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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Skin

From time to time, our close friends and family ask about public reactions Al and I get to our interracial relationship. Is being a mixed couple ever awkward or even scary? How do we handle confrontations? To be honest, I never gave the possibility a second thought while we were dating and considering marriage. You know, I thought about really CRITICAL stuff like, say, would our kid(s) look like Quincy Jones's kids with Peggy Lipton? Would I need to learn how to cornrow? I actually did lay awake nights wondering about our kids' hair before Al had even proposed... and spent hours online trying to find pictures and diagrams and use-and-care instructions. (By the way, if you are looking for a quick cool million, Plaiting for Dummies has not yet been penned.)

Al and I don't often even register consciously our blackandwhiteitude, although I do notice that we're more memorable to other people than I think I've ever been with other companions. Maybe it's the interracial thing or maybe it's just because Al's completely intoxicating to everybody, not just me. For example, if we visit a restaurant more than once, the second time we visit, everyone's all Hi! How are you? Where have you been? We missed you! And then the third time, the chef comes out and hugs us and asks us if we'd like to try the braised artichoke and fennel streudel with a reduction of 150 year old port and the servers want pictures of us to take back to their warm, sweet Greek grandmas in the old country and we all quaff flute after flute of champagne and chocolate cake with ganache and marzipan for dessert. On the house. It's weird. And it's been this way since we've been together and gotten even more pronounced now that Alex is in the... ahem... mix - pardon the pun. Ironically, everyone loves her wildly curly blonde hair! (Think Justin Guarini only REALLY SUPER blonde.)

There have been moments we've been the subject of scrutiny because we are different. Take one Sunday, at church, in the "Meet the New Members" line.

(Dialogue)
Odd Young White Girl, at a bellow, directly up Al's nose (closetalker, she was!): YOURBABYISSOCUTE I SAW HER GET BAPTIZED LAST WEEK. IS SHE (whispers)bi-racial?

Al: Well, yes, she is.

OYG: WELL I'M DATING A (sotto voce) black guy. DOES THAT MEAN MY BABY WOULD BE bi-racial TOO?

Al: Mmmmm... yes, if you had a baby with the (sotto voce) black guy I guess so. (We've come up with a few much more clever and entertaining answers to this question since Sunday, as you can imagine.)

OYG: IS YOUR WIFE WHITE?!

Al: Yes, she's right over there, see her? (Points.)

OYG: BUT I MEAN IS SHE WHITE WHITE, OR HISPANIC OR SOMETHIN'? (expiditiously storming towards me with distinct purpose and curiousity, as your geeky highschool science teacher Mr. Chambers would approach a six-headed insect on order to get a much much much closer look)

Al: Er... no, she's apparently just plain old caucasian.

OYG: (shouting directly into my left cheekbone as a small crowd forms around us) I'M CURIOUS BECAUSE I'M DATING A (sotto voce again) black guy. MY PARENTS DON'T KNOW BECAUSE THEY ARE RACIST RACIST RACIST. THEY DON'T THINK (whispering) blacks AND WHITES SHOULD BE TOGETHER BECAUSE THE RACES SHOULD STAY SEPARATE. ACTUALLY I'M ENGAGED TO THE (mouths)black guy (flashes little purple ring) AND HE IS MAD AT ME BECAUSE I WON'T TELL MY PARENTS. THEY WOULD KILLLLLL ME IF THEY KNEW. IN FACT SOMEONE FROM HERE (points to the floor - meaning "here" as in the church) TOLD THEM BUT I JUST SAID, "NO." I'M NOT RACIST OR ANYTHING AND I HATE HATE HATE RACISM IT'S WRONG WRONG WRONG BUT MY PARENTS WOULD JUST DIE IF I EVER TOLD THEM I'M WITH him, the black guy. YOU KNOW, MARIAH CAREY IS (silently) bi-racial, TOO!!!

Megan (friendly tone, no sudden movements): Do you mind if I ask how old you are?

OYG: I'M TWENTY TWO. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS YOUNG BUT I'M MATURER THAN OTHER PEOPLE MY AGE.

Megan/Al, simultaneously: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH... (exchange WHA??? glances as OYG continues her monologue)

Al continues to listen, stunned to muteness, as I put Alex down and give her a gentle shove, which thankfully sets her into motion away away away to find more pens and pencils from the pew-back racks and I take my leave to go chase her down and prevent her from ingesting them. (I am bad... so bad, but really, what good is a toddler if she can't be dispatched hastily to rescue you from the most bizarre conversation you have had while not under the influence of some (legal of course) mind altering substance?) The OYG continues to flatly denounce racism (to my lovely black husband, at decibals appropriate for the inside of a tin barn in a hail storm) for another several paragraphs, but without the bi-racial specimen off-spring and her white white mother pinned to the flannel board for close (close close close!) scrutiny, she eventually evaporates into the crowd, buffeting by us one final time to mouth, while pointing furiously to the woman in front of her That's my mother!!! Al and I were tempted to fall into a vigorous, groping, soap-opera style kiss right then and there, just for, you know, a laugh, but we didn't, as Alex was halfway up to the pulpit, apparently seeking a second baptism just to be 100% sure she's covered.

We gathered her up and all three walked hand in hand to the car, giggling and deciding what we'd have for lunch.

Comfortable in our skin.



7 comments:

  1. Oh girl, you have got me GIGGLING with this one! Are you serious? Did that all really happen? It's too much. Too, too much.

    Thanks for sharing what could have been a really obnoxious (at best) or, at worst, offensive interaction with such grace and humor.

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  2. You know, I mean. Not that there are people like her. But the way you both handled it. You know what I mean. (I have a way with words today, huh? Hahaha.)

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  3. I am laughing out loud over here! It sounds like Al handled it well. (and you're right - toddlers are great diversions sometimes).

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  4. You are SO good at describing (and, of course, handling with grace and aplomb) this STUFF of life. I heart you.

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  5. How'd I miss this one? TOO funny. Well, kinda. In a sad sort of way. I admit I'm somewhat glad you don't live in the south. My sister has been out walking her baby on more than one occasion (TN) and been told to. her. face. "I'm so glad you have a white baby..."

    Are. You. Kidding me!? Sad, people, just sad.

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  6. "Decibels of a tin roof on a barn."

    I know exactly what you are talking about because we had a metal roof when we lived in Guam. When it rained (and it always poured because it was a tropical island), it was deafening. We couldn't even hear the TV.

    Good imagery! :)

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Thoughts?