Guest Post: My Parents’ Beautiful Interracial Love Story

Today I’m running a guest post and video from Youtube vloggers Pooja and Robbie, where Robbie shares a little about the story behind his parents’ interracial romance, along with a video.


When it comes to dating, most people find their partners through a dating app or social media. But what was it like to find your life partner before the internet?

My parents have been in an interracial marriage for the past 30 years, and they have a truly unique love story that started with a chance encounter with a complete stranger.

Just to give you a little bit of background, my father is Caucasian and lived in the United States while my Chinese mother lived in Singapore. Despite geographical barriers and cultural differences, they made a miraculous connection in the 1980s and are still happily married today.

This video is a tribute to their love story and how they met. I hope their story can bring encouragement to all of us. Our YouTube channel is about the unique experiences as a (Chinese + American + Indian) multicultural family living in Singapore.


Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

‘Running for Grace’ Movie: Interracial Love in 1920s Hawaii Goes the Distance

If you’re looking for a fresh take on the star-crossed lovers theme, consider the indie film Running for Grace (also known as Jo, the Medicine Runner). Set in 1920s Hawaii in segregated Kona coffee fields, in a world where Japanese immigrants toil for white plantation owners, love blooms one afternoon when the mixed-race (Japanese and white) orphan boy named Jo, a medicine runner in the fields, gazes upon Grace, the young daughter of the plantation owner, through gossamer curtains. But, in that era, he’s not what her privileged (and racist) white family hoped for – and eventually the revelation of their taboo romance sparks plenty of drama, including some thrilling scenes of Jo dashing through forests and fields over his affection for Grace.

Ryan Potter, who many of you may recognize from the Oscar-winning animated film Big Hero 6 as well as the Nickeleon TV series Supah Ninjas, stars as Jo, while Olivia Ritchie plays Grace. While the plot of Running for Grace follows a relatively predictable path, the two make for a winsome couple, one that will keep you rooting for them as they go the distance to stay together.

If you’re interested in Running for Grace, you can learn more about the film at its official website or IMDb, where you can see a trailer (which is also available on Youtube).

Have you seen Running for Grace yet? What do you think of this film?

Love Lives of Asians Like Never on TV: Wong Fu’s “Yappie” Is Smart New Youtube Series

Before it even aired on Youtube, “Yappie” – the brilliant new rom-com series from the filmmakers at Wong Fu productions – was already drawing attention, though not for reasons it deserved. (See Yes, There’s a White Guy in Wong Fu’s YAPPIE So Get Over It and Wong Fu: No, We Are Not Sell Outs — Why We Created ‘Yappie’.)

But if you actually watch the entire Youtube series (it’s only five episodes, 20 min or less each, and totally free), what you’ll find is a thoughtful exploration of life and love through the eyes of an Asian-American guy named Andrew – played by Wong Fu’s Philip Wang — and his mainly Asian friends.

Wang cited inspiration from series such as “Insecure”, “Atlanta” and “Master of None”. And the basic storyline — which centers on Andrew’s journey of self-discovery and soul-searching through his relationships, including with friends, lovers and family — isn’t necessarily groundbreaking on the surface. Yet Wong Fu’s “Yappie” feels like nothing I’ve ever seen before on TV.

“Yappie” takes the familiar, such as ideas about yellow fever (as it relates to white guys and Asian girls), and then cleverly subverts it to great comedic effect. One exchange between an Asian woman and a white man at a bar takes a surprising turn when it ends up reflecting dynamics more typical among Asian men and white women in the interracial dating world. This is just one of many examples of how the series excels at setting viewers up to assume one thing, and delivering something else entirely.

Wong Fu’s “Yappie” has also cast a Blasian woman, Janine Oda, as Andrew’s love interest. It’s refreshing, and not just because you hardly see Asian men and Black women paired up on TV or in the movies. Her presence opens up a lot of conversations rarely heard in the media – from race relations between the Asian and Black communities to Asian identity itself (at one point, she reminds Andrew that she still has her “Asian card”). And all of the interracial dating issues going on in the series will especially resonate with anyone who has ever, to borrow the title of the Diane Farr book, kissed outside the racial lines.

