02 August 2012

His Real Name is Angel {my thoughts on interracial marriage}

To sum them up, I think interracial marriage is splendid! Or, at the very least, I love mine.

First of all, I didn’t know Angel was Hispanic, at least not for the first four or five months I knew him. In my defense, I was new to America at the time and hadn’t seen many Mexicans before. To me, Angel just seemed very American. And, for all I knew, Angel was a normal American name. I started going street witnessing with him and our mutual friends every weekend, and one night, we came across an elderly man who didn’t speak English, and Angel immediately started speaking Spanish with him.
I studied three languages in college, and all languages fascinate me. I thought as I stood there silently, not understanding a word, that Angel had not learned his Spanish from three years of studying it in high school. He wasn’t speaking Spanish as if it were his second language, and that’s how it occurred to me that, perhaps, it was his first! That’s when I first guessed that Angel was probably Hispanic as well as American. It turns out, I was right. Some twenty-plus years ago, Angel repeated kindergarten, because the first time around, he didn't speak any English.

 In 2010, when my family and I were announcing my courtship with, and shortly thereafter, engagement to Angel, we got a few funny reactions.
One person asked me, shortly before the wedding, “What is Angel’s real name?”
My guess is that she thought I’d been introducing him to everyone by my pet name for him the whole time. And just in case any of my readers also think that I've nicknamed my husband here, my answer is clear--Angel’s real name is Angel.
One friend, known more for his enthusiasm than his tact, or, for that matter, political correctness, said, “Oh man! Your kids will be so beautiful! I’m serious! Mixed kids are always beautiful!”
A middle-aged friend of the family asked to see a picture of my fiancé, and when I showed her one, she was visibly disappointed. She said, “Oh! I heard he was American, so I thought he was going to be tall, blond, blue-eyed….and handsome!” Her eyes were dreamy. Clearly, this was her picture of the ideal man. My Angel was and is neither tall, blond, nor blue-eyed. He's short, dark, and has a smile that scares away little children (i.e. my little cousins) but he's my ideal man.
We’ve been married over a year and a half now, and since I hang out with him pretty constantly, I’ve heard countless comments from complete strangers about his name. Mostly it’s “What?” Sometimes it’s “Is Angel a girl’s name or a boy’s name?” and, inevitably “ He’s your Angel, isn’t he?” accompanied by a cheesy grin. Even I can't help but grin every time I hear the line in the Taylor Swift song "Hey Stephen" when she says "'Cause I can't help it if you look like an Angel..." When I deposit a check for him at the bank or pay a bill that's in his name, I am told, "Is there anything else we can do for you today, Angel?"

I doubt that would happen if I were conducting business for a husband named Thomas. Or Fred.

Angel gets questions on his name nearly every time he gets a new patient at the hospital. Inevitably, they ask, "Is Angel your real name?" He tells me that occasionally--when he thinks the patient is one who would appreciate a joke--he says, "No, it's my stripper name." I'm rather horrified by this, I must admit.
There are certainly challenges involved when two cultures are joined in marriage. Different families handle life differently, but I’m inclined to think that, in our case at least, most of those differences are more individual than purely culturally-based. Angel and I are working together on building our own family culture, taking lessons we’ve both learned from our parents and forming new traditions that are appropriate for us. Language is a huge challenge in an inter-cultural marriage—but it’s not insurmountable, and it’s exciting for a girl who loves to learn new languages. Still, it can be very scary to be sitting at a family gathering surrounded by conversations going on in Spanish that include just a few too many unfamiliar words and progress at such speed that while you’re still trying to analyze the first sentence, a few dozen more have already been spoken. I’m excited that my future children will have something I didn’t have: an opportunity to grow up in a bilingual home. That will be so much easier than memorizing Spanish conjugations at the ripe old age of 21, I assure you.
I’m glad  that interracial and inter-cultural marriages are becoming ever more common in my generation. Sometimes when you mix cultures, you get the best of both! Differing languages will always be a problem, simply because it’s hard to get your tongue around new sounds once you are already an adult. I don’t think there’s a single person in my family who pronounces my new last name authentically every time. Heck, even with me it’s hit or miss! I’ve practiced my new last name many times, but I don't always get it right! Maybe that’s why the message on my cell phone voicemail still gives my maiden name.
I love my Angel. Because of him I’ve been introduced to avocado, tuna (cactus fruit), guava, and corn tortillas (I still prefer flour though, like the güera I am). Spanish phrases are generously sprinkled into our everyday conversations. Because of me, he's been introduced to country music and old movies featuring Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn. I've been able to enlighten him on the definitions of obscure English words such as loitering.

