You’ve heard it before: "Why can't you fall in love with someone the same color as you are?"
Your protest and logic - that color doesn't matter, times have changed, love can conquer all and this generation has a lot of "rojak" (all mixed up) couples anyway – doesn’t matter to them.
Indeed. In 2010, Professor Saw Swee-Hock, Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), observed that 20 percent (or 4,928) of Singapore marriages were interracial and in 2013, mixed marriages in Singapore accounted for 25 percent of all unions, up from 1/8 of all marriages in 2001.
Is "true love" with someone outside your race really worth all that friction against your parents? Where does filial piety or doing the "right thing" factor in when you're considering a life with someone else?
We polled 35 mixed race couples to find out what life hacks helped them find peace and purpose when converging lives. Interestingly, we discovered that those who married or were in a long term union succeeded in making differences work in their favour. The ones who had difficulty bridging the gaps ultimately broke up. Older couples (35-55 years) seemed to cope better, possibly due to life experience and maturity. Younger couples were more impulsive and reacted more impetuously to comments they didn't like. Here's to navigating your new world.
1. Make love colourblind
Make peace with yourself. Good people come in all shades and sizes. Maybe we can choose to fall in love with a certain color but our love radar doesn't always let us "fall in love" that way.
If you're hero worshiping a certain race, remember to pick people with traits that complement your personality type and belief system, not just for their skin color. If you're with someone whom your parents feel isn't racially and socio-economically good enough, then it's on you to decide if your choice of love partner and version of happiness is worth being disowned or disinherited by your family. You may feel that love is blind but you should still choose wisely.
2. Decide not to stereotype
Some people are genetically Chinese but they may not practice Chinese traditions or feel very Chinese at all. Many modern Punjabi guys don't seem to don the turban anymore, yet they are proudly Sikh.
Diversity exists within any culture. Don't stereotype. It builds resentment. Don't use differences as ammunition to jokingly jeer at them. You may like oily chai tao kueh (local carrot cake) and bean curd with yu tiao (dough fritters) for breakfast but he opts for pickled herring with stinky cheese. So be it. Don't give him a "you're so weird" look. Respect and be sensitive about the cultural practices each person brings to the table.
3. Have a "can-do, lah" attitude
Believing that you've found someone that completes you doesn't mean your friends and family will bring out the beer. Mixed race couples often have to face derogatory comments and hurtful actions that come their way.
Keep the faith. They might come around one day. Let painful comments float one ear in and one ear out, even if they say you're a disgrace to the family. Long-standing attitudes, prejudices and dreams of their daughter or son marrying within the race and culture aren't things that will disappear overnight just because the new couple looks happy.
4. Choose happiness, not an assault on filial piety
We don't grow up dreaming of pissing our parents off. Yet we can't help who we feel an attraction to. Let your family know you're not ashamed of where you've come from, that you're not intentionally trying to dilute the bloodline by having mixed kids. Tell them you shouldn't have to choose between family, friends and your partner.
Be your own relationship ambassador. Only you know what it's like to be in your shoes. If you're genuinely happy, it will show. If you haven't been disinherited yet, your family will witness a partnership that makes sense and see that you're the better for it.
5. Know that people are all the same
Don't glorify the person you're with. All relationships can break down. Marrying up, down or out doesn't insulate you from having a bad relationship. You will just as soon fight once you find out he's selfish, tight fisted with money, abusive and a social recluse who never makes an effort for you or family, and it won't be color dependent. If your relationship is special, it's testament to his personality, values, principles, relationship skill and his decision to love you, not his color, his culture or his bank account.
6. Be realistic
You have a new normal. People will ask if you worry about your kids being bullied for being different, why you would desert your own type, if you did it for a mixed kid or if you're just defying convention to be different. Your dream dinner wedding may now become a tea reception of four hours, six bridesmaids and Appalachian line dancing or a seven day affair of rich food, fiery sauces, and boom boxed Bhangra music.
7. Pop out the grandkids
Reconciliatory behavior usually comes after the birth of the next generation. Grandparents usually make peace then, especially if they see you making an effort to teach their grandkids about where they come from.
8. Try to see things from your parent’s point of view
The truth is that your boyfriend’s mum may never accept you as a future family member because your color is not good enough for her son. Worse, your own parents may disown or disinherit you for your actions as they only speak Chinese dialect and don't understand why you would do this to them.
The fact is interracial marriages only became legal in the USA after 1967. It wasn't so popular elsewhere in the world either. Your generation may think mixed couples are "cool" but your parents will be having a generation gap moment. So, big breadths, empathize. Don't call your parents bigots or racists. You may be frustrated by their expectations and inflexibility but they feel the same about your stubborn decisions. Continue to be respectful, patient. Persevere in your attempts to bring the extended family together.
9. Be mature. Have tolerance. Laugh.
"If I have one dinghy, I will only save you, not your Lebanese husband," says one father, to the horror of his daughter. The sooner you learn to let comments slide, to have zero expectations and to never seek validation, the happier you will be. Summon some humor and maturity. Don't be mad. This, too, shall pass.
Karen Khng is Managing Director of Love Script International. Find Love Script at www.love-script.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.