Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"How did you meet?" (and other stories of disbelief in our intercultural union)


One of the things that is quite hilarious about being a mixed couple is that a lot of people are surprised that we are together. And not just together, but together long-term. This is something that really doesn't happen to same-race couples; and something they can't understand since they haven't experienced it themselves.

Sometimes, it happens in a lot of little ways. In ways that bother you, but it's not really enough to get mad about. It tends to happen consistently, regardless of how long you've been together. And it's an isolating experience, because only you and your spouse (or other intercultural couples) have to deal with this kind of thing.

I never really notice that we have different skin colors, except when people point it out to us as a mix that is foreign, exotic, and rare. In reality, we are just like everybody else - only we come from different cities - that's all.

For example, it will happen at Safeway. You will be in line together and the clerk will automatically ring you up as separate bills. Or sometimes they will bluntly ask you if you're together. One time I was in a particularly PMS mood and said, "Why WOULDN'T we be together?"

Then, there was the time when I was dropping off our rocking chair to get reupholstered. Husband-ji arrived in separate cars and I was pointing for him where to park. There were plumbers taking a smoke break in the alley and they asked me if he was bothering me. I said, "we have been together for 10 years." One of the guys remarked, "Oh, your business partner". I was a bit pissed at this assumption, so I decided to correct him by saying, "No, my LOVE partner". Jaws collectively dropped. I hated that it did.

One time in college, a friend of my roommate remarked that I could "do better" without even knowing husband-ji - solely based on appearance. What does that even mean?! That I should not be attracted to someone who is Indian? That by doing "better" meant doing "whiter"???

Last year in Italy, an old lady selling lace on the island of Burano asked me, "Is he the father?", pointing to Maya. I laughed and remarked, "Of course! Who else?!" Later, I told husband-ji and he was offended. He said, "Look at her features! Don't people see her Indian features?!" And then it dawned on us - the fact that other people, at first glance, only see skin color. Because they don't look deep enough. They just see color and nothing else. I don't think we had any words in that moment, as we had that realization.

The thing I get irritated the most by is a very subtle racism. It is a totally ordinary question, but one that is sometimes asked with an intense curiosity that borders on disbelief. It is when people ask, "How did you meet?" It seems like an innocent question, but it's not - depending entirely on the tone. People can ask it in such a way that it implies that two people from different races cannot socialize, or meet in average circumstances like every other couple. Some people assume that I had to go ALL the way to India to "meet" him, when in reality, we met in an American college, like many of our friends met their spouses. People always seem surprised to know that we met in college.

The bottom line is that YES, two people from very different worlds can find love together in the same way that everyone else does....


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39 comments

  1. I had to go ALL the way to India to "meet" him. People often times just don't have empathy for something that they have not experienced themselves.

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  2. Being Indian, I can understand racist questions coming from my fellow Indians. This post is a good eye-opener to the racism that exists in the West.

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    1. I am noticing it more and more, I am becoming more sensitive to it. It is a very discreet racism in the West, but it is still there.

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  3. I love your blog. I've been a frequent visitor over the past week, reading all your posts. I especially love your sunny spirit. I'm a south Indian woman from India married to a south Indian man who was born and brought up here in Vancouver. Though we aren't an intercultural couple as such, I get what you're saying. My own personal favourite comment was from an Indian uncle-ji when he met us the first time. "Your husband could've had his pick of women in Vancouver. But he chose YOU! You're lucky." :-)

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    1. Thank you so much for reading!
      Bwahaha...that uncle-ji! OMG I don't even know what I would reply!!

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  4. "The bottom line is that YES, two people from very different worlds can find love together in the same way that everyone else does...."
    Now, now. You're being a bit presumptious.
    People in India don't find love in the same way that 'everyone' else does......arranged marriage isn't the norm in Canada I'm sure.
    In regards to this- "Is he the father?" WHEN IS THAT EVER AN APPROPRIATE QUESTION?!?!
    If I had a dime for every time someone told me I could 'do better' or inferred I had somehow married beneath my 'status' (whatever that is) by marrying an Indian.- I'D HAVE A LOT OF DIMES!