However, as I told him before we got engaged, we will not be naming any of our kids Angel. Besides the fact that I think having multiple people with the same name in the house is too confusing, a name like that for a boy is just a little mean if you’re going to live in an English-speaking society. But someday, we will have some mighty fine-looking children running around, babbling away in both Spanish and English, and it's all because I married a guy named Angel.
Joslin said...

Haha I never thought this name might be a pet name. I like his name!

Veronica Lee Burns said...

Love this!

Unknown said...

:)Some of this makes me laugh! I love it!
Thanks for linking up yesterday!!!!

Michaela {au naturel design} said...

I love your take on interrational marriage. My boyfriend is from another culture and speaks another language as well. Since we have different backgrounds, we're not taking anything away from one another, we're just adding to it. I speak french as well, and am now learning a third language and just love that opportunity to expand my knowledge and experiences. You two make a beautiful couple and will have beautiful children :) All the best.

Sarah Pete said...

LOVE this post!
I think it's so cute that you didn't realize he's hispanic--that's too funny ;] And people think that's his pet name??? That's so silly.
I think interracial marriages are beautiful, and your tactless friend is right--interracial couples do produce the most beautiful children! And bilingual?? That's the coolest thing ever. I think it's awesome that the two of you have such great background in different languages.
And you're not originally from the States? Where are you from? That's the coolest!!
Have an awesome day!

Kristina said...

"No, it's my stripper name," is a good one!

Jessica Ruud said...

I love this post. So wonderful!!

Greatest blog :)

Brie Bemis @ Sophistifunk said...

i love reading about your love story! my little brothers are 1/2 hispanic (my stepmom is hispanic) and i love interracial relationships as well, as long as you're in love that's all that counts!

p.s. i'm your newest follower :)
xo brie

Cassandra Too said...

Lovely love story! He is indeed an angel! Stay happy and in love always! :D
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xoxo backtofive

Alyssa said...

Love this! You guys are so CUTE!!! Found you from the favorite post link up! Have a great weekend!

Kylee said...

Great post! I'm dating a hispanic boy, and he goes by Sammy, and everyone ALWAYS thinks that's his pet name! No, it's not. When I first started dating him I was afraid to tell some of my extended family because they pictured the perfect guy as blonde and tall as well. Sorry, that's not my perfect guy! I love the culture and learning spanish as well! :) Awesome to see other women feel the same way! I'm your newest follower by the way!

MariaAna said...

hello there!! great one! ha ha ha I totally feel you since i am also into an interracial/intercultural marriage my husband being a European and me being Asian living in a country none of us know the language (chinese).. we mainly converse in English at home and I am so willing to learn his language (german) but in time not now. COming from the Philippines we have a bit mixed language there of the local language(Tagalog) and acquired language (spanish coz of spanish influence back in time).but official language is English. my hubs and I met in another country as I have not been home for 7 years.. it was great and like a whirlwind.. understanding and adopting to different individual beliefs.. but like you said our values are more influenced by our personal views and not by differing cultures. ;-) cheers to you and have a wonderful life together!!!

MariaAna said...

oh and guess what I am known for the name Angel short for Maria Angelica.. a spanish name.. ;-) (Angelica pronounced as An-he-li-ka)

Debbie said...

My daughter married a man from Spain, after she took a college semester there. She up and fell in love! I think it was the accent. haha. Seriously, people are people and to me - race shouldn't play a part in the equation at all. I loved the part when you said he had a smile that would scare away children. That was very funny. Congrats on your recent marriage. said...

ran across this post at the bottom of the one with your new hair! it made me smile. being in an interracial marriage myself, we too have our own share of surprises! i think it's wonderful that you and angel love each other no matter what, and that you didn't even think anything of it until you heard him speak spanish! that's beautiful.
and also, i didn't know you weren't from america...where are you from?

Martha Hokenson said...

What a sweet story! It sounds like you two handle all the ins and outs of your marriage very well. But leave it to Angel to tell people it's his "stripper name"!! Argh! I guess you should expect that, considering some of his other "Angelisms"!

Amy @ Swag On, Momma! said...

AH! Loved this post. Ha...I ended up marrying a guy who did not have great hair (he's BALD!) and is not 6 foot 2 inches (he's two inches taller than me). But, I didn't care and still don't care, cause it's him! (Does that make sense? Hmmm...) I love that you are warm and open with your writing make me feel comfortable. :)