I grew up surrounded by love. I have the fondest memories of my parents spontaneously stealing “private” kisses, the grand romantic gestures of my aunts and uncles and watching my grandparents dancing to old records in their living room. Love was all around me, and I spent hours dreaming of the day I’d have one to call my own. It wasn’t until high school that I started to realize the love I saw and wanted came with conditions.
Since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, I had a secret boyfriend in the months leading up to that milestone birthday. Mike was the best beau a teen girl could have—tall, handsome, funny and happy to carry my books and hold my hand. He reminded me a lot of my father, the way he played with me and did “man” things like pulling out my chair and holding all the doors. He was great, so naturally I thought nothing of bringing him home for my parents to meet right after I turned 16. I thought nothing of the fact that he’s White.
I’ll never forget the look on my parents’ faces when Mike walked through the door: confusion mixed with horror. When he left—after an hour of awkward silence interrupted by short bursts of conversation—the drama began. My parents forbade me to see my honey again and told me that boys “like him” are only interested in me for sex and that I should “stick to my own kind.” They tried to scare me with stories of violent racism and visions of children addicted to drugs because of their struggle with identity. I tried to explain that his race didn’t matter to me, the way he treated me did. I wanted him to know that Mike’s love reminded me of the love I grew up with. They weren’t trying to hear it.
For the rest of our high school years we dated in secret, and by the time college came, the boy who held my hand became the man who held my heart. Still, I had to have Black male friends pretend to take me on dates to throw my parents off. I made up excuses to not come home on breaks so I could spend them with Mike’s family, who welcomed me with open, loving arms and had a hard time understanding my choice to hide our relationship.
I tried a few times to slip the topic of interracial dating into conversations with my parents, telling stories of friends who were happily dating or getting married. The response was always the same: “Good for them, but you’re going to bring home someone that looks like us.” My father even hinted that he would cut off my college funds if I went “that way.”
I felt trapped.
After college, Mike and I decided to apply for graduate school in Spain. While his parents were thrilled that we would be living abroad together and sharing an adventure, mine were worried about me going so far away and wondered how I would find the man of my dreams in a country where the majority of the people don’t speak English. Little did they know, the man of my dreams was actually a reality and had been in my life for quite some time.
It has been six months since we moved to Spain together and almost seven years since we started dating, and I couldn’t be happier! All the fears my parents have for our relationship have yet to materialize, even here in this foreign land. Our love for each other has grown so much that I’ve come to realize it’s time to tell my parents. I love this man and want to shout it from the rooftops. I no longer care what my parents or anyone else thinks about it. and I’m tired of lying. Love is many things, but one thing it shouldn’t be is a secret. Recently, we’ve been talking more about marriage and our future—both things that I want my parents to experience with us. I hope that they can try to be open-minded enough to share in our love, but if not, that’s OK. We have plenty of family and friends around who support us unconditionally, and they can appreciate just what love is supposed to be: colorblind and limitless.
This post was originally posted on March 18, 2013