard Tina. “Was that supposed to be some kind of gay thing?” He was calm and very still, but the air around him crackled with menace.

“She didn’t mean anything by it, man. She’s just really drunk,” I quickly interjected.

Only then did Tina seem to grasp the gravity of the situation and she thankfully took a step back and kept her mouth shut.

“Well, are you going to buy me a beer or am I going to have to take offense?”

I froze. “Uh…” Deja vu was striking from my teen years. I was certain I hadn’t been called to account for a date’s behavior since then. I was caught off guard by the neanderthal notion, but figured, rather than attempt a philosophical debate about misogyny, I’d just buy the guy a beer to smooth things over and then get Tina to a safe harbor.

Watching my face, and seeming to read my train of thought, Tina preempted my reply.  “I’ll do it.” She made a wide arc around them and came towards me, fishing her wallet out of her purse. She approached the bar.

Seemed fair enough to me.

“PBR Tall boy,” he called out.

Tina bought him the beer, delivered it with a faint curtsy and the decision on whether to shoot another game was moot.

What Tina had done was so obviously wrong on many levels, but I was astonished by her take on what had gone wrong as we made our way across the parking lot to my van.

“I have to remember black guys don’t like their butts touched.”

Moments like those nearly forced my brain to reboot. I stammered, trying to find a response. None was handy off the shelf. I had to formulate something new.

“Especially from behind,” Tina added.

My brain was trying in vain to track down a precedent. Nope. New territory and deeper afield.

“What if maybe you just didn’t touch ANY stranger’s butts when we go out to the bar?”

The conversation devolved into delusion, with Tina lamenting being born white, certain that her weird attempt to get recognition from random thugs in the bar was only foiled by her complexion.

This kind of dangerous and inappropriate impulsivity is a trait of cluster B disorders. Narcissists need attention and have difficulty regulating the conflicting states of inflated sense of self-worth and the inherent fragility of their egos. This results in poor impulse-control. Similarly, people suffering from borderline personality disorder are often coming with feelings of inadequacy that result in unstable emotions, behaviors and relationships. They are unable to see how their emotions and impulses are unreasonable or excessive. A person with BPD is unlikely to consider the potential consequences of his or her actions. For the narcissist, any negative fallout is easily blamed on someone else or other circumstances, even if the explanation seems nonsensical to anyone else (that only went wrong because those black guys were racist and don’t like white women).

Tina’s impulsivity wasn’t always destructive (but often enough for it to be a serious problem). Sometimes it was endearing, like when she’d abruptly stop during a winter stroll and throw herself to the ground to make a snow angel, or when she’d have to put a quarter into the vending machine for that shiny bauble, or needed to win a plush toy from the claw game.

“I’m having so much fun!” she gushed while we were tracing chalk outlines of each other late one summer night in Buffalo. We were making a “crime scene” that looked like people had been crushed by cars and construction equipment on the deserted Main Street.

Those child-like impulses were adorable, but I now realize that they also probably stem from terrible childhood trauma that stunted her emotional development. Her literacy was at least equal to a doctoral student, but emotionally and logically, she was hardly more developed than a 5-year-old.

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