Does Your Family Know I’m Black?

As time inches closer to the holidays–primarily Thanksgiving, plans are also starting to form. I’ve never thought much of Thanksgiving as a whole. Wait, that sounds terrible. I mean, growing up my family always celebrated it, but beyond high school and into my college years it’s all sort of been ad-hoc and conditional. Some years I just visited extended family out of state, other years I’ve had local “friendsgivings” and twice now, I’ve spent it watching netflix while eating Boston Market or something similarly shitty. I did a combination of the last two options last year (though the majority of it was a blur). I guess I hadn’t thought much about this year until this past Sunday when The Teacher asked if I would come home with him to spend Thanksgiving with him and his family this year. We were riding back to his place from having a triple dinner date at his friend’s place and had just spent a lovely weekend cuddled up together doing cheesy solo couples shit, perhaps he just felt “popping the question” was appropriate?

After agreeing to the offer, he went on about how excited he was. His eyes lit up like fire works on the fourth of July. While I’ve already met his father and step mother (and I’m cool with them), he mentioned that this time I would be meeting his (actual) mother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and maybe a cousin or two?

Whoa. whoa. whoa there, buddy.

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I was under the impression that this would be an intimate sophisticated adults Thanksgiving with just his dad and step mom where we all got wine tipsy while watching cheesy holiday specials after gorging ourselves on loads of carbs. You know, a lazy-ish Thanksgiving of sorts. You mean I’ve now got to meet more of your fam-a-lam-a-lam-a-lam?

As he rambled on about these loosely thought out plans (when we’d leave, what we’d do the day we got there, whether or not we’d be bringing something, etc), I thought about whether or not his extended family knew much about me (I at least know they know OF me) and if after meeting me, would accept me? I probably haven’t said much if ANYTHING up here, but The Teacher and I are in an interracial relationship. Yes. While this doesn’t SEEM like a huge deal in 2018, it could be to those who may not agree with it, or well, (don’t agree with) me specifically and I’m always aware and on high alert about it. I don’t entirely live in a bubble. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t care about what someone else thinks about my relationship, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that ongoing negativity would potentially piss me off over time.

The Teacher is extremely open-minded and welcoming. He’s a very warm and kindhearted person. He’s loyal, silly, intelligent, adorable and probably one of my favorite people to be around whether we’re actively doing something out or being lazy and binge watching netflix in. He checks all of the boxes and then some. He’s never said anything remotely insensitive or racist (nor does he seem to associate with anyone who is insensitive or racist) and is always fully aware of who and what we are and ready to “go to bat” for anyone who has a problem with it. He’s also extremely public about our relationship and is quick to introduce me as his girlfriend to any and everyone (though most people he introduces me already know who I am). In our conversations about cultural differences (mostly me explaining things some black folks do–like how I had to explain to him just last night that I do not want him getting my hair wet each time we shower together–especially if we have to go somewhere immediately after– because it’s a literal PROCESS for most black women to wash, dry and style our hair), he’s always been respectful and accepting. I can tell that if he has a question, it comes from a genuine place of wanting to understand and not one of malice or mockery.

I occasionally forget about “reality” and find myself immersed in our own little world of just “us”. Of course, I never forget that I am a black woman and he is a white man and regardless of how “in love/like” we might be with one another, the world around us might not always be so welcoming or kind, especially as we become more serious in our relationship and skeptical people realize this is no phase or fetish–yes, people in 2018 would probably think that. They might also wonder why neither one of us is dating someone of our own race. The world can be a cold place. Luckily, our friends, immediate family members and people who matter the most to us seem very accepting of our relationship. I was relieved that his father and step mother seemed to really take a genuine liking to me and welcomed me with open arms, considering the very first time I met them was also the weekend I stayed in their home, in a bed, with their son. The entire way there I wondered…did he prep them? Did he tell them I was…black?  How did THAT conversation go?! After all, I am the first black girlfriend he’s had and maybe the first girl he’s been serious enough to “bring home” like that?

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“Guess Who (2005)”

Before he met my parents a few weeks ago, I don’t explicitly remember ever telling my parents that he was white. In fact, until somewhat recently, I hadn’t really told them many specific things about him at all outside of the fact that he was a Teacher and he treated me well. Oh, also that he sleeps A LOT. I guess I didn’t feel like I needed to? As long as he treats me well and makes me happy, does it matter? I’ve been in interracial relationships before, so I guess I didn’t see it as being a “let’s sit down and have an open discussion”, thing. Besides, I had shown them photos of the Teacher prior to the meeting and of course after finding out that we finally became facebook friends, my mom “facebook stalked” him, as she typically does with boyfriends of mine and told me his whole ass class schedule for the year (after googling the high school he works at) Ok…?