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    1. Arranged marriages aren't the norm just in the Indian subcontinent. I'm not gonna list the nations here but let me tell you that it is prevalent in quite a few parts of the world.
      Aside from Indians there are many many others who don't find love like 'everyone' you quoted.
      Hana

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  5. This happened to our family just the other day. The four of us (me-caucasian, DH-Indian, our 2 kids) went to a restaurant. The host looked at kids and me and said, "Table for 3" even though DH is immediately behind us. Happens all the time. After 20+ years, I'm pretty used to it.

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    1. Oh gosh.....that has happened to us too! So weird!

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  6. Sorry this happened to you and other interracial couples. This would be very irritating and why don't people just stop and think before they speak. Just be polite and friendly to someone else that maybe in a interracial marriage.

    Melissa

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    1. Totally.....and I know some people don't mean it, it is not done on purpose, but it is so awkward.

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  7. ohh Alex ...can understand ... people are like this ..actually this is not their fault ...we humans set our mind for specific thing and cant think beyond this unless they themselves feel some different situation ...then only can accept other situation ..it could be happen .... and this was i feel only for indian but after reading post not only indians .. all humans are lie in this category ... there are only few people who can think beyond their aspect .... thats why u r facing this ... i think u should used to about dis ... luv u take care ... bbye

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    1. I really wish that there would be more intercultural couples in the media - TV, movies, advertising, magazines....then at least people would see it!

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  8. i come office and first i open ur blog ... and read new article .. i luv to read ur blog ... i inspire by ur blogging ur thinking ..the way u enjoy ur every moment of life and capture those pretty pics ... luv d way u upbring maya ... its like u r very good frien of mine ... thanks for sharing and inspiring me ...

    luv u
    Prachi

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    1. Thank you for reading Prachi <3
      Love to you and your family

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  9. Look... all I am going to say is that Husbandji is a very handsome man!!! He rocks the salt and pepper beard better than about 90% of the men in the world. I know my comment is not keeping with the topic of your article DIRECTLY but I am sure there is an INDIRECT link there somewhere :)

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    1. Bwahaha!!!! I showed him this comment and he proceeded to have the best day ever :D

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  10. While I was traveling with my Indian boyfriend there was an incident where I got hurt. Instead of asking if I need help, people approached me and asked: "Did that guy steal your luggage?"
    I also always get asked how we met. It does seem strange now that you've pointed it out. I've never asked anyone where they met their partner and wouldn't even think of doing so...

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  11. Yes, this is so true! So far I think it is other Indian guys who has been the most surprised seeing us together. They look at him with some feeling of "how could he get her?!" and it seems like they don't believe their eyes. At that time I was laughing more than I became upset. But it is so true what you say. People only see skin colour, nothing else. Why would having a fairer partner mean you have a better partner? That doesn't make any sense. In my heart I am still wondering how on earth I could get HIM.

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    1. Yes, it is totally awkward and weird. I have heard the same thing, "how could he get her?", it implies that he is beneath me, that there is a skin color hierarchy, and there is not. I hate that people can think this way.

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  12. I have been asked the same questions too. But good for me, people usually are afraid to approach me with such kind of questions, there is something in my face :P

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  13. I have been asked the same questions too. But good for me, people usually are afraid to approach me with such kind of questions, there is something in my face :P

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  14. I know that some people ask such questions just out of curiosity but think this way. If they didn't ask it would be more surprising. After all intercultural couples are not that common so it makes sense of them to ask such things just to be sure. I mean it is kind of expected. While some do it for the sole intention of being downright rude or insulting and the purpose is just to embarass or mock. It is unfortunate for us that we can't distinguish between such people. :-)
    Hana

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    1. True.....I feel like more same-culture couples should be aware of these things and be a little more sensitive. We have to pave the way!

