Dear Thursday: Interesting Moments in an Interracial Relationship

One last Hawaii shot from when we went to Kona for Dan and Nicole's wedding. My friend Kalimba gave me this dress and it really is an exercise motivator, b/c I really, really want to be able to fit into it again by this time next year.

One last Hawaii shot from when we went to Kona for Dan and Nicole's wedding. My friend Kalimba gave me this dress and it's a great exercise motivator, b/c I really, really want to be able to fit into it again by this time next year, unless I'm pregnant again, in which case, nevermind.

So though I’m definitely positive when it comes to Interracial Relationships, they do have their interesting moments. I’m lucky to live in California where IR relationships are quite common. However, the influx of BW-WM relationships is fairly recent, so often CH and I will go some place and be the only IR couple of this sort.

I won’t say that we get stared at, but we do get remembered. For example in our old neighborhood of Silverlake, many of the waiters at restaurants that we frequented could guess what we wanted before we made our order. If you live in LA, you know how uncommon it is for a waiter to remember what his or her regulars eat. And it never happened in the places that I frequented before meeting CH, but it happens all the time to us. We also get remembered at grocery stores, by work acquaintances no matter how brief the meeting, and by the front desk staff of our dentist, OB, fertility doctor, and Betty’s pediatrician. To put this in perspective, I’ve been going to the same doctor as Betty for about five years now, and they never remembered my name but now they do. And I’ve gotten used to hearing, “Oh hi, Ernessa, Dr. Whoever will be with you in just a moment” by the time I walk into a medical office the second time with CH.

I don’t mind being known as half of that one BW-WM IR couple, but it does put me at a guilty disadvantage, when people remember us, but I don’t remember them.

Also, travelling is very interesting. While CH finds small towns with one privately-owned gas station charming, I find them horror-movie scary, as they could potentially house all manner of racist rednecks looking to teach the IR couple a lesson about miscegenation. You know how a lot of white people find it uncomfortable and/or scary to get out of their car in the ghetto? That’s exactly how I feel about all-white small towns — especially in the Midwest and South. And there’s been more than one incident when CH would have to persuade me out of the car by assuring me that “mostly hippies live here” or “it’s a red state, but this area is known for its artists” and before we visited his family in Texas, I was reassured that Plano (which I had never heard of before CH) was neither small nor remote.

Luckily I’m particularly insensitive to staring, having spent two semesters in China and a year in Japan, where you had to become immune or risk going crazy. (On a sidenote: when my sister came to visit me in Osaka, on the eighth night of her ten-day trip, she suddenly refused to leave the apartment, because she was “sick of being stared at” — it really was that intense and I ended up taking her to a gaijin [foreigner] bar instead that night). If I wasn’t numb to staring, I would find it difficult to travel outside of the state of California with CH. When we go home to my mostly black community in St. Louis or to visit his relatives in Plano, Texas we get a lot of looks, and I imagine we’d get a lot more if we ever tried to hit up Mississippi for my bi-annual family reunion.

But then again, we ourselves stare at other BW-WM couples when we see them from afar and point them out to each other, “Hey, there’s another Loving couple,” or “Oh look, it’s a whole Loving family” — something I’m sure other people in same-race situations might find disconcerting when they’re with us. We also have a special double-squeeze for when another BW-WM couple walks past us on the street. I often wonder if other IR couples do this.

There’s also this weird thing thats happened a few times to us. A black woman has never come up to CH and me and said, “Hey, I have a white husband, too.” And it would never occur to me to do so when I’m out alone and see another BW-WM couple. But white men occasionally tell CH that they have a black wife at home, with me standing right there, which makes me cringe like the guy is talking about owning a Ferrari or something. Once a white meth addict panhandling outside a restaurant we were going into asked us for money, and when CH said “Sorry, no,” he said, “Hey man, I got a black girl, too” as if this commonality would make CH change his mind as opposed to making me feel like a possession.

Back when I refused to date outside of my race, I often thought that the majority of the problems with being in an IR would stem from the relationship itself. In the movies and on TV, they always make it seem like IR couples spend half their time arguing about mighty issues surrounding race. Don’t get me wrong, CH and I do discuss race and our differences, but it’s always a conversation and not an argument.

I’ve been surprised to find the majority of both benign and malignant IR issues crop up outside our relationship. Basically, it’s other people that most often make our relationship “interesting.” We ourselves tend to be just as boring as the next non-IR couple. Go figure.

But maybe other IR couples feel differently. Please weigh in. And before I go, let me just say it’s been a pleasure discussing IR relationships with you this week. Your comments have made me think and laugh, which is a great combination. And this is one topic that I’m glad to have finally tackled. I’m really looking forward to our Bi-Racial children week, so if you’ve enjoyed or related to these articles, please come back on Monday, when I’ll be kicking that topic off and announcing the surprise Minefield topic for the last week of October. Here’s a hint: It starts with an “F”…