Out of breath and way heavier, I celebrate my one-year anniversary with my husband. As 20-somethings, I am sure there are many things we clumsily discovered about love, romance, and creating an economic safety net for our future selves. However, nothing seems as important, at least in this last year, as the realizations of the not-so-sexy parts of being in a biracial couple.
1. Google, translate this entire conversation.
Growing up in Queens in an Indian household, I imagined if I were to marry a Polish man, Christmases, Easters, and Birthdays would be magical. I expected Jesus stories, nostalgia for the good old Pope John Paul II days, and most importantly childhood stories of my husband in some precarious situation that would embarrass him but make me understand him just a little bit better. What I forgot to account for though is language! Family functions become a lot less romantic and a lot more tedious when you realize your husband’s side of the family does not speak English. By the time your mother-in-law’s answer to your “How are you?” question has been translated, Jesus has already risen, or been born, or just left the party altogether.
2. Religious jokes.
Inevitably it happened, we got married and my husband thought he was now allowed to make jokes about my religion. He figured if I could make jokes, why couldn’t he. In order to avoid full-fledged Catholic vs. Sikh wars, there’s a system we had to develop. For every joke he made about a guru, I was able to make four about Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, and the cross made out of ashes he had on his forehead.
3. Current events.
For me, seeing any news item about police officers and a person of color meant something specific. Race wasn’t the entire conversation, but it was definitely one of three things I immediately wanted to talk about. For my husband, race was not the issue. More interested in the economic and geographical context surrounding police brutality, he refused to see it as a racial problem. This year, as you can imagine, has been especially frustrating. At the end of every fight though, we come to recognize this truth — forgetting about race is easy if in your own life people never reminded you of your skin color.
My family modeled a very specific set of hygienic habits. We brushed our teeth once a day, we showered every day, and we washed our hair once a week. I also grew up never knowing deodorant was a thing. It was only this past year as I watched my husband washing his hair for the fifth time in a week and rub deodorant on his armpits that I realized hygiene is not a universal concept.
My dad is a retired postal worker and my mom is a childcare director; I knew from a very young age that you picked one thing and you stuck with it. If they wrote a rap song, one of the lyrics would be, “I only got eyes for your benefits and union.” That’s why coming into this marriage, I knew I would be continuing to teach college students in some way for all of my working years. It is not the same for my significant other. His family emigrated here from a farm in Krakow and instilled in him the need for transferable skills. Hence he has worked as an EMT, construction worker, and a police officer, and as of right now can see himself working in security or owning a business. Clearly not a one-job man.
While we haven’t always been thrilled by the differences our two very distinct cultures have brought to our attention, it has forced us to understand one another in a way I am not sure other couples have to. While I might want to cringe when I see meat jello on a Thanksgiving table, I don’t. Instead we actively work, every goddamn day, to see each other’s perspective and create a new life with each other that represents the both of us.