Also, just as Yes, There’s a White Guy in Wong Fu’s YAPPIE So Get Over It points out, the white man cast as a series regular offers comic relief, turning the tables on decades of movies that have used (and abused) Asian actors as the token “Asian sidekick”.

While Wong Fu’s “Yappie” sees the world through an Asian lens, you don’t have to be Asian to appreciate it. After all, the main character of Andrew is a bit awkward and uncertain about life in a way that transcends racial boundaries, making him incredibly endearing and relatable to audiences. And it’s a pleasure to watch Andrew in these moments where he pushes himself, even a tiny bit, outside boundaries drawn by his family or society.

The first season of “Yappie” proves that Wong Fu still has many compelling stories to tell. Let’s hope this is the start of more series to come.

If you’d like to see Wong Fu’s “Yappie”, start with the first episode below on Youtube. Or, if you’re based in China, you can catch the first, second, third, fourth and final episodes.

And if you need a teaser first, catch the trailer below on Youtube or, for folks in China, here.

Determination Is Everything, Even When It Comes to Making Interracial Relationships Work

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.”

Whoa.

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?

Guest Post: Odd Questions I’ve Heard About My Interracial Love

Anyone who has ever dated outside their race will relate to this wonderful guest post by Chi, who blogs at Talking of Chinese.

Do you have a guest post you’d like to see featured on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn how to have your words published here.
—–

The vast majority of people (whether consciously or unconsciously) date and marry within their own race.

According to Wikipedia, 97% of married white men and women in America are married to another white person, 89% of married black men and women are married to another black person and 91% of married Asian men and women are married to another Asian person.

If you happen to be in the less than 4% (according to Wikipedia only 3.9% of married couples in the US in 2008 were interracial couples – this is a big increase from less than 1% in 1990 but still an extremely low percentage) you are almost certain to get a question or comment about your interracial relationship at some point.

Both my fiance and I are Australian. I was born in Australia to anglo parents, he was born in China to Chinese parents.

While most people I’ve encountered don’t (at least openly) say anything about us being an interracial couple, I have encountered curiosity from both westerners and Asians as well as a few rare comments that are at least misguided if not racist.

The most common question I have gotten from Asians is a surprised “but how did you meet/get together with a Chinese guy?” while I’ve had both Asians and white people ask if I am “attracted to Asians”.

The first question stems mostly from curiosity, I think. While it’s fairly common to see white men with Asian women it is far more rare to see Asian men with white women (although I am happy to see it does seem to be getting more common).

The first question is also easy to answer – we were flatmates, we didn’t get along at all at first but slowly became friends and eventually fell in love.

The second question I honestly find bizarre. Imagine you asked that of a white person who was dating another white person “so, you are attracted to white people?”

No, I am not attracted to white people, or Asians, or black people or any race.

I am attracted to the man I am with because of WHO he is not what race he is.

I am attracted to him because he is strong but also prepared to show true vulnerability with me (something I have found to be incredibly rare).

I am attracted to him because he takes responsibility (for himself, for his decisions, for his family). He doesn’t expect anything from anyone.

I am attracted to him because he has an adventurous spirit and finds ways things can be done rather than putting them in the too hard basket.

I am attracted to him because he doesn’t shy away from things that are difficult, he faces challenges as they come up.

I am attracted to him because he knows what he wants and is prepared to work hard for it.

I am attracted to him because he prioritises what’s important to him and doesn’t let other things or other people run his life.

I am attracted to him because he’s upfront, he doesn’t manipulate or play games.

I am attracted to him because he is great at solving problems, an excellent traveller and can fix things.

Most of all I am attracted to him because we get each other on a level I find hard to explain – I haven’t felt this in any other relationship (even one that lasted for years).

Also, I think he’s pretty cute and his snuggles are second to none 🙂

Chi (her real name, no exotic background, pronounced Chai, like the tea) is engaged to a man who was born in China and grew up in Argentina before immigrating to Australia. Chi writes about her experiences (mostly her struggles trying to learn Mandarin) at www.talkingofchinese.com. —–

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

When a White Supremacist Website Links to Your Interracial Love Blog

DSCF0777I remember my curious feeling when I discovered the link in my Google Analytics. What website is that? I figured it was just something new.