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  15. Lol... Some questions you've faced are hilarious. Like hana said it is kind of expected. I follow Tina's blog and you too can see that her daughter nasrin looks nothing like her. She totally takes after her father but Maya looks like a combination of you both. So it is normal of any person to expect some features of the parent in their child. Also it's not everyday people come across mixed race couples. Well for the rude questions we can't really do anything can we? Other than giving them a black eye. Of course we're all the same. Do the same things and feel the same things. All of us find love in different ways. Be it a love match or arranged or sometimes both. We're just geographically and racially separated by fancy names. Intercultural marriages are also a big proof that two people regardless of race, country , background, can coexist happily."We're all just humans". Nothing more, nothing less.
    Amara

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  16. Still nowadays nobody can.t believe how i had an indian boyfriend (my truth love), specially white male friends who think "what is she doin with him?". I guess they don.t believe that the indian shy and cute guy u doesnt go to the gym and is an IT, with a very sarcastic and funny sense of humour can conquer a white female. Still he is the one i always loved, such a shame he had to leave to india, but live moves on and i am happy we met and had such intense relatinship and friendship
    Nice blog alexandra
    Anniedi

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    1. I feel like it is because there is such a lack of Asian romantic leading men in the media. Indian guys are always typecast as geeky or whatnot, which is so far from the truth!

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  17. Ouch! We get asked the 'how did you guys meet?' question all the time. Probably because it is very obvious our match is not arranged, though we are both Indian. Our cultures, race, language and heck, even skin colour is pretty damn different. Our respective names are also a big give away of our North Indian - South Indian background. So people almost always ask us how we met. It is usually the first question we have to answer when we meet somebody for the first time. It has never occurred to me that the question could have a hidden agenda.

    Here is the thing. I love asking couples how they met. For one simple reason - I LOVE listening to love stories. The more diverse their backgrounds seem, the more intrigued I am to know how they met and started their journey (probably because I expect the story to be more interesting)

    Are you sure the question comes with this implication: ".. it implies that two people from different races cannot socialize, or meet in average circumstances like every other couple"... Because I think that could be entirely your own reading. Most people may just be curious as opposed to racist.

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    1. It could be, and it is hard to explain, but there is usually a certain way people say it. You can tell who is asking because they like love stories, they will have a sentimental expression when you tell them. It is a subtle racism when the person asks in a strange way and then proceeds to look both shocked and disgusted. It is hard to explain, but definitely not all people who ask "how did you meet" ask it in a bad way :)

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  18. I can understand where you are coming from. I have dealt with similar situations with my Indian husband (I am not Indian). However, I do not get offended. I think people are curious and even intrigued by our union. One thing you can count on as an intercultural couple is that people will never forget you and your family. :)

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  19. I feel that this happens because intercultural relationships are rare and we tend to automatically assume what happens in the majority of cases. Like in stores, they are standing for so many hours, people just function automatically. I would not really take offense at that. People are constantly placing things and people in boxes in their heads because that is how we process things. Our brain would be overwhelmed if we did not categorize. As mixed race couples and mixed race kids are hard to categorize, people end up asking. Imagine someone's embarrassment if they assumed that some guy was the father when he was not. That is worse in many people's heads. So better ask. Me, I would observe and try to determine the same.

    Like Pepper pointed out - many people ask out of curiosity on how you met because you are an intercultural couple and because it is not very common. I ask people that too.

    However, I absolutely get it that there are plenty of people who are racist and cannot believe a white person is with a darker skinned person because it is going down. Sad but true.

