What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. (If you are new to this blog, regularly schedule programming will resume after the holidays, but you can check out the “Best Of” section in the meantime). If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Amelia.
I mispronounce my husband’s name everyday. The unique sound of the Hindi nasal “n” has proven too difficult for North Americans to pronounce, so he introduces himself with an Americanized mutation of his real name. I don’t worry about it too much, as he misspelled my name for weeks when we first met. We laugh about it.
What I want you to know is that I am a woman who is in love with and committed to a man. Although a stranger would notice that we have different skin colors and different accents, we share our life, dreams and struggles as one.
There are three things I want you to know: first, our differences are deep and real. Secondly, it’s okay that we’re different: we are simply two people committed to loving one another. Lastly, what we need is love.
My husband was born and raised as a Hindu in India, playing cricket, drinking chai and respecting his elders. His first experience leaving the country was to study in Canada. Over the years he became a Christian, and grew in his knowledge of western culture and the English language. On the other hand, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers, going to Catholic Church and living in suburbia, with 4 siblings and a strong sense of American independence. When we met in university, he was the first Indian friend I had ever had.
I have no previous marriage to which to compare ours, but I sometimes suspect that our marriage has a few extra landmines. We both carry assumptions and values hidden in our subconscious that we share with entire countries, but not with one another. Our ideas of birthdays, holidays, food, family relationships, parenting and finances are often at odds.
I’ll be honest: I’m not always thrilled about this. Once, while playing a board game at a party, I became frustrated and embarrassed by my husband’s lack of pop culture knowledge. I didn’t want to be on his team, gaining sympathy but losing the game. Awful, I know. What I want you to know is, this is hard. While I blog about the goofy and hilarious occurrences, there are moments of tremendous confusion and aloneness.
What I want you to know is, it is deflating when people assume we’re a “regular” North American couple simply because we live in the West. Advice and comments that presuppose we will act, think, decide, celebrate or live like North Americans alienate half of us. I endeavor every day to make our home a middle ground, a place where Indian culture, food, music and friends are valued. Our home and our lives are a compromise, a beautiful tapestry of two colorful worlds.
What I want you to know is that I am no longer just an All American Girl. My heart is now tied to India in a deep and real way. When I have gone home with my husband to India, I feel an odd combination of belonging and loneliness. As I walk the streets and elicit unmasked stares, I recognize the oddity of my dressing as an Indian and engaging familiarly with my husband’s family. In the eyes of strangers I see questions, curiosity, amusement, and sometimes, judgment. I find warmth and acceptance in the arms of his parents. We share joy as they teach me vocabulary or introduce me to rich and spicy dishes. Like any daughter-in-law, I am thrilled to see their genuine care for me, despite our differences in language, culture and religion.
What I want you to know is, we are different, and yet we are one.
It is humiliating when shopkeepers or waitresses have difficulty understanding my husband’s accent and turn to me to translate, inviting me to undermine and embarrass him. I dislike the looks of confusion we receive from passersby who see us holding hands. I bristle at comments made by acquaintances after meeting my husband, “Oh! I didn’t realize he was so Indian!” I understand that mixed marriages are still fairly rare. I realize that holding different passports and being from countries so opposite in many ways is unusual. (The paperwork alone of being from two different countries and living in a third makes me question my sanity)
But, we are in love. We are committed. Our shared love of God unites us beyond our differences. When my husband comes home from work, I run to hug him. I do not see a “foreigner”. I see the man who works hard earning for our family. I see the man who loves, cherishes and protects me. I see the man with whom I share hours of fun; a man who is quick to laugh at himself, even when his English falters.
Finally, what I want you to know is, we don’t need you to pretend we’re not different. Nor do we need you to judge our decisions. If you love someone in an intercultural relationship, support and encourage them as they grow together. If you are in an intercultural relationship, know that you’re not alone. Love knows no bounds and intercultural marriage is a not new concept. I know it can be tough and scary and even lonely at times, but kindness, patience and a sense of humor can overcome any difference.