So imagine my shock when I clicked on the link and found my blog discussed in vile terms online. They called me, along with every other white woman choosing to marry a Chinese man, a “traitor” and “trash”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center website confirmed my suspicions – that, indeed, a white supremacist website had linked to my blog.

This wasn’t anything new. This was hatred, pure and simple – a hatred older than most of us want to admit.

So what does it mean when a white supremacist website links to your blog about interracial love? It means you’ve hit a nerve with some of the worst racists on the planet.

I don’t usually write about these things. Like most of you, I would rather live in the light than the dark. I would rather turn my head away from evil.

But the recent alarming uptick in hate crimes, including those by white supremacists, makes me no longer want to keep silent. Whenever we stay silent about these things, we give more power to those who do harm.

No matter what you thought, racism hasn’t ended. It is still here – it always was. The Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving versus Virginia didn’t magically turn America into a country where everyone embraced interracial marriage. A lot of people still don’t.

A lot of people still think interracial love is wrong.

There was a time when I used to think blogging about interracial love was just about promoting diversity and understanding. But now I think it’s so much more – it’s about combating hatred too.

So if you’re blogging about interracial love, just consider that every post you publish is a bold statement in support of interracial couples everywhere. Let’s support love, together.

Interview with Kelli Estes on Her Novel “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk”

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

Some books are so captivating that I even cherish the memories of scrolling through the pages with my e-reader in hand. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes is that kind of book.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli EstesI’m surrounded by bookish friends and bloggers who get really excited whenever they hear about interracial love stories (especially AMWF pairings) and this was one of those books everyone seemed to be talking about the summer of 2015.

I finally got my hands on a copy from the library sometime in August, which is coincidentally one of the most dreadful months weather-wise in Hangzhou. It’s so humid you feel like you’re wrapped up in a steaming wet towel wherever you walk. Normally it’s a month that doesn’t register much in my mind, as I usually spend most of it shut up indoors with the A/C cranked on high.

But I vividly remember the August days when I read The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, as though the book itself provided a much-needed vacation from the oppressive heat. Granted, the novel takes place in the gorgeous San Juan Islands (which allowed me to imagine myself into this refreshingly cool summer destination), but it’s much more than just the setting.

Kelli has woven together the lives of Inara and Mei Lien – two women separated by over 100 years, but bound together by an embroidered silk sleeve with secrets of its own – into an enchanting story filled with love, courage and humanity. There’s interracial love in the past and present (Inara catches the eye of a handsome young Chinese American professor in her quest to understand the story behind that silk sleeve; Mei Lien falls for Joseph, a man whose kindness and generosity seem as endless as the oceans that surround their island). The story spotlights atrocities against the Chinese in America, exposing history that never should have been forgotten. And did I mention it’s all so beautifully written, a real page-turner that will keep you engaged from the beginning to the end?

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk even made the USA Today Bestseller’s List in December 2015. Wow.

I’m thrilled and honored to interview Kelli Estes about her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk.

Kelli EstesHere’s Kelli Estes’ bio from Goodreads:

Kelli Estes grew up in the apple country of Eastern Washington before attending Arizona State University where she learned she’d be happiest living near the water, so she moved to Seattle after graduation. Today she lives in a Seattle suburb with her husband and two sons. When not writing, Kelli loves volunteering at her kids’ schools, reading (of course!), traveling (or playing tourist in Seattle), dining out, exercising (because of all the dining), and learning about health and nutrition.

You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

In this interview, I asked Kelli about everything from how she approached her research to what it felt like to learn her book was a USA Today Bestseller:

—-

You’ve written before that you knew nothing about Chinese culture prior to beginning this book, and yet your book does a good job of portraying Chinese culture. How did you approach your research to ensure your portrayal was as authentic as possible?