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  20. This topic apparently spurred a long comment from me. Here it is, in sections.
    Part 1:
    Haha, yes I relate to this. My boyfriend and I get asked a LOT how we met; often it's one of the first things people ask us. I think it is a sort of mild "interrogation" technique, but it usually seems to be either well-meaning or fairly innocuous. We almost always tell our story. To people we don't know, we say we met through friends. For people that are becoming our friends, we share that: we both grew up in a suburb of Vancouver - me since birth and he since age 3 after coming to Canada from Pondicherry, India. My best girlfriend's older brother was close friends with my now boyfriend. We knew of each other growing up but didn't interact much. Quite some time after college we re-met at a party the siblings held at their family's farm, and we hit it off and became close friends over about a year. During that year I had been dating a different guy. After that relationship ended, my current boyfriend and I began dating, and the rest is history.
    I think people are actually kind of disappointed by our story, lol! It's so typical. Many people know that I had traveled to India, and I think some people think (or are hoping to hear the story that) we met there and began some clandestine Kama-Sutra-esque forbidden relationship. Nope! (Romance novel story line though, anyone?) Haha, just kidding.
    In all honesty I find that people seem to lose interest in the "novelty" of our union once they hear my boyfriend and I speak, and the fact that we speak basically the same (Vancouver accent, saying "like" more times than would ever be necessary, etc.). Then we're just another couple-which is great, because that's how we feel anyway.
    Meg

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  21. Part 2:
    A very personal side note into my insecurities: I am a couple of inches taller than my boyfriend, and about 20 pounds heavier. While this isn't a huge difference, I can be self-conscious about it at times, especially near the beginning of our relationship and after some not-so-nice comments from my mother (which I now understand come from her own place of insecurity at being obese while my father is stick thin).
    Anyways, one day, my boyfriend and I are walking down the street holding hands and I notice a bunch of people are looking at us as we get into his car. I was feeling particularly PMS/moody and I said to him sadly (thinking back makes me cringe!), "all those people are looking at us because I look big compared to you". My boyfriend, a wonderful man by the way, turned to me and said, kindly but firmly, "angel... do you HONESTLY think that the first thing people notice about us is our height or weight?"
    I actually laughed because I forgot that the most obvious reason people might be looking at us would be the fact that his skin is very dark and mine is very light, and that we are obviously a romantic couple.
    This realization has helped me with my size issues actually, haha (if people 'were' noticing/judging our size difference, or race difference I wouldn't be able to know it). And who knows, people might be noticing/judging our clothes or our hairstyles or any other number of things... however, race does seem most likely. It happens.
    Meg

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  22. Part 3:
    At the supermarket we often get asked if we are together; I usually don't think much of it. Sometimes we're chatting or holding hands and then people don't often ask. Other times, they assume we are together (for said reasons), but it's a situation where we are both buying our own stuff separately. I agree with other commentors that it's more embarrassing if a person assumes you 'are' together. Once I was at the supermarket alone, and the cashier asked if my order was 'together' with the guy after me. That guy and I said no and laughed it off but the young cashier said "sorry!" and got red in the face. So, it happens, haha.
    Anyone who has ever met my boyfriend would never say a comment like "you're too good for him", etc., but I have had white guys (usually drunk white guys) ask me why I was with my boyfriend, and could I not get a white guy. I calmly explain that I have dated a number of white guys, but this guy I'm dating, who happens to be brown, is better than any of them had been! This always shuts people up.
    When going into restaurants, we are always recognized as "together", possibly because we don't have any children in tow, and it seems less likely that two single people would happen to be going to a restaurant and walking in the door at the same time together (talking, etc).
    I am happy to have not experienced too much racist s***. We've only been together 2.5 years though, so I guess there's some time for that yet. My boyfriend has had some racism when on dates with white women before me (by drunk white guys), but we haven't really encountered it. Apparently sometimes people (usually Indian or Asian men) say things to my boyfriend about "getting" a white girlfriend, but that's another rant altogether.
    I think people are just generally curious of differences, and the bold ones might ask questions. Asking questions is how we learn, so I don't have a problem with it as long as it seems to come from a place of genuine curiosity and openness. I have no intention of ending my relationship and enjoy representing love in a partnership which appears to be contrary to the current "norm".
    Wow what a rant! Thanks for staying with me!
    Yours in light,
    Meg

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