Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guess who's coming to dinner?: Meeting my husband's parents for the first time.

Being in an interracial relationship, one of the first things people ask us is "what did his parents think?"

People usually ask what they thought before asking what my parents thought. I'm not sure why, because he's the lucky one. ... I mean that in a non-conceited way. Of course I'm lucky too but when people ask me what his parents thought it comes across--to me--as if they would be the ones, if any, to disapprove. But why?
I'll admit, I was more nervous about meeting his parents and family than I was about him meeting mine, despite my having a strict father who tried to tell me I needed to marry a "strong black man." I knew ultimately it wouldn't matter to them what my intended husband looked like, but how he treated me. The hesitation I felt toward meeting his family was more based on past experiences with people I was friend with, and their families reactions.

My white friends growing up didn't always seem to have parents who would have supported them either way. I mean, maybe they would have had it come to that, but based on what I heard--Things like "it's against the Bible to date outside your race" or "My father would not like it if I had a black boyfriend" their parents weren't so keen on the idea.

Having been raised hearing those things in the Georgia, I never knew what to expect if a white guy were to bring me home.

So... This new boyfriend of mine--a white guy from Utah--and I, had only been dating something like a week when he told me his parents wanted to meet me. What the...?

I can't remember asking him flat out if they knew I was black, but I knew they did. Something about the way he was so overly excited about me meeting them. I had an inkling they'd be fine with it.

It's weird even writing this down just now. That they'd be fine with it. I wasn't ashamed of being me, being black and who I am, but I worried about a possible supremacy attitude I sometimes saw and heard growing up in Georgia. I worried because I liked this guy so much, and I'd hate for some punk parents to screw it up for us.

"My dad is excited to talk to you about BYU." That's one of the only prefaces I remember him telling me before going to his house.

Ok, great. I thought. There's at least one thing we'll have in common.

But we actually had a lot in common.

I don't remember much of what I talked about with my then-boyfriend's dad, but I remember thinking he was very nice and very funny--of course still true to this day.

His mom wasn't home during all of this, and I was actually most nervous about meeting her. I heard she grew up in Atlanta and well... I did too and I know all to well that everyone isn't so friendly, especially when it comes to racial issues.

I'll never ever forget the moment I met his mother. This smooth guy I was dating had an awesome idea that we should go downstairs and watch some TV white we waited for her to get home. Of all the shows he chose to watch he picked the movie Friday.

If you aren't familiar with Friday, it's basically a stereotypical comedy about some pot-smoking friends (Ice Cube and Chris Tucker) in an urban neighborhood avoiding drive-bys and gangster thugs. If you know me, you know this isn't my typical choice of movie. But he's always found this kind of stuff hilarious.

So amidst his laughter, his mom starts walking down the stairs to the basement. I tell him someone is coming--Thinking he'd get the hint to change the channel. But instead he pauses the movie. And the frame he just so happens to stop on was something between this...

And this...
So his mom, who's never met me before joins us downstairs with a giant freeze-frame of thugness all over the big screen, and her son is hanging out, watching this with his new black girlfriend.

I'll be honest. I don't remember that conversation at all because I was so horrified. I'm a big believer in first impressions make a difference and I didn't feel like that was the best one for me to give.

When she left I asked him what he was thinking... 'Great, now your mom is going to think I'm some kind of bad influence on you.'

But he laughed it off and assured me his mom knows him and knows he watches stuff like that all the time.

It's true. Growing up he asked his mom to buy him Snoop Dogg cassettes, and probably other hip hop and R&B music.  I've even seen pictures of him as a young boy, with his blond hair and pretty blue eyes wearing his wind breakers, listening to his Walkman (he says Snoop was playing at the moment) and his Paula Abdul poster hanging behind him. He's always been very... Cultured. I guess you could say.

The following weeks I joined him and his family for Sunday dinners, and family parties. I met all of his local extended family just a week later, including his uncles, aunts, and cousins. And shortly thereafter I met his grandparents, who had just returned from a mission trip to Australia. Not one person batted an eye to the fact that he was dating a black girl. No one cared.

I even remember later having conversations with some of his family about the fact that nobody cared. I think part of it could be because religion was a more important commonality to them, but since then I've seen even that doesn't make them disapprove of someone.

Looking back and remembering this experience has really made me realize not everyone has the same opinions on interracial relationships. Growing up I felt like it would be a lifelong battle if I decided to marry someone outside of my race, but luckily for me, it hasn't been.

Sure, there are occasions where we encounter things that make us go "hmmm" but that hasn't happened with his family. Nor with mine... But I'll go more into my side some other time.

I know for a fact I don't care about race in regards to who my daughter decides to date or marry. What about your children?

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