Gummy, Bacon, and American

One of the most interesting results of the union between the mister and I, is our integration into each other's families. We are fortunate that even though it took a bit of warming up from both sides at the beginning, we do get along with each others' supporting casts rather well.

We're both sort of a novelty to the other's circles, with neither of our families having members outside our own race. For him, the challenge lied in getting used to the food and all the fingers pointing at him amongst the Chinese conversation. He got lucky, however, since his quick pick up of the game of mahjong won over just about everyone in a snap.

I thought in the beginning that it would be easy for me to fit in with his crowd, since I grew up with friends covering the entire rainbow. Turns out, however, that while I have always embraced and adjusted easily to different environments, the diverse environment had always embraced and adjusted in return. Oh how I missed what I didn't even realize I had, until it was gone...

The mister's friends and family are not at all unaccommodating. For the most part they are an educated and understanding group, comprehend the idea that people are just people, and that Americans include folks from many races. Somehow though, perhaps due to the lack of diversity in their smaller town, recognizing that I am as American as they are prove to be difficult.

I call it the gummy bacon theory - the package reads gummy, your friends tell you it's gummy, reviews even rave 'yummy!'... but the concept can be difficult for you if you have only had gummy in the shapes of bears and worms. Understandably, when you put it in your mouth, you swear you taste bacon for a split second until reality takes over. The gummy bacon, no matter how good, will somehow always lack the authenticity of the real gummy.

It doesn't look like gummy, just as I don't look American, according to some people's image libraries. Due to this, I get explanations that start with 'well even if you WERE American...' or be chased down by FMIL telling me that having your picture taken is 'an American thing' when I react with my usual camera shyness. When corrected with the fact that I AM American, the reaction is 'I know that... well, you know what I mean'. And I do know what they mean - that I am Chinese-American, with all the rights and privileges of the regular American that I am not. Though this sounds rather negative, I do also recognize that within 'what they mean', there are no intentions of put down nor is there negative association. It's not that they have anything against gummy or bacon, it's just hard for them to instinctively accept one looking like the other.

I am on no mission to change their minds, especially with such slim chance for success. They will adjust more to me as time goes by, as I will with them, and as we already have been. I do not need to prove to anyone the American that I am, nor how proud I am to be one. On this fourth of July, I will once again celebrate how far this wonderful country of mine has come, and have faith that it will go much further in and past my lifetime in this long road ahead.

Happy Indenpendence Day All!

P.S. Totally unrelated here but here are the earrings I made for this 4th of July. I love them. :)

(click on image to enlarge)


  1. Sorry to hear you're still having to chip away at "proving" your American-ness...
    My mister won my family over by 1.Eating everything put in front of him (he makes me look bad), and 2.Learning dim sum Chinese ;). He tried his hand at mah jong once or twice, but I think he'll need a bit more practice.
    Happy 4th of July :)

  2. I am a half chinese, half anglo/irish australian and am engaged to an indian origin (2nd generation) australian sikh - Whooah - bit of a tongue twister there! In short - I know a little about the difficulties of inter cultural, inter faith relationships!! Growing up, I have always had an awareness of how people treated my small chinese mother. She went to school in Australia, so is as 'australian' as skippy really - but shopkeepers etc would still talk to her like she could hardly understand english, and even work friends would say the same thing ... "Well in Australia". NOt to mention the occasional downright vicious racist behaviour, which is thankfully getting more and more of a rarity... (although not so much for the muslim family which lives near us)

    My fiance's family hold onto their cultural roots with an extremely tight fist - his mother wears Indian dress, they go to temple every week and their only 'real' friends are Indian - not just indian - but punjabi and sikh. So when I came onto the scene, you can imagine that I was not exactly 'welcomed'- his parents had been spending the past few years happily trying to arrange his marriage with a 'nice punjabi' girl.

    All I can say - is that it has been very hard. It seems ironic that now I am the 'white'when I have never thought of myself like that with my 'chink mother' and all the crap I had to deal with with that.

    While his family has definately "accepted" me for the 3 years we have been going out - even warmly- our engagement almost caused his mother to have a nervous breakdown and since then we fluctate from 'getting on okay' to not talking. They cannot accept me for what I am, and their only way of 'getting on' with me is by trying to make me into a 'pretend Indian/sikh'.

    All of this has really made me and my fiance work through how we feel about each other, and identify the part of ourselves which is 'from' our families and our cultural backgrounds - and what out of these things is actually important to us. Thankfully, we love each other more than ever, and while painful, this whole experience is making us stronger.

    All just to say that i think that 'integrating' into a family is an extremely difficult thing at any time - and i suspect it really takes years and years. Even more, when issues of race/culture are involved.