You’re right, before this book I knew very little about Chinese culture. When the idea for The Girl Who Wrote in Silk came to me, I really wanted to write the story, but I was completely overwhelmed with the belief that I wasn’t qualified to write it. I’m not Chinese, I don’t have any Chinese family members, I’ve never studied Chinese culture, etc. And yet, I realized that this story needed to be written because so few people knew about the anti-Chinese riots and ethnic cleansing through all Western states in the last half of the nineteenth century. No one else was writing the story, so it was up to me. I started my research by reading everything I could get my hands on…from non-fiction books on Chinese traditions, symbolism, and customs, to all kinds of fiction books with a Chinese protagonist to help me get into the point-of-view of my Chinese character. In Seattle there is a museum called the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and they were a wealth of information for me in both their exhibits and their archives. The Wing Luke also happened to host a dinner I attended that was presented by a food and cultural anthropologist discussing and sharing food eaten by “Chinese settlers in the 1880’s.” Basically, I soaked up as much knowledge and culture as I could until I felt confident enough to write.

You were first inspired to write this story in part because of a horrifying account of a smuggler in the San Juan Islands who killed his illegal Chinese passengers rather than risk getting caught with them. And in the process of researching the novel, you went on to discover more of the darker side of American history. What surprised or shocked you most in the process of researching the story?

So much of what I learned about how Chinese people were treated shocked me, but probably what stands out the most was that other victimized cultures at the time (Native Americans, Irish immigrants, etc.) were sometimes the perpetrators of violence against Chinese. I would have liked to think that these groups would feel compassion toward one another and aid one another, but the reality is that the nation was so filled with an “Us against them” mentality, that very little compassion existed. We’ve learned some in the years since, but our nation still has a long way to go in this regard.

Your story features two cross-cultural/interracial relationships — Inara and Daniel in the present, and Mei Lien and Joseph in the past. Which couple was your favorite to write and why?

If you asked me which time period was my favorite to write I would answer the historical because I loved being able to sprinkle in the bits of information I learned in my research and I loved bringing the period to life. When you ask which was my favorite couple, however, it’s more difficult to answer. I loved Mei Lien and Joseph because Joseph’s love for Mei Lien did not see their differences that others couldn’t see past. I loved that he gave up the life he thought he wanted for a life with Mei Lien. However, when I think about Inara and Daniel, I also love them. Their cultural differences weren’t an issue at all, which I hope reflects interracial couples of today and certainly reflects my own belief that at the heart and soul level, we are all the same. When taking a look at both couples together, I loved showing that in this area, at least, our nation has grown and matured. Most of us can see that love is what matters; not skin color, eye color, speech patterns, or even gender.

Your novel uses scenes from the present and the past to tell the story. Was it challenging weaving these two storylines together?

It wasn’t as challenging as you might think. I wrote the entire historical story first. Then I wrote the whole contemporary story. When it was time I wove the two stories together in a way that made the most sense to me. My agent then suggested we weave in a slightly different way…and then my editors suggested yet another way. So, in a way, I guess it did get a little challenging trying to figure out the best way to weave (i.e. should we “see” the event happening in the historical story before the contemporary characters discover it in their research or vice versa?). I think how we landed was the best way and it took several people to get there!

In the novel, there’s a stunning silk sleeve embroidered with a story that ties the past and present together. How did you decide to have a story hidden within that embroidered silk sleeve?

I chose a silk sleeve because my plotting partner, Carol, showed me a framed and embroidered silk sleeve she had purchased as a souvenir in China. I thought it was beautiful and unique so I started researching Chinese embroidery. I fell in love with the artistry and meaning revealed through the symbols on the embroideries. They seemed to me to be communicating something that I would never truly know without intensive research into symbolism, fables, and cultural beliefs. I loved that.

Your novel landed on the USA Today Bestsellers list in December 2015. How did you respond to the news that The Girl Who Wrote in Silk has been so well-received among readers?

I still can’t believe it! This is a dream come true that I truly didn’t think could happen with my debut novel. My first response was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude because so many people had a hand in making this happen: my agent, editors, publicist, marketing team, sales team, everyone at Sourcebooks; all the independent bookstore owners who voted for my book so that it appeared on the Indie Next list, which directly led to readers learning about my book who otherwise wouldn’t have. And then there are the booksellers who read my story and hand sold it to customers; readers who wrote reviews online and told their friends about the book; other authors who told their readers about my story… Truly, so many people had a hand in this achievement and I am so grateful for each and every one.

What do you hope people gain from reading your novel?

