Your People Ain't My People
"Going home is not a vacation." Don't get it twisted.
Because women are most often the 'kinkeepers,' that is, those who preserve and continue traditions within a family, this role can cause stress when their traditions collide with those of their in-laws.
- "The Daughter-In-Law's Survival Guide: Everything you need to know about relating to your mother-in-law (Women Talk About)"
Do you ever look at your spouse, look at your spouse's family members, your spouse's hometown, his/her extended family and old neighborhood, then look back at your spouse and think: "How could this wonderful, sane, responsible, well-grounded person who I love so much and think is the greatest thing since sliced bread, possibly come from this family, this place, and these people?! And how the heck did he/she hook up with someone who like me who couldn't be more different?!"
Uh-huh. Thought so.
And I know for a fact that my husband has shared these thoughts on more than one occasion, particularly during his first time visit to my hometown. During a late-night Wal-mart run, a fight broke out in the men's underwear department (just right behind Subway) and all my husband remembers is some (white) guy flailing his arms in the air, screaming over and over again, "I'm from Bladensburg yo!" So guess I may have built up Prince George's County a little too much in his mind. The other trip highlight was pulling up to a red light, looking over the car next to us, and noticing the driver had Jolly Ranchers tied to the end of each of his cornrows (yes, they were still in the wrapper). Josh looked at me quizzically and I just exclaimed, "Welcome to P.G.!"
But even before I met my husband, I assumed the differences between two people would be even more pronounced in an interracial relationship. This of course is based on the assumption that two people of the same racial and ethnic background are more alike than they are different. But during a recent trip to Nigeria with my husband, parents and sister, I was struck by the many differences between my parents' families of origin even though they both grew up not too far from each other in the same city, of the same state, of the same country (Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria). Our families and upbringing are framed not only by the surrounding culture(s), but also the happenstance of life. These observations affirmed a theory espoused by the great philosopher Bethenny Frankel on the season premiere of Bethenny Ever After (Hoppy Trails to You). After spending a weekend with her in-laws, she comes to a similar revelation: that she and her husband Jason, are from two completely different worlds:
Therapist: "Hi, so how's your family?"
Bethenny: "We had a weekend with Jason's parents in Pennsylvania."
T: "And how'd that go?"
B: "It was a really nice weekend and they were so, they're so open and that why I feel guilt--"
T: "Wait, I'm a little confused, why would you feel guilt?"
B: "Because they would like it differently. And I said at the table, I sometimes feel bad that Jason didn't marry a girl from down the street that you guys could be over there every single day. And this brings up what was illustrated the whole weekend, is that we are so drastically different."
So unless you and your spouse are in an incestuous marriage, chances are that your respective families of origin are a culture onto themselves with their own unique customs, language, and norms. Maybe your in-laws love to hug but your family loves to argue. Maybe your family's home is an alcohol-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, salt-free, fat-free, gluten-free, nut-free, meatless, unprocessed, no-fun-allowed-zone, but your in-laws think it's healthy to serve watered-down Hennessey to five-year-olds at the annual "Family Beer Pong Pig Pickin'." Maybe your in-laws spend weekends doing brunch and Broadway but your family prefers bingo in a church basement. Maybe your in-laws foster independence while your parents foster co-dependence or your family speaks Haitian Creole but your in-laws speak Cape Verdean Creole (yes people, there is a difference). The reality is that in any marriage, you have two people--who if even from of the same race--are from two completely different worlds, and this makes me think that in a way, every marriage is (kinda) interracial.