In college there was no doubt in my mind that I would marry a Mexican. I didn't want my culture to be diluted. I wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking household. I wore Ché Guevara berets with rebozos and Tehuana blouses. I just stopped short of wearing a poncho and purchasing a donkey just to really make a point. I wanted my partner to understand my family, and not judge them for being so incredibly loud.
Fast forward seven years and I am living with my white boyfriend. Throughout my early 20s, I avoided white guys. I didn't want to "sell out" (though it can be debated that I always was a "sell out"). I didn't want to live in fear of them saying something racist. I didn't want to be their "Latina college experience." Sometimes I believed they wouldn't even find me attractive. I also didn't want to have to explain what a "chancla" was or what I meant when I said I was "empachada." I also didn't want to explain my Chespirito references (like when I get "la chiripiorca").
I just wanted them to understand.
But that didn't work out. The brown men I dated didn't do well with my independent nature. Some of them were off put by my very non-traditional beliefs and lifestyle. I'm not generalizing, though. I'm sure that there are plenty of educated brown men who are comfortable dating unconventional brown women and don't secretly want a white girl. Please don't send me angry emails, for I know these men exist. I, however, never met one who showed any interest in me. Believe me - I looked. Also, the further I got into my education, I'm talking about graduate school, the fewer Latinos I came across.
That is not to say that dating a white man was my last resort. Far from it. I can't imagine a better partner for myself. I'm lucky to have found him. It's in meeting him that I let go of many of preconceived notions. For example, not all white people eat boiled hot dogs for dinner, listen to Dave Matthews Band, and do the funky chicken at weddings. These are things I simply did not know. My boyfriend sincerely wanted to know about my culture, he valued my intelligence and was interested in my innumerable opinions. He even watched Chespirito for me. Clearly, to him I wasn't just some spicy Latina shaking my proverbial maracas. At this point in our four-year relationship, sometimes he makes some salsas that are better than mine. He often speaks Spanish without even realizing it.
Of course, there are tensions that result from cultural misunderstandings. Having grown up poor as hell, my complexes about class have made some star appearances. Also, having been condescended to so many times in my life for being a woman of color - "Oh how cute, that little Mexican girl thinks she's a writer!" - I can be extremely defensive. If I even suspect someone is patronizing me, I lose my temper (cue neck jerk and obligatory "Oh hells nah!").
Sometimes I'm wrong, though.
Most of the time, I forget that we're an interracial couple. Once and a while, however, other people seem to be really bothered by it. I can't count how many times a white woman has given me a dirty look when I'm with my boyfriend. And no, it's not all in my head! Also, when we go to nice restaurants, particularly with his family, the Mexican busboys look at me with confusion and sometimes judgment and disappointment. I can't express to you how awkward and guilty I feel at these moments.
At first, my mom was also worried that his family would be racist, which is perfectly reasonable since Mexicans are not exactly considered the upper echelon of society where I come from. I had to reassure my mother many times that my boyfriend's parents were actually very kind to me. I used to think that the saying "You can't choose who love" was stupid and sappy because I thought that we could, in fact, chose who to love. That may still be true, but had I dismissed the nice white man I met at the grad school mixer simply because he was white, I would have missed out on the best relationship I've ever been in.
There are so many interracial couples in this country, I don't see why people are still offended by it. We all have our particular preferences. It's very reasonable to have certain criteria when looking for a partner but consider allowing yourself to be surprised sometimes. And, I suppose, the the world can judge us all it wants because last time I checked, miscegenation was still legal.
This post originally appeared on NewsTaco. Republished with permission.
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Image by Steve Dressler.