Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for my car to get checked at the auto shop, I started reading a book called Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls. When I got to the discussion about the kind of people who married someone from another culture, I discovered this list:
The author described it as the “seven types of people who enter intercultural marriages — people who share certain personality tendencies or matrimonial motives,” and even mentioned that most people fall into more than one category. Yet, I had this uncomfortable feeling as I read the names of these “types of people” — maybe because the labels reminded me of men who hit on me on the few times I went to bars (often the creepy, unshaven types with sour, alcoholic breath that make you swear off bars for the rest of your life).
Then I read the description for the Outcasts, which started out like this:
Classic outcast personality types, for one reason or another, don’t fit or can’t make it in their own society and either feel or actually are ostracized by it. When they fall in love and marry people from another culture, it is often an unconscious attempt to find a place where they can belong.
I gulped audibly, and then looked up from my book self-consciously, to make sure no one else around noticed (they didn’t). That’s because those sentences immediately sent my mind flying through years of social hell in middle school and high school. Sure, I had boyfriends and dated guys back then. But I also got slammed into lockers, mocked, shoved and sneered at by many of my peers for many years. My god, I thought as I skimmed the paragraphs in the “Outcast” section. That sounds a lot like me.
But that wasn’t the only one. I identified with the Mavericks, nonconformists, remembering how I abandoned my Catholic upbringing and became the only vegan in my entire family. Wasn’t I a Compensator, since I lost my mother at a young age and longed for the kind of stable, supportive family my Chinese husband had? Jumping into China with no background in the country — and what I like to call “phrasebook Mandarin” — made me an Adventurer, no doubt. And as for Escapists, well, when I first when to China I didn’t get along so well with my stepmother (who, for the record, I now adore as if she were my own mother). All of these labels still reeked of something unpleasant — and as I juggled them in my mind, I felt myself turning into a sideshow freak (fortunately, though, I have nothing in common with the Unstables). Maybe I disliked them even more because I knew they had some truth in them. But I couldn’t help but wonder, does my marriage to a Chinese man prove they’re true for me? That, say, I’m a proven outcast? And more?
When I got home, I sat down with John to get his opinion on this. His thoughts? “They’re just labels. Personality is a complex thing. Even experts don’t agree on what personality is. So this doesn’t necessarily say anything about you.” He then smiled at me gently, the way he does when my mind wanders a little too far for its own good. “You don’t have to think of these words as negative. That’s just your interpretation.”
Thank goodness my husband is a psychologist in training — because I mentally breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s true.”
“Besides, this is something people probably debate. It’s not black and white,” he added.
“So you don’t even think they apply to you?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Not really.”
Maybe he’s right, I thought. This isn’t some exact science. Who can say that those labels absolutely apply to me?
Then John flipped through those pages with me and leaned over. “Well, maybe I’m an Adventurer.” 😉
What do you think of these labels? If you’re in an intercultural relationship, do you think any these labels fit you, or prove something about you?