Recently, I awoke to a powerful headline in the China Daily:
Determination is everything
The headline accompanied a group of photos underlining elite athletes’ perseverance in the world of sports. But I found myself so inspired by the phrase that I used a pair of scissors to cut it out of the paper and asked my husband to paste it on a door in our apartment.
Given the determination we’ve had to summon in the past several years to fight against a grave injustice (a fight that is still ongoing as I write this), it was inspiring and comforting to read these words, to be reminded of the power of sticking with it even when times are tough.
But as I pondered the phrase, I also recognized that it could apply to interracial relationships, including what I’ve experienced and observed among interracial couples here in China.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall what happened many years ago when Jun and I first began dating, and he returned home to share the news about his new girlfriend from America. His father said, “You can be friends with a foreign girl, but not date her.”
I knew what a big deal this was, because I had also experienced the “parental objections” before with another Chinese boyfriend, prior to meeting Jun. Even though that guy (who I’ll call “Shen”) really loved me, he realized his family could never accept me and abruptly ended things after barely a month of being together.
You can imagine, then, that when I once again encountered this response from Jun’s father, I thought our relationship was done. It was as if a parent merely uttering any rejection toward dating a foreign woman would automatically set in motion a cascade of events that inexorably led to breakup.
Except, in our case, it didn’t.
Jun just shrugged his shoulders, as if his father had merely offered an opinion on the latest news or one of their neighbors. It didn’t matter to Jun that his father disagreed with him about dating me. Jun was going to date me anyway.
He was determined to date me. So we stayed together, and eventually got married.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to connect with and meet many other women like myself, who were not Asian and happened to date or marry Asian men. And what I’ve found is that many of them have very similar stories, with their beloved’s parents voicing some kind of opposition to the relationship. But they persisted, they stayed together and everything turned out OK too.
I’m also reminded of the many stories I’ve read of other interracial couples, who had to navigate all sorts of landmines before they eventually made it to their wedding vows, and more than just a statement that it’s not good to date someone. Things like friends who reject your partner, racial epithets from strangers who happen to see you and, worst of all, family who decide to disown you. I’ve read stories of couples so deeply committed that being shunned and even disowned by their families didn’t stop them from moving forward in a life together.
Now I’m not saying that determination is the answer for everyone. Sometimes we’re faced with really tough choices when we date differently, and not everyone can afford to risk a rupture for life with their families.
At the same time, I’ve also learned that there’s a difference between families who would outright expel you for your choice to date outside cultural and/or racial borders, versus families who might not initially welcome it (but could warm up to your presence, over time). And in the latter, a strong dose of determination by a couple could decide whether the two of you end up together in a glossy wedding photo – or apart, writing out the painful history of what went wrong in a diary.
What do you think? Do you believe determination is everything, even in interracial relationships?