What’s your idea of a hot autumn night?
Last week, I was talking with a friend about the wonderful racial and cultural diversity of the Bay Area. She appreciated the fact that coming from a family in the Philippines who were not well to do, she could go to college, and obtain a job, and not be penalized for her ethnic background, or for being female.
I also pointed out that neither of us experienced discrimination based on our choice to enter interracial marriages. Her husband is Caucasian, of Armenian descent. My husband is Filipino, and I am Irish/Portuguese/Cherokee Indian.
And then I made a dumb off-color remark about how us “white people just love you Filipinos.” She thought it was hilarious, and fitting, and yet, later, I examined that statement, and recognized it for its racist content.
As for the Bay Area being a tremendous melting pot of ethnicities, and known for its high tolerance for being different? The recent hate crime at San Jose State University really drives home the differences in all of us, why we should strive to be more compassionate, and find a way to productively and safely stand-up to racism.
For the short story—an African-American freshman student was racially harassed by several of his white dorm mates. The hate crimes include the display of the Confederate flag, writing the “N” word on a white board, and securing a U-shaped bicycle lock around the victim’s neck. No dorm advisors nor fellow students stepped in to halt this threatening behavior, which continued until the victim’s parents came for a visit, happened to see the hanging flag and the scrawled racist expletive, and went to the police.
Events such as these make me wonder about all the things we do and say that are offensive. On an unrelated note, I’ve taken to referring to a professional football team as the “Washington Crackers.” If someone wishes to be insensitive in my proximity, and spit out the expletive, “Redskins,” so be it, but I surely won’t repeat it.
So, the question here relates to both interracial me, and my full-blood Filipino friend: How do we view a marriage that’s replete with so many differences?
I think the answer to success is that we forget differences. For example, oftentimes people in the retail sector don’t think my husband and I are “together,” even though we commonly dress similarly, almost in a uniform, if you will.
I was purchasing salmon belly for $2.99 a pound at 99 Ranch on Tuesday, and the dude in the seafood area, somehow charmed by my fifty-one year-old face and svelte new figure, picked out the most delectable pieces of fish for my two-pound order. When my husband, Clifford, approached, the clerk asked if he could help him. Clifford motioned that he was with me, and the clerk’s face sort of fell. Clifford suggested that perhaps the man thought he was going to get lucky (yeah, with a woman old enough to be his mother, and wearing a wedding ring to boot?), and when it was obvious I wasn’t alone, it was like crushing Hope with a giant boulder.
Another example would be the time Clifford and I went to Central Nursery in San Jose to purchase fruit trees. I was dressed in blue jeans and a button-front, and Clifford was wearing clothes suitable for the garden, including a straw hat. I approached an employee (white, male) with questions about whether they had a certain tree in stock. He asked, as though gauging my availability, “Is this your gardener?”
Oh, that just dropped in my lap. I was tempted to say, “Yes, he is my gardener. Did you know a person could get laid for ten bucks an hour, as well as having your bush neatly trimmed?”
I only replied, quite flatly, “No, he is my husband.” Which I suppose was the equivalent to the proverbial Cold Shower. I can only assume the gentleman was surprised to hear Clifford speak in a homogenous California accent.
Getting back to the old “forgetting” factor for success. It isn’t easy. I look at Clifford—all tanned and buff—and remember why I find his so attractive. But it goes deeper than dark skin, or a nice butt, or those bedroom eyes. I appreciate his family culture, driven by cohesion instead of jealousy. After Clifford’s mother passed away, he and his siblings treated one another with the utmost kindness and respect, whether or not they happened to agree on a detail for the funeral. Nobody bickered about who was going to pay for things, or whether the outcome of the financials wasn’t perfectly balanced.
Which brings me to an incident many years ago, a dinner Clifford and I attended with my mother, and two of my brothers, along with our children. When dinner was finished, my brothers and mother battled over who would pay what amount, and how much the tip was supposed to be per head. Following nearly ten minutes of this unpleasantness, Clifford simply picked up the check when no one was looking, and paid at the front counter. My family hadn’t even realized the tab had gone missing until one of my brothers, determined to prove a point, searched for it on the table.
Not that my side of the world is untenably selfish. But somehow I can’t picture my brothers sitting around talking gently and respectfully about who will pay for their mother’s funeral. “I will pay for the crypt.” “No, please, allow me.” “I would be honored to shell out for her casket.” Uh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen.
We left all this petty bulls**t behind when we traveled up to Susanville, California yesterday. Five hours in a truck with a small dog who didn’t want to be in his travel crate was a testament to how much Clifford and I enjoy each other’s company. Do we laugh at the annoying barking, and canine version of sobbing, or so we have a meltdown, and let the pup have his way? Nope. We raised four children together, so doggy didn’t get to tantrum himself to freedom.
We arrived at the circa 1980 doublewide mobile home in daylight, and forty-five degrees, and proceeded to rake a year’s worth of fallen pine needles into neat piles that Clifford pitchforked into his 1977 Dodge van. I made dinner—sea scallops and salmon, romance foods. We shared a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and near the flickering flames in the wood stove, we watched the movie, Overboard, a treatise on the culture clash between white trash and white elite. From that documentary work, I concluded that if Annie and Dean could make a go of a weird romance that concluded in permanency, then anyone could find someone “different,” and to hell with the rest of the world.
How I spent my Hot Autumn Night: in bed. I’m supposed to keep this blog rated PG-13, so you can fill in the blanks yourself.
Please check out the other blogs on the Hot Autumn Nights blog hop.