There is a stereotype that women dream of their fairy tale wedding right from the minute they discover the notion of wearing a big white dress and being treated like a princess for a day; i.e. from the age of about six...(months). Perhaps I’m exaggerating. It’s highly presumptuous to say that all women obsess over the perfect marriage, but I suppose plenty of women have inflated their fantasies enough to make the stereotype stick. While the cynics out there will be tutting and questioning the need for marriage at all, I have to branch away from my usual cynicism and admit that marriage is actually a topic that has been lingering at the back of my mind for a few years now. FYI, I’m only 23.
Why would someone who can’t even competently organize her next meal without some sort of disaster occurring along the way be contemplating an entire day of festivities on which she would most likely wear a white dress - possibly the biggest disaster magnet on the planet? The answer is simple; it’s not the dress or the ring that gets my brain ticking, it’s trying to envision the environment I would be creating for my future children that sets me off.
Realistically speaking, when you’re of mixed race and are bicultural, no matter who you end up with, you’re going to be part of an international marriage whether you like it or not. The exception being if you find someone of the same combination as yourself, but even then, depending on which country was dominant in that person’s upbringing you could still find yourself juggling cultural differences. This is why I fast forward to imagining married life with a man quite soon into a relationship. I’m not intent on getting a rock on my finger as soon as possible; it’s more about not wanting to take a dead end relationship any further. I feel I have to be really practical when deciding whether the man and I are compatible or not; in cases such as mine simply liking the same movies and listening to the same music won’t cut it.
That’s not to say marriages between people of the same nationality are more simple, marriage is undoubtedly a challenge (and a blessing, of course, I’m not that cynical) no matter where both parties come from. However, how many couples really have to consider where they would live and for how long – as in what country? How many couples have to decide on how to communicate with their children to give them the best chances of being bi or tri lingual? How many couples will have to ship their kids across continents to make sure both sets of grandparents get equal visiting share?
Coming from a family that moved from England to Japan to ensure my sister and I would speak English and Japanese equally well, from a family that’s scattered across two continents allowing me to immerse myself in both cultures whenever I please, I think it’s fair to say that my upbringing plays a roll in my considerations. So, if I have a tendency to picture the practicalities of married life pretty early on in a relationship; as you can imagine, I have been known to rule men out based on what someone else might say is a trivial reason.
For example, if I am with a man who treats me well, makes me laugh and shares my interests, it can all go pear shaped if he utters a preference for settling down in one city and never moving abroad. My heart will stop fluttering pretty quickly if they tell me they have no interest in learning my language or helping me learn theirs. The romance drops dead if they say they don’t see a need for kids to taste both his culture and mine; that a “normal” static upbringing is more beneficial for a child.
This makes the check list for the ideal man much longer than most people’s; talented, funny, engaging, similar tastes and interests, willing to live in Japan, willing to invest in his children’s linguistic education, willing to learn Japanese. If I’m honest, “willing” isn’t even good enough, they have to be “eager”.
Although it’s obviously not a given that all mixed race people are as picky as I am, I’m sure there are many who are and who feel the resonance of our pragmatism…or should I call it idealism?
There are of course truly practical aspects to consider too. While I’m not religious and I don’t romanticize the idea of marriage, I still want to get married. Realistically speaking, getting married would make my life much easier than staying in a non-legally bound relationship. At the age of 22 Japanese people holding an additional passport are required to pick one or the other and while most people ignore this rule, the thought of potentially losing your right to Japanese citizenship upon being caught is not something I like being kept awake at night by. If I want to be able to raise my children partly in Japan and if I want them to be entitled to the choice of being Japanese, the legally acceptable route would be via marrying my European boyfriend and surrendering my British passport. This would make it easier for my man to live in Japan too, so we’re talking two birds with one stone, effectively. I told you I don’t romanticize marriage…
I’m guessing mixed race people aren’t the only ones facing such dilemmas, immigrants undoubtedly face similar situations. It must be even tougher when your racial or religious background dictates whom you should marry when you are not surrounded 100% by people of the same upbringing. Does one do as is expected (or in extreme cases demanded) of them or does one branch out from their culture of origin? Does one see the practical realities of being with someone of their own race and value them over the romantic realities of an inappropriate encounter?