The Dating Game

I’ve been really fortunate to have parents who have been in love
with each other since they met as a couple of pimply-faced teens. They
met at a hayride through a church youth group, and my 15-year old dad
showed his affection and interest in my 14-year old mom by shoving her
off the wagon. They’ve been together ever since. They were the kind of
parents who embarrassed my siblings and I by holding hands and kissing
in public. My sister and brother and I used to walk half a block behind
them, pretending we were strangers. Even today, they are still each
other’s favorite person in the world. This week they will have been
married 41 years.

Longevity in marriage is on both my hubby’s side and my own; J. and
I met in high school our senior year and have pretty much been together
ever since. We are heading towards our 20th year together and that
blows my mind.

Growing up adopted and in a very non-diverse third-ring suburb, I
would not be lying to say I did not know an Asian male my age until I
was in college. And, since I’d already met my future husband while in
high school, I wasn’t looking for anyone else to date.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have dated or
partnered with an Asian. I ask myself if I’d have dated people from
different ethnicities and cultures had I been exposed to more
diversity. I later found out there was at least one Korean-Korean (my
term for non-adopted Koreans) family in my town. Had I internally
rejected Asian men and is that why I didn’t notice them?

Much of this is complicated by the fact that my adoptive parents saw
me as white just like them, and just like our whole town. When I began
to date, I was painfully aware of my race, and how that would play out.
I was a late bloomer and while all my friends were dancing to "Stairway
to Heaven" and making out with boys at our junior high dances, I was
sitting on the bleachers wondering if any of the white boys would even
consider dating someone like me.

Eventually, in high school, I finally was asked out on dates. One of
the first questions I always asked them was if their parents and
friends knew they were dating an Asian. I didn’t want to meet some
guy’s parents for the first time and see that look of surprise on their
face. I did not want to replicate the "Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner" scene.

Even now, as much as I love J., I have to admit I get a little
twinge of envy when I meet Korean adoptees with Asian partners. And
while my in-laws are nice folks, again, I am yet the ethnic outsider in
not just one, but two families.

Navigating the rocky waters of dating and love is a struggle as it
is. The underlying attitudes and comments about people of color that a
TRA or IA hears in the home will affect an adoptees’ attitudes towards
dating. How tragic it would be if a TRA or IA felt that dating someone
their own race would not be accepted with their parents.

And even if an IA or TRA did partner with a white person, as I did,
and have children of their own together someday, those kids will be
mixed-race. Something my parents forgot, since they forgot I wasn’t

Marriage alone can be a lot of work; having to deal with issues of
race and identity halfway into it, could be potentially
divorce-inducing. I was lucky; J. was willing to re-negotiate his views
about race and identity along with me. We have learned to re-define
what it means to be a multi-racial and multi-ethnic family.

And my children will always know that whomever they date – whatever
race, culture or ethnicity or sexual orientation – will always have a
seat at our table.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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