Monday, June 13, 2011

Inspired by Mixed Roots

Managed to stay consistent while in LA this weekend with my 500 words, a summer project I've been following for the last almost-month wherein I write 500 words a day in pursuit of a finished project by the end of the summer. I missed the night I had to perform, but the next morning woke up surprisingly early, and this is what came out. Along with a shift to another chapter, I made up the deficit.
When I met and started dating the man I eventually married, I told my mom about him. Over the phone, her voice had that weary familiarity of a woman consistently disappointed by her daughter's choices. "Is he white?" she asked, her voice flat and unsurprised, preparing for the Yes she felt I was certain to give. I could practically hear her eyes rolling in their sockets across three hundred miles of telecomm wire and satellite magic.
"No," I answered.
"Oh," she said. Triumph flushed my face at being finally able to surprise her.
"Is he black?" she asked, a genuine question, hope bleeding into her voice like a stain.
"No..." I said again.
She was genuinely stumped. "Oh. Well what is he?"
"He's Asian American, Mom, his parents are from Taiwan."
"Oh. Wow." She paused. Then, "You two would have such pretty kids."
I'm not sure what I expected her to say. "Wow, that must be so interesting, to date a man with a blended national heritage"? "What's the difference between Taiwan and China?" "How good is his English?" or maybe even, something in the what's he like/tell me more about him/does hie make you happy? neighborhood. But it had been less than six months we'd been going out, at that point it wasn't serious, and we hadn't had sex yet. You two would have beautiful babies caught me by surprise.
It shouldn't have: when we moved in together after a year, when we got engaged nine months after that, lots of people echoed her sentiment--strangers we met at parties who saw the ring on my finger and cooed over our upcoming wedding, my relatives at holiday celebrations, even friends of mine in single race relationships, black and white--they all exclaimed with wonder and even a little envy in their voices, oh, you two are going to have such beautiful children. Such gorgeous babies. Some people even went so far as to make the statement that they'd have such pretty skin, and the almond-shaped eyes of my husband's people and the hair texture that resulted when we mixed blood would make our kids so attractive.
I hated hearing this from people. It sounded so mercenary, as if we'd selected each other as lovers and life partners because of our genetic makeup. It struck me as horrifyingly old-fashioned. My husband and I must obviously want to mitigate the less than desirable qualities of our own genes. Why else would he marry a woman as tall as me, and run the risk of being dwarfed by his own wife when she chooses to wear heels? I must think something is bad or wrong with my brown skin and thick, natural hair--why else would I dilute it with the creamy, stick straight action that he brings to the table? I hated that people reduced a product of our union, a child, to mixing hereditary colors on a palate.
I can say now that what troubled me wasn't so much their remarks as it was my own insecurity. I still find these remarks reductive in an alarmingly negative way, but they don't make me want to start fights with people anymore. Regardless of what these people think of my husbands or my appearance--if, in fact, they think of it at all--what matters is how I feel. I love the color of my skin, the warm brown that burnishes like polished copper during the summer, and I love my hair, with its coil-like curl pattern that grows so quickly, that locks so well. I love my husband's stature, our faces that fit together like magnets, his eyes that are narrow but quite expressive, his tongue which struggles to get around words like synechdoche because until he went to first grade he spoke only Mandarin at home. And if we have a child, I will love her, regardless of how the great genetic paint shaker blends our building blocks. It is more important to me that she connect with what I believe is what really makes my husband and me beautiful. We both come from a  people who know the value of education. He comes from a culture that prizes poetry, scholarship, determination, art, sculpture, meditation. I come from a culture that heralds free expression, creativity, endurance, fortitude. If our children, which, by the way, I don't know if I want to have, can inherit even some of these things from our cultural family trees, then I can say with the others that he and I really did make beautiful babies.

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