As my relationship with the Teacher progresses, I keep waiting for the day that we face an extreme instance (or four) of someone openly disrespecting or discouraging our relationship without any regard for one or both of us as decent human beings. I halfheartedly expect this from older people–who may or may not have as much experience with interracial dating or even being around people of other races, but I’m pretty sure even people in my generation are this stupid too (just look who we have in the white house after all).

I think my concerns/premonitions are justified here. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to worry or care about what a total stranger, family member or friend thinks of the man I love, but such is life, I guess. Hopefully Thanksgiving goes over well.

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Blending & Meshing

The last few weeks have been amazing, but ridiculously busy.

When I last wrote, I was just getting back from a business trip and preparing myself to meet The Teacher’s parents and attend a wedding as his “plus 1”. I’m happy to report that while I had some minor anxiety going into it, all went well. I wasn’t quite sure really what to expect with his family (dad and step mom). Our conversations about his dad  were never overly specific. He’d mention things about his dad here and there (how he was retired from the military, enjoyed art, liked to cook, prided himself on yard work, was possibly at one point a hippie), but never anything super specific to paint a clear and defined picture of him. I had no idea what he even looked like or if the Teacher even resembled his dear old dad (he did slightly and their mannerisms were similar).  I felt like I needed to go into the situation overly prepared to make a GOOD impression, so in my usual “over the top” manner, I baked for him as a “thank you” for his hospitality.

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Our initial meeting was super abbreviated because we were running late for a rehearsal dinner about twenty minutes away from his dad’s house, but it went well. His dad and step-mom greeted me with open arms and were very appreciative of the baked goods (that I baked during a passing low grade hurricane the night before with flickering power). To my surprise, his dad and step-mom “set BOTH of us up” in his childhood bedroom. While we’re both in our 30s and have technically been dating about 8 months now, have traveled together and we definitely have “sleep overs” a few times a week, it still weirded me out to share a room–a bed with him in his family’s home…next door to his dad and step mom’s room. We later had some of the most mind blowing love making later that night (in said room), but very quietly (not that either one of us is usually loud anyway). That was wildly adventurous, to say the least.

Overall, the wedding and wedding festivities went over well. Many of his college friends were there, so it was nice to meet and hangout with them. They all seemed very welcoming. I also bonded (even more) with his two best friends’ wife and fiancee (now also wife!). It’s been a little while since I’d been to a wedding, but even longer since I’ve gone with an actual date. Like a legit, I’m with this person, date. But it was nice. It seemed like the majority of the guests there (young and old) were either married or in relationships.

During the wedding, The Teacher was fairly affectionate. I wasn’t sure if this was because he was feeling overly sentimental (due to the occasion) or simply because he felt like publicly making it known that we were an item, either way, I enjoyed the attention. We got to slow dance, which typically shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but we’ve never had the opportunity to slow dance (because both of us admit to not being great at dancing), as I mentioned prior to getting on the dance floor. In conversations since, we realized that he thought I said, “I’ve never danced“, instead of what I actually said, “We’ve never danced“. Ha, would have been a bit awkward had I never danced before.

During the times that we danced, it was as if the world around us disappeared and we were in our own little world.

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In keeping with the theme of the weekend it seemed, locking eyes for too long made my heart race a mile a minute, my face flush and butterflies flutter in my stomach with excitement. I felt a similar spark during the rehearsal and wedding while locking eyes with him while the bride and groom said their vows. Since he was part of the groomsmen and facing the audience, it was hard not to look at him, but every time our eyes locked I became a bit overwhelmed with emotion and would eventually look down or away while blushing. He called me out on it later and I made up the excuse that I didn’t want to “distract” him from his groomsmen duties.

I’ll keep it 100 (if the kids still say that now a days), the real reason I kept cutting my eyes after feeling all of warm and fuzzies is because the entire weekend, the entire reason for us even being there was to celebrate the love and union of one of his best friends and his now wife and In addition to the wedding, I was also meeting his family for the first time and many of his dear college friends who he’s very close to. The fact that all of these very important people in his life had been SO loving and accepting of me, just consumed me with emotion (and I tend to not display my emotions on the outside). On top of all of those gooey feelings, I’ve been processing the fact that I do indeed love him. Yes, I said it. I do love him and I have for some time now, I just haven’t said it.

