I originally wrote this as a comment to Diana’s post about this topic, related to interracial couples.
I think there are fetishes and then there is cultural compatibility.
I found myself dating Asian people because they understood my life better–the way my family worked, the food I ate, the littlest lifestyle things–not to mention that my family accepted only Asian people (all others were seen as “phases”, even to this day). I never was attracted exclusively to Asian people, but I found my ration of Asian crushes to non-Asian crushes skewed considerably.
Somehow I became friends with Dan (my current boyfriend of almost five years). Somehow my family doesn’t accept him because he’s not Asian. And somehow I dont care because he sees me for me, the full 100% me, not the Asian culture or the American culture. He understands the mixture of cultures and embraces it, often accompanying me to functions where he/we are the only “white people”, but he does it for me, and it doesn’t care because he’s with me. And that’s the reason he’s going–to make me happy and to be with me, making a new memory with me.
I don’t think Dan wanted to go to the Hawai’ian Cultural Festival’s advanced lei making workshop, but he helped me make my lei and helped me document the outcome. I’m sure he doesn’t want to go with me to the Asian supermarkets to find the specific ethnic ingredients I need, or visit dive restaurants because ‘I heard it was good’. He specifically recommends authentic Japanese restaurants or shops and suggests sitting at ‘the bar’ to encourage me to speak Japanese, just because he knows once I get over my shyness, I’ll be beaming at the night’s end.
Unabashed selfless-ness. what more is there?
It’s quite unfair if you look at it this way. I never underwent any cultural hazing on his side of the family. They readily accepted me as myself, not Asian/American/whatever. They’re genuinely warm and welcoming to me, more so than my own family at times. Wheras my family doesn’t even acknowledge Dan and have never even invited him over to dinner in the past years of our relationship.
In fact, I think that dating Dan has taught me more about myself and helped me develop more as an individual. I’m not only defined by my culture, I have a more complex and developed identity now, one that is more stable. Culture can be a dealbreaker in some cases, but in others it can be an opportunity to share and learn from each other. If both sides are understanding and have open minds, I think it only helps foster the relationship and make it richer.
I guess in the end, this is quite the opposite of yellow fever. Yellow fever is being obsessed with the culture for no reason other than the fact that you “like it” and exclusively dating someone because they’re Asian–as in, the first selective factor is whether or not they’re asian. Not necessarily the ethnicity that you’re enamored with or studying per se, but just ‘Asian’ in general.
Finding only one race as attractive. What a broad generalization. There’s actually more DNA variance within races than across. I understand finding one race over another as attractive, but exclusively? They’re only doing themselves a disservice.
What are everyone elses thoughts on race or ethnicity and its role in relationships?