Ever since I was a kid, even before my mind had the capacity for grasping romantic feelings, my mother told me, “You cannot date until you are in college. When you start dating, you can only bring home a nice Chinese boy. We, especially your grandma, will not accept anyone else.” The reasoning behind this statement became clear as I grew up. Within the continent of Asia, there exists so much variability in language, culture and customs that the future relationship, and possible marriage, would be hindered with the differences between the cultures.
I grew up in a small city with a predominately Asian population; thanks to the city’s stellar school district for K-12 education. Because of this, my mother was in luck. I became conditioned to prefer Asian Americans over those otherwise. As I aged and actually started looking at boys with their ethnicities and the customs that came along with them, the field of vision narrowed even more.
Within the circle of the Chinese existed the Cantonese and the Taiwanese. I knew that my mother and relatives preferred someone of our ethnicity, a nice Cantonese boy, so they would be able to easily communicate with him. Another deep part of Chinese culture was the cuisine )since each region of China had its own special cuisine). The easiest way for any Asian to connect to someone of the same culture was expressing love for that shared cuisine.
Ever since I was thirteen years old or so, every crush I’ve had was an Asian American boy, most of them Chinese. Now in my third year of college at UCLA, for the first time in a long time I met the nicest boy in my class. We are both English majors, so we have the same interests in books, writing and film. He’s taller than I am, dresses nicely and has a good sense of humor. He checks all the boxes, except one thing. He is Mexican.
Before I even opened my mind to the idea of liking him, who for the sake of convenience I’ll call Albert, I shut the idea down as soon as it popped into my head. Even if by some miracle he liked me back and we started dating, there was no saying how well our relationship would go. If by another miracle we dated for a while and the relationship got serious enough, I would have to introduce him to my parents.
I was wary when I imagined the disaster of the scenario. He would walk through the door, and my parents’ would be nervous about how to receive him. They would have to speak to him in English instead of their native Cantonese. Both of them are fluent, especially my mother, but I knew speaking to their daughter’s boyfriend in Cantonese would be more comfortable. Knowing my mother, usually so proud of her delicious Chinese cooking, wouldn’t know what to serve Albert to eat. Food is the easiest way for Asians to show their love, but without that medium it would take more than a simple meal for my parents to begin to love Albert.
My father and my mother would probably like Albert for his personality, but they would not like the cultural barrier. During the entire ordeal my mother and father would silently disapprove of my decision of bringing home a boyfriend who was not Chinese, making both them (and Albert) uncomfortable. Their aversions to the cultural disparity would cloud their judgment of evaluating just his personality. After the dinner, they would awkwardly, yet firmly, tell me that they disliked him. I have always considered myself a good child, so I would obediently end the relationship. Even the possibility of friendship after the break-up would go up in smokes since it’s pretty hard to forgive a girl for breaking up with you based on your ethnicity.
If by some ridiculous folly I defy my parents and finally decide to marry Albert, which is highly improbable since I fear commitment and marriage more than anything, more problems pop up in my mind. I could clash with my future mother-in-law, perhaps she too would not appreciate a non-Mexican daughter-in-law. If she somehow approved, culture clashes could arise in the execution of the wedding ceremony, the importance of having children, and how to raise those hypothetical children.
Of course, all of this is completely hypothetical and unrealistic since I just met this guy a few weeks ago, but still it’s all a possibility. It was also more than enough for me to shut out the idea of a possible romance with Albert.
However, last week I had dinner with a old high school teacher. He’s relatively young, around thirty, but he quit his job and started working at a company in L.A. We had dinner with a close friend of mine from high school, and I asked him if he knew any interracial relationships.
“Not that many…but the ones that I do know are very happy,” he responded with a good nature. His wry smile showed that he already knew where this was going. I went on about my concerns about cultures clashing to hinder the success of interracial relationships.
His answer was that relationships, especially the ones that lead to marriage, are based upon the personalities of the two people. People clash on all the things I was concerned about, even if the pair were in the same ethnicity. He even said that he and his wife, both Chinese, clashed on multiple things like that, just because they were from different families.
“One day someone will come along and you’ll change your mind,” my teacher replied to my continual insistence to not marry. Coming away from that conversation was oddly comforting. It was almost as if he gave me subtle approval to go forward with the potential of a relationship with someone of another ethnicity.
A few days after that conversation, I admit that the scenario I had imagined of my non-Chinese boyfriend meeting my parents was a worst case scenario. Over the years, my parents have certainly become more lax in their conservative ways, more eager for their children to accept the idea of marriage, rather than their children’s future spouses’ ethnicities. For now Albert continues to be a wonderful, funny friend and I resign myself to a simple, school-girl crush. Everything else after that, I’ll deal with later.
Photos courtesy of Her Campus UCLA