My husband and I have been married for what seems like forever (almost 12 years). Every time we reminisce about our dating years, I can’t help but think the challenges of dating outside my race. During my high school years I learned never to bring a black boy home after my mom flipped out when a platonic friend stopped by our home to chat with me. I’m lucky my husband and I eventually had a happy ending, but we had some rough times.
Even before I met my husband, I dated outside my race. Growing up as the only Asian family in our Southern rural town didn’t leave me many options for dates. I had no choice but to date outside my race. As someone who’s “survived” interracial dating, I learned a few things along the way.
1. Everyone thinks you’re brave but “they could never do it.” The first black guy I “dated” in high school was this tall jock. Looking back, I’m not even sure what we had in common. Dating back then meant holding hands, eating lunch together and making out in between classes. At least it was for me because I wasn’t allowed to date yet. Classmates, both white and black, would walk up to me in the hallway and whisper conspiratorially, “I think it’s pretty cool what you’re doing, but I could never, ever do it.” Um, do what? Date?
2. It takes a lot of energy (and lies) to hide your relationship. When I met my husband in college, we were delighted to discover that our parents’ homes were in the same metro area. It also scared the shit out of me. Once during spring break, I ran into him at a local Wal-mart and immediately turned around and walked back to the next aisle where my mother and sister were shopping. Thankfully I had already told him that I couldn’t tell my family about it. The longer we dated, the harder it was to keep making up lies. Especially when my mother worried that I was a lesbian. Which was kinda funny and ironic.
3. Going on actual dates in my home town was a panic inducing experience. Every. Single. Date. I”m so glad I went to college away from home. It allowed me plenty of freedom, as long as my grades were good (sorry about that C in Calculus mom and dad). During our winter and spring break, my husband and I wanted to see each other as much as possible. We had plenty of late night phone calls, but we needed to see each other too. While my parents were at work, I’d meet him for lunch or movies. It didn’t matter where we went, as long as I wouldn’t run into a family member. Once a cousin spotted us in the mall parking lot and tried to bring it up at a family gathering. Thankfully, his girlfriend shut him up and told him it wasn’t his business. Talk about a panic attack. After that, our trysts were usually at my future mother-in-law’s home.
4. Sometimes the boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t understand what the big deal is. At first my then boyfriend (now husband) went along with my plan to not tell my parents about our relationship. After dating for three years, he became impatient. My husband was the all around good guy that parents loved. He thought if he just met my parents, they would get over his chocolate skin. Racism is irrational. It was hard to explain to him they would not want to look past his skin color. After my parents acted like he didn’t exist (even though he was standing next to me) at my college graduation, he got it.
5. Telling your family is the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Scarier than pain of childbirth. The movies make it look so easy. Girl tells parents she’s in love with a black/white/Hispanic/Asian guy. Parents get mad but they hug and say, “As long as you’re happy.” I”m calling bullshit on this. I seriously debated telling my parents, “Mom, Dad, I’m a lesbian. Wait, just kidding, I’m in love with a black guy.” Except I didn’t have the nerve to break them twice in once day. I think being a gay Asian is worse than not marrying an Asian. At least for my family. I told my parents over spring break of my senior year in college. That was the scariest week of my life. Even after I told my parents, I was scared.
6. It’s worth all the hardship. My husband and I went through many years of tears and heartache. While I would never wish it on anyone, I’m happy that we stuck through the tough times. It helped that we had a strong relationship before I told my parents. It also helped that his mother liked me. It helped that my sister liked my husband. And my cousins didn’t see the big deal about my dating a black man. Getting my parents to come around took years, even after we were married.
I’m not trying to scare you away from dating outside your race when your family doesn’t approve. It’s freaking hard. Just thinking back to when I told my parents about us is giving my heart palpitations. The movies make interracial dating so romantic and feel good. I guess it can be. Interracial dating isn’t a big deal for some families, but based on the emails I get, many families are like mine were. (There’s a great video series by a Louisiana newspaper about interracial marriages in the south.)
I didn’t choose to fall in love with someone because of their race. I fell in love with a man who love and respects me.
If you’ve dated outside your race, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment or send me an email kim @ imnotthenanny.com (remove spaces).