To have and to hold, from this day forward, as long as we both shall live. I do He does We did
Now all that was left was to get society to play along. Loving each other and bearing a child was the easy part. Love conquers all. Yet left alone Love cannot always withstand the assaults of society and taboos and appearances. It is after the “I do's” and the guests have left that you realize Love is not enough. Trust, respect and dignity must be its constant companions.
Let us further complicate things shall we? Try marrying outside of your race, colour, religion, language and hemisphere. A daunting step, but then when have we humans (women) done anything the easy way?
It is intriguing the way society dictates what is acceptable and proper for us but gives no thought to one of the most unique fundaments of the human animal – Love. Some would reduce Love to a montage of pheromones, high heels and muscled chests (not necessarily on the same person). Others would consider it the highest form of the God Head and a direct means of imitating and connecting with the One.
Each mixed marriage and relationship is unique — every marriage or relationship is unique for that matter but with the added hurdles of cultural and familial differences there are things to consider that do not become apparent until the honeymoon is over and the business of living life sets its pace. The challenges are many but not insurmountable. Once the commitment has been made to each other, the next commitment is between the couple and society.
I am a West Indian. Born in the twin jewel-islands of Trinidad and Tobago. My ancestry is typical of the West Indies with its marriages, promises of marriages and the succumbing to a particularly steamy calypso. I boast a mixed heritage. One so tangled, I have not yet been able to reach further back than two or three generations of my family tree. It becomes entwined between Europe, Asia, native Carib and Arawak, other islands, Africa and I suspect a few alien planets judging by some really odd family members. Add to this a Christian upbringing, heavily seasoned with the other religions and quasi-religions that thrive in the islands.
I was among the children of what I refer to as the “Exodus of Warm Blooded People Who Should Know Better But Moved From The Caribbean to North America Anyway” in the late seventies. The culture shock was massive but not unique. Most of us adapted fairly quickly to the redefinition of 'family' among these strangers. We saw new things and heard new languages and absorbed them well – perhaps we were merely responding to our ancestry. We went from knowing far too much about our neighbour, to not knowing at all who our neighbours were.
It was only reasonable then, that I became involved in other communities and with other people. I dated outside of the “Trini” pockets in Toronto with no conscious thought. I was simply answering a natural order of things I imagine. The gentlemen who were intelligent and witty caught my attention – that their accents may have been different or their culture strange was neither a plus nor minus, simply a fact.
My life partner has far less difficulty tracing his roots than I. He arrived in Toronto after years of living in Greece and was born in the Mideast. He can trace back to ancestors in Ancient Persia and bears this direct path in his classic features. We had no common ground except a wish to be together. I felt accepted by his people immediately. I quickly picked up polite phrases in Farsi and since I was fortunate enough never to carry a chip on my shoulder because of race, I was able to enjoy the richness of the Iranian way. It was my people who blinked.
I recall being questioned by a 'brother'. Asked if I did not think a brother was good enough for me. The question saddened rather than annoyed me. To my way of thinking if one questions whether one is 'good enough' then the blemish lies in one's own perception of self. I responded, “Do YOU think you're good enough? If so then my estimation of you is irrelevant.” It is a loud declaration when we ask such questions. It suggests we need to be compared. After so many years of freedom to be whom we wish, we should no longer use another's yardstick to measure our Self.
Around the time of our engagement, the controversial movie Not without my daughter was coursing its way through people's willing paranoia. It was fashionable at that time for women to come forward with tales of blood thirsty and immoral Middle Easterners. The hostage taking situation and the hideously effective propaganda machine added fuel to the fire. Iran was described as a nation of terrorists and religious screwballs and several relatives and friends took it upon themselves to mention these obvious genetic failings in my fiancé.
One family friend in particular was quite eloquent when she told us we were going straight to hell. According to her gospel, Muslims do not believe in God and were destined for hell. I therefore, being betrothed to such an infidel would be heading in the same downward direction by virtue of association. I was amused. This 'friend' was on her second marriage to a heaven bound Christian (by virtue of the same gospel to be sure) and was a very unhappy, unfocused individual. Allahu Akbar (God is Great).
I heard the sensationalism that others described as fact and decided I would rather listen to the sense that told me this man was 'the one'.
I am glad I did.
Ten years later, after allowing myself to freefall into the life of a mixed marriage I am pleased to report a more than positive experience. This is no dismal tearjerker of the discovery of ten other wives, a Hollywood search through Iran for my son or of being forced to trail ten paces behind my spouse. It is a story of two people, encased in two different cultures, who stripped ourselves naked and formed a new world – a world into which our son was born and is thriving.
In this mixed marriage our son is privy to more worlds, has more doors flung open, knows more languages, has more religious freedoms and most importantly, is genetically equipped with a more open mind. That is quite a legacy.
Yes of course there were and will continue to be new challenges and hurdles to hop over or get around. We still receive stares and this is where Love's companions are needed. Without trust and mutual respect, doubt will fester and grow. After all, aren't we Creole women simply trophy results of randy plantation owners? And we all know it is only a matter of time before the Iranian husband grabs his balaclava and returns to downtown Middle East to serve in some worthy jihad?
When the building in Oklahoma was bombed, a workmate asked me how I felt to know it was my husband's people involved. Luckily I simply stared through her and continued to stare when the real, homegrown miscreant was found.
Throughout the world, madness has engulfed us and it makes the question of race and racism so trite and such a waste of energy. Nationality and ethnicity are poor rallying points. Humanity seems to be at stake yet we still cling to outdated, baseless prejudices.
Many marriages between 'suitable' people have exploded into pieces of recriminations and hatred as have many mixed marriages. Marriage must be entered into thoughtfully and if indeed the attraction is financial stability, or a cool new surname or regular sex then BOTH people need to be aware of this at the onset. Harlequin romance novels are not the proper study guides for marriage. I daresay, neither are all the well-intentioned psychology books on marriages that do not know you and your potential mate.
If the man and woman are relatively well adjusted people, then the greatest challenge a mixed couple and their children face comes from outside. It comes from the politics of the day. It comes from the headline news. It comes from the image-makers and breakers. It comes from those around who absorb half-truths and outright lies and regurgitate them.
Social ignorance is the bane of a family such as mine. In a home with a Tenor Steelpan in one corner and a painting of ancient Rasht in another, there is a marriage of culture. In a home that shelters a child who bears features that encompass the world, there is a marriage of races. I would trade none of this for the good intentions and rules of others. My eyes are opened to a world I never knew beyond that which the media portrays so harshly and I have introduced my husband to a world he had seen on the map but never really knew was there.
Life is tough enough without twisting oneself out of shape in order to conform. If you listen quietly, your heart will tell you which of those who cross your path are good for your soul. Once your soul receives this energy, it will tell you which one of those will complete your Being.