Where His Skin Meets Mine
Words by Reeve Currie
[Click above to hear this story in Reeve's own voice.]
When I began dating Tyler at the age of nineteen, I had no clue that we were both going to face extremely hard challenges in the months and years to come. How could I? I was just beginning to understand that the heart beating wildly in my chest was my own. I couldn’t fathom that weaving our two lives together would be more intense and wonderful than anything I had experienced before. I took a giant leap and entered my twenties, simultaneously terrified and thrilled to be doing it alongside my best friend.
I expected the challenges of being our own persons while also growing together. I knew that we would have to find our own way to disagree and argue while still loving each other. I didn’t know the extent that we would hurt each other.
When you are in a relationship with someone you deeply love, you have the immense privilege of being closer to them than anyone else; however, that also carries the painful reality that you will hurt them intensely. Being wounded, even unintentionally, by someone you love, cuts sharper than I could have ever imagined. But, when you walk side by side with a man who desires your growth, happiness, and heart more than he looks after his own, you make it through those moments that ache and wind up stronger together.
At the same time that we walked into our twenties together, exploring college, then graduation, then the “real world” of job applications and 401ks, we began to experience added challenges to our relationship - that of being an interracial couple.
I did not grow up surrounded by couples of different races, or even many couples that were not white. I took race, my own and other’s, with a care-free, thoughtless attitude. While Tyler grew up fifteen minutes away from my house, he lived in a completely different world. Born a beautiful combination of Korean, white, and black, Tyler’s reality was, and is, very different than my own.
We were friends for so many years before we began dating that we didn’t think there was much else to learn about each other, racially speaking. I was ready to meet his family, begin to plan our future, and commit to one another. But you cannot join two people and decide to leave out certain aspects. Our relationship was a mixing of our experiences, perspectives, and races, and we quickly entered into some of the hardest situations of our lives.
Countless times, I would make an offhanded remark that would cause pain for Tyler and enter us into a confusing, often hurtful conversation as we blindly felt our way through reconciling our differences and, often, my uneducated and white perspective.
Over, and over, we faced attacks on our relationship. One Friday night, I sat down to dinner around visiting relatives and heard my uncle state, “I’d never let my daughter bring home a black person.” Unsure of how to respond, I remained silent, but I remember stumbling into the bathroom after dinner, physically shaking from anger, hurt, and frustration. Yes, I knew there were people who believed racist notions, but I did not expect to receive those words from those within my family.
Among groups of friends, an “Asian eyes” joke would be thrown around and I would see Tyler’s shoulders slump. I would leave a party happy to have been with friends, while he would state how he’d felt a bit conspicuous, being the only non-white person there. Soon, I would realize, he was never surprised by those comments and situations, and almost came to expect them. The reality of him being a multiracial man meant he was constantly faced with opposition, racism, and “jokes” about his physical and mental capabilities.
As anyone in a strong relationship knows, once you are a couple, you carry each other’s pain, joy, anger, and hope. Tyler’s issues and struggles were now mine too, his happiness interwoven with mine, my corny jokes now attributed to “Tyler’s girlfriend.” Where our fingers are clasped you can see where his skin ends and mine begins, physically we are two separate beings. But when someone wounds him, they also dig a hole deep into my heart.
I have grown in ways I didn’t know were possible and experienced more pain and anger than I knew existed. I think of our future children and my heart physically hurts for them, for the hurt they will carry, the words they will hear, the sorrow they will feel, simply because Mommy and Daddy have different skin colors. I cannot begin to imagine the wonderful joys and aches of loving them.
I do know, with all my heart, that their wounds will be my wounds; our skin will end over bumpy fingers and bony knees, but our hearts will be tangled up together, pounding determinedly strong.
As I enter my mid-twenties, I, once again, do not know what lies ahead. Tyler and I don’t have a magic eight ball to tell us what days will be easy and what nights will end in tears. I do know more changes and challenges lie ahead. I know that, at the end of the bruised hearts, Tyler and I will be closer and stronger, more in love than before. I know that I will cherish those who surround us with love and strength, helping us to be a couple that spreads hope instead of fear. I can count on the fact that one, two, five years from now, I will know myself more and be stronger because of both the good and the bad.
Perhaps one day, I will look at a young woman who is bravely beginning her own relationship and be able to gently nudge her forward as she opens her heart to the richness and tenderness ahead of her.
I think and hope that I will be forever learning (and re-learning) how to open my eyes to see beyond my own skin, to be beautifully and wholly open and vulnerable, as we all learn to let our hearts beat together.
Reeve Currie is a twenty-something writer who is passionate about women, daily life, and literature. A lover of books, yoga, and coffee, you can find Reeve writing on her blog, Girl on the Verge. (Otherwise she is probably trying to bring the plants she keeps killing back to life or eating takeout with her tattooed man.) Currently working for Belong Magazine and freelancing, Reeve plans to continue with a career in writing.