I had an older brother and sister 12 and 15 years my senior respectively, parents who were happy together, and my aunt and cousins lived one street over. I had a lot of attention growing up being the baby and all, but my main source of affection came from my Dad.
To define our relationship like that would misconstrue it; we were simpatico. Our father-daughter relationship was more like a typical father-son relationship. My mom hated seafood so we would often go get fish together and make fun of people at work, school, etc. My dad is tremendously funny and a phenomenal story teller. I think I always had a high bar when it came to dating because my dad really had it all; he was tall, dark, and handsome, educated, successful, ethical, funny, athletic, and handy.
He was the standard. I was an awkward and creative kid. I wore the same pair of vans tennis shoes to school for 5 years straight, had long un-brushed hair, and wore oversized sweatshirts and jean shorts to school.
Name some nerdy quality and I probably had it. I was naturally a very inclusive person. I was also a dancer and heavily involved in the performing arts which attracts a wide variety of characters. I always made sure everyone felt welcome and included. He was a tall, blonde, surfer that ended up moving to San Diego for college and that was the end of that.
My next boyfriend came about 2 years later. He was Italian, passionate, and handsome with dark features. We had a great run together, but in the end saw our futures differently and went our separate ways. So here I was, 28 years old, and I had had 2 boyfriends and been on dates with a handful of others. He looked like a total babe from afar. As he got closer, I realized he was a former college classmate and coworker that I had known casually for years; Aaron. How did I not notice he was hot before?
Long story short, we began talking, hanging out, dating, dating exclusively, and after a pretty significant period of time, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was excited about this guy.
He was on my level: It felt like a fit and I was pleasantly surprised when he invited me to spend his birthday weekend with him and his family in Palm Springs. His dad was a talker and a story teller. I felt so lucky. My parents had retired to Las Vegas a year or so earlier and were expected to come home for our annual Christmas Eve celebration.
I was nervous and excited to bring Aaron over to meet my family. They had met him before through some work functions and he had attended one of my dance performances earlier that year, but this was long ago, and now we were an item. I called my Dad in early to December to break the news- I was bringing a guy home for the holidays. My dad lost it. He told me that was not acceptable to him, he was disappointed in me, and there was no way I was bringing Aaron over.
I was beyond hurt and surprised. I spoke to my mom the next day and she said my dad had pretty much gone off the deep end and I needed to let him cool down. A week later my dad sent me a text saying he was opting out of my life. I was not to call him anymore, I had 2 weeks to get all of my items out of our family home, he had removed me from his will, and Christmas was cancelled. I instantly began crying at my desk at work. What was I supposed to do? Here I was in an interracial relationship living naively I guess to the world and even my own family.
I clearly missed something. My dad was always my number one support. Maybe this had to do with his North Carolina upbringing, his time spent in the Marines, or something in his life pre-Ashley? Aside from the occasional comment on the freeway my dad never said anything about race. He never talked poorly of others. He always encouraged me to make my own decisions. His favorite neighbor was black. His best friend was black.
My mom is Hispanic. My brother married a girl who has a green card. Do I tell Aaron? Do I hurt his feelings? What is the right thing to do? I thought it best to not deal with this all in real time in hopes that my Dad would come to his senses.
My aunt, however, told me both Aaron and I were welcome over for Christmas so I jumped at the opportunity. This was true and may have delayed their visit, but not the real reason for their absence.
When I told Aaron this, he offered to drive out to Vegas with me at some point during our holiday break to go see them. I had no appetite, no interest in going out, being with friends, and definitely neglected my boyfriend in pretty much every possible way. Clearly we were not making progress. I had no more options. I had no more time. I had to break the hurtful news to Aaron.
My legs were shaking under the table and my teeth were chattering as I explained everything. All I can say is that I got through it only by the grace of God and I have no recollection of my words. More awkward silence, lack of eye contact, blank face. The conversation quickly fizzled and I walked away knowing my pain was now his too and there was nothing I could do to fix it.
About two weeks later I asked him to come over and talk. After a few hours of intense conversation he ultimately decided that this relationship was not for him. He had real questions; What kind of support will we have?
What would people think of our kids? What is everyone else thinking when they see us walking down the street? How does he not feel like the personification of why my Dad is not around?
There was nothing I could do. Aaron had now opted out of my life too. News reached my Dad that Aaron and I had broken up, and on the eve of my 29th birthday my Dad wrote me a lengthy email attempting to mend our relationship. The email explained his feelings about black people as far as romantic relationships go and the culture differences from our own. He shared some of his negative experiences with African-Americans and how they treated women in the Marines and what he felt the view of white women dating black men was.
Your parents are supposed to be the only people you can count on to love you unconditionally. And yet here he was, proposing ridiculous conditions in order for us to even be in the same room together. The truth was that our relationship would never be the same so I thought it pointless to agree to live with racism, rules, and unhappiness just so that we could all spend Christmas together.
The email felt more like a heartless business proposition. I politely responded saying that I appreciated the explanation, but that these were not terms and conditions I was willing to live by. All of the key players in my life had very different reactions to me having a black boyfriend. My siblings were very torn. My sister pulled away from me in a big way after this incident fearing also being exiled by my father.
My brother stepped up and tried to be my pseudo Dad by doing things like fixing my broken faucet and expressing his discontent being the executor of the will now that my name was removed.
My mom has been in the middle the entire time. The reactions of my black friends and coworkers were the most interesting. Some shrugged it off as being a typical reaction and just part of the everyday racism they experience as a people. Others said Aaron and I should have known what we were getting into. But across the board, there seemed to be a shocking lack of surprise making me realize in the weeks following that racism is alive and well. We may not have drinking fountains labeled black and white anymore, but all we have done is remove the label.
But there are black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, black colleges and white colleges, churches, restaurants, clubs, etc. I now have no choice but to be aware of the racial lines that divide me from others. I am a white girl and I am experiencing racism in its ugliest form.
Who would have thought? It is now 6 months later and not much has changed. It is my decision, as an adult, to remain happy and not compensate my ethics and morals for someone who refused to even give someone important to me a chance.