Ever since my first kiss at the age of fourteen, there has been a noticeable trend in the boys I have harassed. To say that they were all Asian would be to be forgetting Rick, my boyfriend of three weeks in Year 10 who was actually Canadian, Adam, who was half, David who was a quarter, Roger who was old-school Hong Kong British and of course, current Boyfriend Jered who is totally Canadian (thank god, says my slightly (and by slightly I mean occasionally and surprisingly) racist 88 year old grandmother who has never made it a secret that she’d like the shade of her great-grandchildren’s skin to be on the white side. – I’m not sure that my Dad has told her she has two homosexual grandsons and that Jer is Canadian AND Jewish, because really…what is she going to do with that information?)
“When I was your age, the Black people had to sit at the back of the Bus!” – My Grandmother, 2005.
Isn’t it surprising that racism and intolerance like that exists outside of people her generation? Although it is not totally forgivable in my Grandmother (who, it has been pointed out to me, became very wealthy through her business dealings with the Japanese when my Grandfather owned a sporting goods store), she is an old lady who’s field of understanding and acceptance to new ideas has shrunk to the size of those god-awful ‘Current Affairs’ type programs that air in a specific time-slot to terrify little old men and women who go to bed at 6pm.
The idea that one might move to Asia with ones girlfriend (and subsequently wife), was, I’m sure, shocking to my Nana and Dah at the time that my parents did it (in the eighties). To have a new born there, let alone 3 and raise them all there seemed out-of-this-world, I am sure. Until a few years ago when one of my first cousins moved to the UK and my Dad’s cousin and his family moved to Singapore, my five person family unit was really the only one on my dads side that didn’t live in the Western Australian City of Perth.
But my rant today is not about my Grandmother, or the City of Perth (you’re alright Perth…look, you gave us the Wiggles!) but is instead about loving someone from another culture or country and the challenges that one may face.
It’s no great stretch to live in Canada as an Australian. SURE I feel like the popular kid at school because of everyone LOVES my accent (even though mines not so strong – must fake it to win friends) and yeah it IS pretty weird that I live on the opposite side of the world to that cute little island country who’s passport I posses, but really, there are lots of similarities between Aussies and Canucks and that is why they get along so well, and also why 99.5% of the population of Whistler is Aussie. We like you – you like us. It’s win-win.
So it’s weird when people think it’s weird that I live here. One of the first assumptions people make is that I moved here because of a boyfriend. When they find out about Jered, they nod their heads and go “ooooohhhhhh okay.” Like that’s the only reason for globalization and travel…to move your entire life from one side of the world to the next… for love. Hey! I’m not knocking it. One of my best friends is moving here in 7 days from the UK and one of the big factors is the love of her life that she has been long distance dating for two years. No big deal!
Just not my deal.
Don’t get me wrong, having a cool, hilarious boyfriend is a big plus on the Toronto experience. I won’t make your eyes turn to pus and melt by outlining exactly HOW cool and sweet and hilarious and adorable my boyf is, because, that’s just annoying when people do that, and that’s not why you came here. You came here for angry sweaty ranting, and that is what you shall have.
There have certainly been some strange moments between us as a couple. Probably the most surface issue is getting used to each others language and word usage.
Me: Tomato Sauce (which always leads to the debate, “then what do you call Tomato sauce – like for pasta…Me: um…Pasta sauce?)
On these occasions I am left thinking of the scene in ‘Love Actually’ where dorky ‘Colin Frissel’ goes to Wisconsin and meets babes, and they all sit around laughing at each others pronunciation “Table!…oh its the same…”
But there is more to it for P+J than mere lol’s at language. J is Jewish, (as are most of my friends from my summer camp job) and as a result, I have been exposed to, and included in, lots of Jewish customs. I just had my 2nd Rosh Hashanah experience (which by the way – I still had to google to figure out how to spell).
I was TERRIFIED when Jered invited me this time last year. Okay, it was partly the idea that I would ruin the entire religious event by doing something embarrassing like…I don’t know…eating pork? (turns out J is more culturally than religiously Jewish and is actually an atheist and he loves bacon and all that jazz- phewph) and partly because I’d just started dating the guy and was suddenly going to meet his ENTIRE family (cousins, aunts, grandma et al). I spent quite some time researching online about apples and honey and stuff. I bought his Grandma some weird apple tea thing, and I think they thought it was really cute that I was trying.
The most frustrating thing for me over the last year was always feeling like a Class A moron when I didn’t know things that everyone around me just assumed I’d know. I had almost no religion in my life prior to being included in Jewish stuff, (although I did attend a Church of England Private School for four years when we lived in Sydney and had been to church on Easter) I had never been to a funeral before and never celebrated any holidays except for Easter (Chocolate eggs and the Easter Bunny!) Halloween (LOLLIES!) Christmas (PRESENTS AND SANTA!!) and New Years Eve (Booze and fireworks!)
So I had a lot of eye-opening learning experiences, like going to a Sedar (also had to google spelling) at passover and being presented with a plate of herbs and a bit of bone. (Jer..Jer.. do…we eat that stuff?) Or wishing everyone a Merry Christmas once before they all went on vacation…duuuuuurrrrp.
It hasn’t been a struggle, that’s not what I am getting at, but with a relationship where cultural exchange is involved, there is always going to be periods of adjustment, times where patience will be required, times where sensitivity must be employed. There are times where things are so different, you are coming from such different backgrounds of understanding, that the only thing you can do is laugh hysterically and move forward. And then you’ll find all the common ground you share and it will be a wonderment, that two people can grow up in such vastly different settings, on different parts of the planet, and still enjoy the same things.
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