I hope people find the story entertaining and thought-provoking. I hope they think about racial issues and how racism is still very much a problem, which I hope leads them to thinking how they might individually make a difference in their own community. I hope readers learn that there are fascinating stories in our history that still impact us today. Most of all, I hope my novel helps readers look at the people around them and see not the color of their skin nor their cultural trappings, but a fellow human with the need for love, joy, and connection.

—–
Thanks so much to Kelli Estes for this interview! You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

3 Myths About Failed Interracial & Intercultural Relationships

(Photo by siti fatimah via Flickr.com)
(Photo by siti fatimah via Flickr.com)

“Oh, I knew it would never work out…”

It’s a familiar phrase we’ve all heard time and again applied to relationships that failed. He wasn’t good enough for her. She couldn’t commit to anyone. They were always arguing.

But what if someone says this ONLY because it was an interracial and intercultural relationship?

Yikes.

Yes, when you choose to date outside the lines, even your breakup attracts a level of scrutiny that nobody should have to endure during this painful time.

What are some of the myths about failed interracial and intercultural relationships? Here are three major ones:

Myth #1: Racial and/or cultural differences mainly caused your breakup

Back when I started dating Chinese men years ago in China, I didn’t just encounter surprised looks from fellow foreigners; I also learned that many foreigners assumed it could never work out. Why? Because they believed the cultural differences were too great and would eventually bust our relationship.

Just substitute “racial differences” for “cultural differences” – that’s what you’ll hear back places like the US (and other Western countries) for relationships like mine.

Can race or culture play a role when interracial and intercultural relationships fail? Yes, sometimes. Race might get in the way if, say, your girlfriend’s racist grandpa won’t leave you alone about the fact that you’re Chinese. And I’ve met many a yangxifu (foreign wife of a Chinese man) griping about how their in-laws or even husbands don’t agree with them on how to raise the kids (sometimes, to the point of a divorce).

But it’s wrong to assume that race and/or culture is always the culprit for a breakup or divorce.

Sometimes, it’s just an issue of personality. After all, I’ve met so many yangxifu here in China – and every one of their husbands (and relationships) is unique and different. I think Susan Blumberg-Kason – author of the terrific memoir Good Chinese Wifeputs it perfectly in this interview about her book:

I wanted to show how people sometimes justify their relationship problems as cultural differences when they are involved with someone from another country. This happens with people from all over the world and isn’t unique to Asia by any means. What I’ve learned is that when something doesn’t sit well with someone, it doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t matter if this issue stems from a cultural difference or a personality one. Respect is crucial for a successful relationship.

Exactly!

Myth #2: You’ll never want to date someone else like your ex

Years ago when I first came to China, I fell fiercely in love with a Zhengzhou native who quickly became my steady boyfriend. I had never fallen so hopelessly in love with a man like this and I was completely charmed by him – from his rugged James Dean good looks to the romantic way he would wine and dine me out on the town. (For the first time in my life, I even pondered the prospect of marriage with him.)

Well, it all came crashing down on me months later when, while he studied abroad in Europe, we broke up. I wept for days over what I had secretly dubbed my first real adult love, asking myself again and again how this could have happened?

But not once did I ever say to myself, “I’ll never date Chinese men or Asian men again.”

You know, that wasn’t even the last time a Chinese guy would stomp all over my heart. I’ve had enough heartbreaking experiences to make one heck of a dramatic romance novel and then some. Still deep down I loved China so much and believed I would find a husband here. And sure enough, I did.

While I’m sure there will always be people who swear off dating someone from a certain race, culture or country, don’t assume it’s a given.

Myth #3: Your failed relationship proves why people shouldn’t date “outside the lines”

Remember the scandal a few years ago with Li Yang (the founder of Crazy English) and Kim Lee, where she posted the dramatic and frighteningly graphic photos of her bruised face on Chinese social media, putting a very public face to domestic violence. It was such a big story even the international news covered it, along with the divorce proceedings.

Yet I’m sure some folks read that story and concluded something like this: “Good god, why did she marry that Chinese man? She should have known it would never work.”

Yes, Kim Lee and Li Yang, a cautionary tale of why you should never date people outside the racial/cultural lines.

