Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hue Are We?

My husband and I have created an interracial, international bubble.

In our house, we use the British word spanner for our wrenches, and wash our faces with flannels instead of washcloths. On the other hand, what the British refer to as crisps we call potato chips, and their chips? Just plain french fries to us.

We eat soul food as well as gourmet, listen to rhythm and blues and rock. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the rest of the world hasn't created such a consistent, harmonious potpourri of culture, because inside our house, the livin' is easy. When asked recently what the biggest challenge to being interracially married was, I answered immediately: "Other people."

Because of my sensitivity to racial perception outside my house, I tend to put great focus on commonalities. I don't care to read reports detailing one group as this and another as that, even when the descriptions are statistically sound. I prefer to look at an individual, colorblind, and unwrap the layers without bias. Any uniqueness is Jack, and any little quirks? That's just Jill. The quirks aren't the groups Jack and Jill demographically belong to.

And then, often wrapped in humor, I am confronted with evidence that yes, there are differences between major demographic groups - and that's okay.

Last night my husband and I went to a U2 concert. My husband took the train in from the city, and I met him at the stadium. As I drove through the parking lot, one thing became abundently clear: I was slightly overdressed. I was wearing jeans, but had paired them with a long blazer and shimmery black top with a funky neck wrap. My makeup was done, my big earrings were glitzy and gold.

Approximately 97% of my fellow concert goers went in the opposite direction. Jeans, yes, but paired with relaxed tees and hooded sweatshirts and thick sweaters. Comfortable shoes and sandals, compared to my dark denim kitten heeled mules. I was Going Somewhere. They were Hanging Out.

As soon as I saw my husband, I teased him. "Why didn't you tell me white people don't dress up for rock concerts?"

He laughed. "I thought you knew! You dress the same way like you would a football game, kind of. Maybe not a jersey." Although, passing us at that moment, were a couple of people in football jerseys.

I didn't know. Black people? My folks? We dress up for concerts. Hell, we dressed up for classes in college. I'd almost gone with a fully black ensemble, and at the last minute decided against a pair of rather shimmery pants. If I'd worn them, people might have thought I was part of the opening act.

The habit of my people to dress up for occasions is an ancestral hand me down from slavery. Back then, you spent seven days working in your grubbies. Special occasions were few. When the opportunity rose to look better, you took it. You dressed up for everything that didn't involve labor. And although we've relaxed the standards, although you find more and more casually dressed African Americans roaming special events, there is still the urge to dress up when we go out.

I talked to a girlfriend, also black, about it. I told her almost everyone else at the concert was really casual. She laughed and said, "In contrast - I'm going to the Maxwell concert on Friday, and I've had my outfit picked out for two weeks."

Inside the concert, in the darkness, the dissimilar attitudes toward dress went unseen. Instead, we all danced and swayed to the music, bathed in the energy of the night. Late in the evening, Bono asked us to take out our mobile phones, and had the lights dimmed. The stadium became a sea of twinkling electronic stars as tens of thousands of people held aloft their telephones. I smiled - we all had one. We were all the same.

I get it. Just as an individual is multi-faceted, so are groups. And note to self: that's okay. It's okay that I have my traditions while you have yours, and it's fine when I see you nodding your head in self recognition when I describe one of my many quirks.

I may be just like that alone, but I'm also just like this - and yes, I know:

You, too.

1 comment:

Tulips said...

I would have worn an outfit similar to what you describe!