My boyfriend and I discuss our different backgrounds a lot. He’s Hindu, I’m Catholic. His parents came to America after he was born; you can trace part of my family back to the Mayflower. His parents still speak Tamil; mine occasionally break out their rusty college-level German.But despite all this discussion and the fact that we were both nervous to tell our parents about our relationship–he waited nearly two years to tell his–I never really considered us an interracial race couple. I don’t know why I overlooked this label. Maybe it’s because I assumed society couldn’t be bothered to care.
But a recent trip to New York City made me aware that society cares that I am one half of an interracial couple and that it finds me an anomaly. As we walked through the city and did some sightseeing, occasionally holding hands, people would stare at us. Blatantly stare. They would slow down, they would turn around after we passed, they would point. Our friends thought it was hilarious, particularly when two women having tea pressed against the glass to get a better look at us. After her friend pointed us out, I thought the other woman would get whiplash she turned around so fast.
At first I thought I had something on my face. Or I had a wardrobe malfunction. But glances in windows confirmed I was presentable and the stares persisted in every wardrobe change. We joked it’s because the female usually isn’t taller than the male, but I don’t think the stares can be attributed to a height difference. These blatant, prying stares made me think back to all the times we’d go out to dinner and my boyfriend would say “that [white] person is staring at me.” Or the times we would go places with an Indian majority and I felt I had to justify myself.
But NYC didn’t focus on one or the other of us. It treated us together–as a spectacle and even a freak. We were both uncomfortable and I became aggravated, wanting to confront people and ask what was wrong, if I could help, and if they could stop staring and go on their way.
I don’t know why it matters. I don’t know why society cares that our skin doesn’t match. But I wish it would stop intruding on my time with my boyfriend and would just let me enjoy being in a relationship with someone who makes me happy.