You could arguably say the same about Susan Blumberg-Kason’s memoir Good Chinese Wife, the heart-wrenching tale of her own personal “love affair with China gone wrong.”

But is it fair to come to these conclusions? Personally, I don’t think so.

It’s always a foregone conclusion that when people get together, a certain percentage of them will eventually break up or divorce. It happens all around the world. I’ve seen it happen in the yangxifu community in China over the years too (including this very public divorce).

While I’ve come across articles reporting divorce rates as higher among interracial and intercultural couples, I’ve also met many Western women who found their happily-ever-after with a guy from China. (John and I have passed the 10-year mark in our marriage and I still love him just as much as when we first met.)

Divorce or breakup doesn’t have to be the obvious conclusion to an intercultural or interracial relationship. So why should anyone use a broken up or divorced couple to represent every intercultural or interracial relationship?

Meanwhile, those people who do break up or divorce have enough trouble to deal with – heartache, stress and, in the case of divorce, all sorts of unpleasant legal issues that will keep you up late at night. The last thing they need is someone holding them up as a “bad example” or another “I told you so!”

Ugh.

As I often say on this blog, love just happens – and sometimes, it happens to create an interracial or intercultural couple.

Whether you’re happily coupled up, contemplating a split, already apart, or hoping to land your perfect partner, here’s hoping for a little less judgment and a little more understanding in the world for all of our messy, imperfect but ultimately beautiful lives.

3 Challenging Things About Meeting the Parents for People in Intercultural/Interracial Relationships

IMG_3837

When John first told his parents about me, here’s what his father said: “You can be friends with foreign women but not date them.”

Anxious doesn’t even start to describe the way I felt after John said this to me. And, believe me, I had reason to worry. My previous relationship with a Chinese guy ended in an ugly breakup simply because he could never take me home to meet the parents. He said his mom and dad would never accept having a foreign woman in the family. Ever.

Yikes!

Growing up in a very white, very middle class suburb of Midwestern America did nothing to prepare me for surviving meeting the parents in China. It’s the complete opposite from the casual way I used to shake hands and chat with a white guy’s mom and dad back in America, even on the first date! How was I supposed to know that meeting the parents in China was as serious as an engagement announcement, a promise of wedding bells in the near future? For that matter, how could I have ever guessed on the many other cultural pitfalls on the pathway to becoming the foreign wife of a Chinese man?

Here are four things that I’ve found challenging about meeting the parents and family in intercultural and international relationships:

1. When the Family Doesn’t Want You to Date

When your boyfriend’s father says you should be friends but not date, it’s the polar opposite of getting that ever-coveted family blessing. And even if your boyfriend smiles and reassures you it’s not a big deal (like John did), in your mind you’re envisioning all of the future family feuding over your relationship. And, quite possibly, a breakup on the horizon.

Sigh.

Yes, it’s a huge headache and then some. Still, John and I survived it, all because he insisted on staying by my side. (Never thought I would say this, but thank goodness for John’s stubbornness!) We’re living proof that you can indeed overcome this, provided you and your partner are totally committed to the relationship. Just realize you might be in for a very bumpy ride if the parents initially say “no” – the kind that could make the movie “Meet the Parents” look like kindergarten stuff.

2. When Relatives Say Totally Inappropriate Things About Your Relationship

Back in May, I ran a guest post from the blogger behind Big Asian Package, a Chinese American guy who shared his crushing experience meeting the family of his white girlfriend:

“Are you happy about those secrets?” said a voice from beside me.

“What? I’m sorry?” I said. It was my girlfriend’s grandpa.

“The nuclear secrets. I know you came here to steal from us,” said her grandpa,

“I go to school…” I say, protesting.

“You’re Chinese, I know you are,” he says quietly, triumphantly, like he’s got me checkmated.

“Yes,” I say, now seriously confused, not quite believing what I’m hearing.

Oh my. There’s nothing like a racist comment or two from grandpa to turn meeting the family into one of the most chilling experiences you’ll ever have.

Sometimes it’s not even a direct attack, but an assumption based on stereotypes or prejudice. Like how I’ve heard some relatives praise John for being great at computers (because, of course, all Chinese are that way….). If only they knew that my husband calls on me for all things computer and tech-related. (I’m the one who just set up his new smartphone!)

