Eyes linger on the unfamiliar. Staring, people-watching, gawking, whatever you want to call it, it exists. And it exists more on subjects that don’t fit a norm or that don’t tick the boxes of a societal model you’re used to.
I’m in an interracial relationship and both me and my partner have felt the stares and heard comments implying that the fact we’re together is against racial and societal norms. So why do I find my eyes lingering on interracial couples hand-in-hand walking down the street?
There have only been two interracial couples in my extended family. Not once did I question them, and not once did I find myself feeling too intrigued by an unfamiliar image in an Indian family. Maybe I was too young to question it from a racial point of view. It didn’t occur to me that the older generations would be confused, disrespectful, and unengaged when a wonderful couple from different backgrounds tied the knot as a symbol of their love. But now that I’m perhaps more switched-on, I question their attitudes.
Now, while I’m in an interracial relationship, I find myself looking at other unknown couples and wondering what it’s like for them.
Do they become hyper self-aware? Do they experience the glaring stares, not only in their hometowns but further afield, in countries with different cultures? Do their families know? And are they cool with it?
It is unfamiliar for me to see couples that aren’t both white, or both Indian – two norms that I have grown up with, for the most part. Think about it for a second. How many interracial couples do you know? I look with intrigue and curiosity, and even pride and admiration to witness people breaking cultural boundaries. (Okay, this has been going on for a while now, but the fact that people are still taken aback by interracial couples in the multicultural hub of London goes to show that we still have an issue with race and relationships. Plus, in some cultures, marrying out of caste, class and/or colour is a big no-no.)
Me and my partner come from different countries, backgrounds, cultures and religions, which can be a blessing. He grew up in a small town in Malaga, Spain, and I’m a second generation Indian-African-British immigrant born and raised in London. We’re both curious people who thrive on learning about different places and societies, having both travelled a lot and studied and worked with a mix of people. So as we grow in our relationship, we learn more about our racial differences and the beauty in that. We’re aware of cultural norms that just don’t exist in the other’s world and we learn to be empathetic and find some harmony.
With our relationship, we have become a part of each other’s worlds. Our families speak complete different languages, our cuisines were at first quite alien to one another, but are now an integral part of our relationship’s identity, and all our cultural intricacies arise and clash sometimes. But that’s absolutely fine. It’s bound to happen. There is a real beauty in culture clashes and that’s why interracial couples still intrigue me.
Why do I stare at interracial couples? Because I’m in this interracial relationship which I admire and respect, and I’m still fascinated by it. I’m fascinated by people coming together regardless of language barriers, varying cultural norms, and breaking boundaries. Although I wonder what it’s like for these couples, these unfamiliar interracial couples, my thoughts always to return to my own relationship.
We’ve welcomed each other into our different worlds and that can be tricky sometimes, but it’s also a huge blessing when it’s full of respect, empathy and understanding.
Sometimes I even need to be reminded that me and my partner are from different backgrounds. And that’s fine too. I wonder when we’ll start calling these interracial pairs simply “couples”, no qualification needed.