I love him when he gives me forehead kisses while I fall asleep during some random netflix show we’ve (he’s) decided to watch. I love him when he’s being a sleepy head and will still be knocked the fuck out at damn near noon like he’s not a whole ass adult with actual responsibilities, I love him when he’s rambling off random useless trivia, I love him when he speaks passionately about teaching, I love him when he’s grouchy from lack of said sleep (or work), I love him when he’s silly, when he’s happy, when he’s annoyed, when he’s nervous, when he’s afraid, I just love him overall.

Without even realizing it at first, he’s literally everything I’ve ever wanted and didn’t realize I needed. He checks all of the boxes. He’s been nothing but warm and kind and patient with me the entire time we’ve been together, even when I truly didn’t deserve it and was being a fucking idiot. I get a little overwhelmed emotionally when I think about him, our relationship in general and just how much I genuinely care so much about him. Flaws and all. He’s an amazing person and it takes a one of a kind guy to put up with my foolishness.

I guess my hesitation in saying those three little words is that I’ve tried to really take my time with this relationship and truly let it grow organically. It’s so easy to rush into things only to crash and burn before you even know what hit you (Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, for example). I felt that with my last relationship (the aftermath was so unbelievably painful) and I wanted this one to be truly meaningful and so far it has been. If you had told me a year ago or even 6-8 months ago that I’d be in this situation, I wouldn’t have believed it. While neither one of us has really point blank said those three words I think we’ve both talked around them either through actions or other creative phrases to make it known. Perhaps like me, he’s afraid to take that “leap”. Here is an  example of me talking around the word “Love” from this morning while he was asleep (“Oliver” is my cat, btw–and he likes to climb on both of us in the morning when it’s time for his feeding):

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All in all the wedding weekend and meeting his family went well. His parents seemed to like me and I was able to have several bonding moments with them between all of the chaos of the wedding. His dad even sat down with me and showed me every school photo of him from pre-K through his senior year of high school. It was sweet.

So fast forward to this weekend in the theme of mixing and mingling of friends and family…I finally introduced the Teacher to one of my best friends (that I’ve known since high school and probably knows more about the Teacher than anyone else in my life via our conversations about him). We met over dinner Friday night and both got along really well. The best friend approves of the Teacher, although the first thing he asked him when he met The Teacher was what did he do for a career?

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I also finally introduced him to my parents, which has been a long time coming, since they technically live locally (about 30 miles west). For weeks I had been tossing around the idea of a meeting, but timing never seemed to quite work out because we’ve both been busy being together. I finally opted for brunch today (as the teacher and I usually do brunch anyway after spending a Saturday night together) and my parents and I usually do lunch or dinner or Sundays. Two birds, one stone. During our time together last night, the Teacher admitted to being “mildly nervous” to meet my parents and referenced the entire event as “doing the parent thing”. I guess that’s natural because well, they’re the people that BIRTHED me and making a bad impression on them could potentially not go over well (with me, maybe). I could certainly relate though as I felt the same anxiety the weekend before. I assured him that while I was indeed bat shit crazy (and he probably knows this), they weren’t too shabby.

Brunch went over well and as I expected my parents really like him (especially my mom). They all seemed to get along just dandy and they didn’t embarrass me too bad or maybe now that I’m in my 30s, and don’t care. I think he made a lovely impression on them, especially considering some of the “things” we were doing right before meeting them for brunch 😉 .

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Well,  I don’t think there are any more introductions this week (because the last month has been saturated with them and quite frankly, I think we’re both a bit drained), but we both promised each other to accompany the other for various social obligations and gatherings with friends throughout the week. Should be a fun filled week…

Running on Social Fumes

I’ve always been a naturally introverted person. I get the most peace and satisfaction out of doing quiet “smaller group” activities/hobbies with close friends/loved ones (or even by myself) than I do in mass crowds of people I don’t know very well in loud/chaotic environments that I’m not quite familiar with.

This is not to say that I am not an open-minded person and that I do not try new things/experiences or enjoy meeting new people, I just approach it all a little differently than I think I should. Somewhat cautiously at times.

For instance, I truly believe that I’ve learned in my 30+ years of life that there are two very prominent versions of me (with subcategories of course). I touch on those subcategories here, but in a nutshell, there is the true introverted me and then there is the “pretending to be extroverted” me. I’ve taken the “test” and while I’m fairly close to the center (having both introverted and extroverted qualities), I feel more natural as an introvert and I’m reminded of this in extended situations where I am unable to “recharge” appropriately.

