Dating is hard in 2017. A lot of it is done online, meaning that each first date is semi-blind, because we’ve seen pictures of each other but have never met IRL. And then there's the looming threat of being ghosted. For such an intimate social interaction based on real-life chemistry, dating is evolving right along with our technological revolution. Of course, race still comes into play as well, only in different ways — like trying to figure out which selfie is going to capture someone’s attention in a moment of snap judgement. Dev, the protagonist played by Aziz Ansari in his Netflix original series, Master of None, experiences the racial dynamics of online first-hand in season 2.
In the fourth episode of the sophomore season, Dev has discovered the joys of swipe dating, the trendier sub genre of online dating — it’s like trap music to rap, or Kendall and Kylie to the Kardashian family. Despite being called “Love At First Sight,” the app would be more appropriately named “First Date at First Sight,” because Dev goes on a string of them with women of all different races. He takes all of the ladies to the same bar and after-bar with varying, but dismal results. However, things end on a particularly sour note with Catherine, a white woman and the only date he ends up having sex with.
When it’s clear that their hot and heavy make-out session is headed toward sex, Catherine asks Dev to retrieve a condom from a jar on her nightstand. The jar is in the shape of a very dark-skinned Black woman in domestic worker clothing. It's basically a cookie jar replica of a mammy caricature. Dev is immediately uncomfortable by Catherine’s decor (not uncomfortable enough to not have sex with her, but certainly moved to say something to her about it after the deed is done). I won’t spoil the scene for you, but it is awkward to say the least.
It was interesting to watch this moment unfold because so many people of color on the “market” have experienced it. Jovanna Jones calls it “dating while woke.” It’s basically the struggle of trying to balance and align your love life with your personal politics about race and equality. In moments when we experience micro-aggressions, we are constantly asking ourselves, “Should I say something?” Doing so might run the risk of coming off as too uptight when we really don't know the other person's intentions just yet. When totally unacceptable comments and behaviors arise, we try to strategize our exit, lest we end up in an argument or worse on what was supposed to be a fun night. For the infinite number of interactions that fall somewhere "in between" on the offensive spectrum, we struggle some more, lest we not get laid.
Whatever the case may be, when we get home, we do exactly was Dev does: plop down in exhaustion thinking that we are completely over dating. And then keep swiping.