Twenty Hard Things About Being Married to a White Man
By Chaya Bhuvaneswar
*Chosen for inclusion in the 2019 Best Small Fictions anthology.
1. You not only get mistaken for your children’s nanny, but for the mean-looking, barely competent nanny, who can’t manage to smile back when the white lady behind you in line smiles and asks the white-appearing children, “Are you children being good for your nanny?”
2. If your white husband is a liberal, your desire to serve him and let him dominate you is a sign of your wrong-headed, oppressive upbringing; and if he’s conservative, your only problem is that you think too much.
3. If he’s Christian, he wants you to know that he respects your culture completely. Only, come on, it’s Christmas. Everybody celebrates Christmas. Everyone.
4. If he’s Jewish, all he wants you to know is 1) you’ve helped him really break his mother’s heart and 2) it’s never too late to convert, which would placate his mother and save your children.
5. He sees nothing wrong with kissing his dog, then kissing you not that much later.
6. He cries when his dog has to get shots at the vet, but not every time it’s mentioned on the news that a Muslim American girl was recently murdered in Virginia.
7. He and his mother enjoyed Jewel in the Crown, the PBS miniseries of decades ago that showed a white colonial officer whipping an Indian subject.
You and your mother: not so much.
8. Especially if he’s an academic, or a doctor, or some other white-collar graduate-degree’d professional, he’ll say he enjoys spending time with your male friends who aren’t white; he will feel relieved when those male friends eventually date white women.
9. If he’s deeply in love with you, but doesn’t know your parents’ or grandparents’ (or way back ancestors’) native language, he will at some point try learning it. This will seem humble, as romantic as a man getting down on bended knee. But it is not. If he learns more than a few simple sentences, at some point, he will start correcting you.
10. If he spent years studying some aspect of what you think of as “your” culture, he won’t waste time arguing with you about whether it’s really your culture, or whether you know enough about it. Instead he’ll make clothing suggestions—sarongs, saris, dashikis, dreads, natural hair instead of extensions—and he’ll study you.
11. There might not be a lot of talk; it might be mainly a physical relationship, one that’s both pleasurable and fun. But if he’s not that much of a talker, he might not do more than laugh uncomfortably when others, both strangers and maybe even some of his friends, say things that are racist to his face.
12. No matter how beautiful, smart, noble, or accomplished you are, there is the possibility that he will always pity you, because the one thing you can’t be is a white male.
13. He could feel good about making you “really” American: assimilated, integrated, intermarried, not standing apart.
14. He could judge you much more harshly for being haughty or even bitchy than he’d judge a white woman, because he secretly thinks you should be grateful he picked you.
15. If he’s a keeper, he’ll stand up to his mother if he has to and make sure she gets it that you aren’t the “exotic mistress,” or a fancy little “touch of the tarbrush,” or any of the other phrases from the TV movie Queenie that you could watch a million times, sitting on the couch with him with your feet in his lap, even while you complain that Mia Sara “white-washed” the role of the Anglo-Indian Merle Oberon character, a role that should’ve been cast with an actress of color.
16. But if he’s not a keeper, you might end up having to think of him as an adventure, and like after any other kind of adventure, you could wake up in a strange bed with a tattoo in an unexpected place, mouth full of apologies and explanations, but in the end no way to excuse marrying someone you knew, you suspected, was racist deep down, although you didn’t know for sure, not till the 2016 elections.
17. He’s already made a secret plan of how he’ll keep the kids in the US, to be raised by him and his mother, if you end up getting deported or detained and he becomes a single parent.
18. He might not realize that he’s white, or he might feel upset with you for constantly mentioning it. Or, worst of all, he’ll pity you for “still bringing that up,” though it has been so many years, though both of you have made the commitment of marriage. He might even think consciously, “I just wish she didn’t have that chip on her shoulder.”
19. If he’s a liberal, while he’s against capital punishment and donated willingly to Black Lives Matter, he doesn’t want your little girl to date a man of color who’s a rapper, not really. Because of rap’s misogynist lyrics, no other reason, he will say.
If he’s a conservative, he has a gun ready to scare away any man who tries to date her who’s “not the right sort.”
20. But even though he’d feel proud if she chose a white husband, since that would mean that she’s choosing a man who might have some other similarity to him—even if her choosing a white man means that he has been a great father—deep down he doesn’t want her to choose any husband.
Because your daughter is still his little, exotic, princessy, lovely and unique little girl, and no man, white or of color, is ever going to be fine enough for her.
Even if, after college, she gets a job with a biracial family as their children’s nanny.
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