sitges, a predominantly gay beach town south of barcelona. a conversation with my friend, derrick, black and gay.
derrick: did you see that? the whole table of men turned around to look at me. that makes me feel pretty.
me: what? you're not used to being adored?
derrick: no. in california that shit ain't happenin'.
me: why not? you're beautiful.
derrick: wrong color.
one hour later, lying on the beach, talking about boys.
derrick: no, i don't like to be fetishized.
me: what do you mean exactly? 'cause i don't mind being objectified every once in a while.
derrick: you know, like if someone keeps saying, 'i love your skin color' or 'your skin is so beautiful' . . . i don't like that.
one week later, at lunch with 2 african american women new to barcelona. they want the inside scoop on the city. especially the men.
sister 1: well, what about the italian men? they seem to really like black women. everyone seems to really like black women here.
me: i know. isn't it fun?
sister 2: well, isn't it fetishization?
me: how do you experience it? you probably have all kinds of strange men yelling guapa at you, do you feel disrespected in any way?
sister 2: no [she hesitates] . . . actually, the attention feels good. i never get this much attention in new york. men never call me 'beautiful' or approach me in the streets. i wanna move here . . .