People have even expressed concern about the fact that John and I have a bilingual relationship, and have cautioned us against speaking one language too much over another. (Insert image of me banging my head on a wall.)

What makes this super-hard is the fact that you’re often related to the people in question. You’re not exactly going to win points with family by calling grandpa a racist.

That doesn’t mean you always have to let these things go. Over the years, I’ve had some really thoughtful conversations with family about racism and prejudice. John and I have educated relatives about what modern racism actually looks like (it’s not what you think it is) and, in the process, become even closer as a family. Who’d have thought you could bond over stuff like this?

3. When the Family Gets Confused by Your Relationship

Yocelyn of My Chinese Boyfriend voiced another issue with meeting the parents:

I don’t think our families could comprehend our relationship at first. They were too confused by it. 😛

What happens if parents aren’t in opposition to you, but they just don’t understand why you would want to be with this person?

I’ve only ever experienced this with other expats – people totally mystified by how a white American woman would even think of dating Chinese men in China. Let me tell you, it already hurts even when someone you’re not related to suddenly thinks it’s weird to date this amazing person you’re deeply in love with. I can only imagine the pain you’d feel when people who you’re stuck with by marriage or blood think this way about your relationship.

Love just happens between two people for good reasons. Why can’t the people we care about understand why we love someone as well?

Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that everyone will always understand us 100 percent of the time, including relatives. Which means that some of us will get the questions and odd looks from family when we decide to date “outside the box”, so to speak.

I don’t know that I can say anything to make a situation like this better. I’d like to hope that things will get better for you with time, and chances are they will, but who really knows?

Still, whatever challenges you face with the family, remember that you’re not alone. There are lots of people out there in interracial, intercultural and (like in my case) international relationships who have survived all sorts of familial scrutiny. People like me, who have lived to tell the tale – and will be happy to listen to your stories, nodding as we say, “Yes, I’ve been there and I’m here for you too.”

Wanted: More Guest Posts from Asian Men on Love, Dating and More

(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com)
(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com)

Today’s the first day of May (Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in the US) and it’s the perfect time to put out my latest call for submissions. If you’re an Asian man and you have something to say about love and dating, I want to hear from you!

Here’s a snippet from an anonymous reader’s e-mail that inspired me to put this call for submissions:

The simple thing is that many of us Asian men have a very hard time escaping not only our own paradigms of the world, but the paradigms of American white women. I know that the only paradigm we can really change is ours. Change our paradigm and soon how the world looks at us changes, too. But that paradigm has such a powerful hold on our lives that I find myself constantly falling back upon my old thought patterns of worthless and asexuality. And I work out and have been improving my fashion sense and people skills for the past couple of years!

Here’s where I hope that an influential site such as yours can help to effect the change I want to see in the world. The majority of your posts seem to be mainly about couples in China. Would it be possible to get a balance of couples in America, models that men like me can see and then believe in the possibility of love where skin color do not exist?

I think it would also be a great idea for your blog to have guest posts by men who were able to overcome their f***ed up beliefs, gain more confidence in themselves, and what they did to find love.

Additionally, this post by Big Asian Package also gave me an extra nudge:

Asian men, bros, let me have your attention for a moment. I don’t need to tell you about the discrimination, you’re living in it. You have to act if you want change. It’s a hostile environment, but the ladies are leading the charge, kicking all kinds of ass, and you’re not helping enough. So don’t think of it in terms of modesty, privacy, or hassle; think of it in terms of picking up a fair share of the work that we all agree needs to be done. Write your experiences. They are worthwhile.

Exactly!

So, what should you write about? Here’s a sampling:

  • Stories of how you found interracial love (that classic tale of how you met and, if you married, how you tied the knot)
  • Stories about how you were able to gain confidence in dating and overcome barriers (such as stereotypes and racism)
  • Your personal experiences with interracial dating anywhere in the world

Of course, you’re welcome to write about anything that you feel fits within the scope of this blog. See my blog’s tagline above for starters or peruse my submit a post page for additional ideas.

I’m looking forward to your submissions and can’t wait to hear from the men out there!