For example, last week I was on a business trip for the entire week attending a conference. Typically when I travel for work I usually build in one “solo day” (usually the day before business or day after business has ended) where I explore whatever city I’m in and gather myself prior to (or after) dealing with an extremely long duration of social interaction. I love this alone time. Doing this usually helps to reprogram my mind so that I appear “put together” and “well rested”. Granted, most of the people who attend the conference I went to last week are colleagues of mine (scattered across the country) in the field that “I know”, but it’s still draining to spend all day networking, collaborating and doing dinner/drinks to chit-chat about our lives outside of the office. I can lay on the charm decently enough I believe, as I’ve spent nearly a decade working on this “skill”.  I laugh and smile constantly, compliment those in my presence, act genuinely concerned or interested in news (both good and bad) they care to share and I always wish them the best with all of their endeavors (and I mostly mean it). On business trips though–unlike an actual 8 hour work day, there is very little “off time”. From sun up to sun down there is consistent interaction and it’s draining. I can usually keep the energized extroverted version of me going for a good little while until I abruptly hit a wall and run out of gas.  I can recall feeling somewhat “energized” earlier in the week and even earlier parts of each day, but towards the end of the week I had very little drive or motivation to be overly friendly and talkative and really just wanted to be alone. It was like the social side of my brain had gone on a hiatus. I remember attempting to have a quiet breakfast in the hotel on my last day of the trip, only to be met one after the other with an eventual table FULL of my colleagues who didn’t want me to have breakfast alone.

But that was the point.

It took me nearly a day after returning home to gather myself enough to jump back into my routine and even in making plans with my boyfriend, I opted for the day after my return and for a quiet evening “in” (as opposed to us “going out”). Luckily my very sweet boyfriend (mostly) understands this and “gets me” as he is also an introverted-at-times-pretending-to-be-extroverted, as well. Having my solo time the day I arrived home and then our lax 1-on-1 time “in” really helped me recharge socially in order to take on my week. It’s like I gained an extra boost of energy…that will later be depleted.

Speaking of the boyfriend and being social, I’m in this continuous cycle of basically meeting everyone in his life (which is very flattering, but at times overwhelming). I’ve met his best friends, his friend-friends, his co-workers, his boss, neighbors, S.O.s of his friends, old friends, new friends, acquaintances… and so on and soon to be his family (this weekend). As I mentioned a few weeks back, we’re heading to his best friend’s wedding (that he’s in) this weekend and because the wedding is in the town he “sort of” grew up in, we’re staying with his family.

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While in the back of my mind I’ve sort of seen this as kinda being a “big deal”, the idea of it all really hit home while at his best friend’s soon-to-be-bride’s impromptu bachelorette gathering (I won’t go into detail about how last-minute and highly unorganized this was and how it almost interfered with our planned night in time). I sat there nursing a beer and chatting with the ladies (you know, “making nice”) because I want to be a good girlfriend and genuinely be warm and friendly to the people in his life. They are all either married, engaged or in longish-term relationships with friends of his.

They talked about the wedding and all of the activities in between and how much fun it will be! And how as a group, we were going to do all of these *really* fun things! All I could think of how the constant “togetherness” of being around all of his friends (and then family during times where we’re NOT doing wedding activities) was going to be exhausting. Like really exhausting. Fun, but the kind of exhaustion that may require some down time when I return home. I thought about how the only “down time” I’d have to really “recharge” would be the drive there and back where we’d have a few hours of just “us” time..but NOPE! Apparently as of today an out-of-town college buddy of his (who I have not met yet)  will be joining us on this journey to the wedding so now even the car ride over and back will involve, “putting on the extroverted charm so that I don’t appear cold or distant”, social interaction.

Jesus lord.

This week I can’t even mentally prepare for all of that togetherness (for this weekend) because he wants me to meet old high school buddies of his that are in town this evening and more co-workers on Wednesday (I feel like when we started dating he didn’t even regularly hangout with THIS many people–wtf) And I can’t say no…what kind of girlfriend would I be (maybe a more socially energized one)?

Through all of this potentially social, stressful and draining hoo-ha, the one silver lining here is something his best friend’s wife told me on Saturday during our “girls afternoon out” that sort of put all of this into perspective:

I’ve never seen — so happy before and I’ve known him and my husband since college. Whenever I’m around you two, you have this really strong connection and I can tell you are both genuinely crazy about each other. It’s sweet. I remember watching the two of you interact a few weeks ago at dinner and it was THE sweetest thing. You guys just “get” each other and it seems like you’ve been together years.

He’s also very protective of his family and even — has only met his dad ONCE (in passing) and they’ve been best friends for like a decade! The fact that he’s intentionally taking you to MEET his family and stay with them is a big deal (to him).

We think the absolute world of you and we’re so happy that you two are together!

No pressure, right?

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I hope this weekend doesn’t turn out like Crazy Rich Asians.