I love my girlfriend. This is not a preface to the word “but.” I love my girlfriend in the crazy, earth-shattering, stars-exploding, heart-pounding and then falling somewhere into my feet kind of way. She gets me. She knows how I like my coffee, and I know that she is only mean when she is hungry. She knows that I am vain and that I spend too much on clothes and she knows that it’s rooted somewhere in my insecurity. I know when she wants to stay in and I know when she needs to be held and I know when she wants something. (Hint: big eyes, only slightly pursed lips.) I know how she speaks when she knows something I don’t know. She knows how I speak when I don’t know anything at all.
Based on this article, you can tell I often don’t know anything at all.
I don’t understand her feelings on her biracialism. I want to. Believe me, I really want to. I have the impatience of a toddler; I want to know it now and I want to fix it now. However, growing up in middle class white suburbia didn’t gift me with immediate knowledge of diversity, let alone how one person feels on the subject of their own. I don’t contemplate how it feels to be a part of two very different worlds, worlds that are discriminatory against one another and not have a choice in the matter. I’ve never had to ponder my inability to connect with racial identity.
I’m unable to say “I understand” to comfort her, a safe set of words that seem basic to the function of the “I’m sorry” sentiment.
There’s no saying “I understand” when she tells you that all those racist jokes you made in high school and that saving her phone contact name as “my Asian friend” when you first met, still hurts her.
There’s no saying “I understand” when her Caucasian mother tells her not to be so sensitive.
There’s no saying “I understand” when people say they aren’t surprised by her 4.0 and they just met her.
There’s no saying “I understand” when another guy asks her if she likes anime at a party and she is forced to tell him, no, it’s not really her thing.
There’s no saying “I understand” when people ask me if I climb the Great Wall of China or if she loves me long time. (She is Japanese, for the record.)
There’s no saying “I understand” when people call her white and I have to wonder if she wants that, or if I can correct them.
There’s no saying “I understand” when she starts crying in front of a mirror, and says she isn’t thin enough to be Asian, but isn’t pretty enough to be white. (She is, for the record, the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen).
I don’t understand. I don’t know what it is like to be told that I don’t belong when the belonging feels innate. I can only be angry for her and with her and tell her that she is beautiful and tell her that she is intelligent and tell her that they are wrong. They being those who don’t understand and me, being one of them by default because like them, I don’t get it. Unlike them, I want to get it.
Maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I have to wait for her to tell me more, but until then, I’ll have to be patient with learning the feelings that come with her identity, the ones that even might be confusing for her.
What I don’t have to be, is patient with the people that make her feel this way, and I don’t think I ever will be.