I haven’t made real resolutions for 2012. But a few nights ago, I lay in my bed, tossing and turning thanks to West Coast jet lag, I promised myself that I should be more honest about my emotions and try to write them down more.
So here’s a start: my interracial relationship makes me feel anxious sometimes.
When I go to the Korean-run grocery stores with my boyfriend, I unconsciously start walking faster to be in front of him – rather than beside him – because I’m afraid the grocers will judge me for being with him. I am aware of how this makes me sound. But I am being honest – don’t worry, my boyfriend has already noticed made fun of me for this tendency.
I am afraid of my hypothetical children not knowing about their Korean heritage, or even worse, being ashamed of their Korean heritage, like I was for a long time in my teens. I am afraid of not being able to pass my culture or teach my children about their heritage in a meaningful way.
Of course, the above statement shows just how irrational and unfounded my shame is. My full-fledged “Korean-ness” did not mitigate the shame about my heritage. I am too embarrassed to count the times I wished my parents could make me a nice casserole and speak better English during my teen years.
I remember the first time I felt the racial politics of dating. One of my old housemates in university had invited one of his friends over our shared house. He was a nice guy; we chatted a little, but I didn’t think much of it after. After this guy left, however, my housemate came up to me all smiley-faced and asked: “So? What did you think of [guy whose name I have now completely forgotten]?”
“…I don’t know? He’s nice?”
At this point I realized that what my housemate had in mind was match-making. Because this guy was Asian, I was Asian, and we both liked English lit! Actually, it wasn’t a bad guess, and I’m not blaming my former housemate for this at all. But it was definitely a moment where I recognized my racial difference demarcating my “dating territory,” per se.
Maybe I’ve internalized that moment in my mind too much. I do that. And I know how much of a burden this internalization has been to my very patient partner. I know I have acted unfairly against him because of my own mixed feelings. But I’m learning to get over my shame and learning to get over the propaganda about pure-bloodedness and the link between ethnicity and culture. I think about how hard I would have to work in order to communicate my own confused identity to my hypothetical future children no matter what. I think about how love was not born with a rational mind, but a need to have happiness in an intangible, incalculable way.
A friend recently said to me: “If you worry about everything, you’ll just be alone anyway.” And what good would being alone and paranoid do to furthering my culture and heritage, if that were the case?