My Guy

We had hired a classic car to take us to our wedding. The car was supposed to arrive at 3, it was almost half past the hour and it still wasn’t there yet. The photographer was snapping away, trying to improvise as I grew agitated, while still aware that the camera was following me around, clicking away, memorializing every frown I had on my professionally made-up face. I was trying to smile but I couldn’t. I was annoyed. The car was late.

He saw my annoyance and pulled me into him. “It’s alright, Babe, it’ll be fine.”

“Where is the damn car?” I hissed through clenched teeth, still aware of the camera. “What if it doesn’t come? What could have possibly gone wrong? What if we are late for our own damn wedding?”

“We won’t be late,” he said in the most consoling manner. “Even if it means that I’ll have to drive us there myself, we won’t be late. Everything will be fine….C’mon now, relax! Breathe! Smile for the camera…You won’t be happy if years from now you look at our wedding pictures and the look on your face reminds you that the car was late.”

That’s all it took. That’s all it ever takes. Reassurance from my guy that everything will be alright. Greg knows me. He knows what to say to make me feel comforted; and I trust him enough to know that when he says that it will be alright, that he will take care of the situation, any situation, that he will.

My favorite thing about my husband – he is reliable. A man of his word, who will move mountains to make me happy.

As we drank champagne and ate pizza in the back of the classic car, which, of course, eventually arrived, I marveled at how happy I was at that moment.

After all the dating dilemmas and the disappointments, I had found my guy, the one who loved me for me, with all my shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. The one who was now sitting next to me carefully feeding me pizza (because we were trying not to ruin my lipstick or my white dress), whispering in my ear that he was going to take care of me for the rest of my life, was finally here, and he was cute too.

I looked up at him, stared into his green eyes and told him that I felt like the luckiest girl in the World. “Are you crazy?” He said in disbelief, “I’m the lucky one. I can’t believe I found you.”

That was 3 years ago today, and even though our marriage has been far from perfect, it has been our ideal, the good times and the silly laughter outweighs the annoyances and the arguments. He still smiles when I enter the room, especially if he hasn’t seen me all day and I still send him sexy text messages while he’s at work.

He still admires me and I still respect him. We are still each other’s favorite person and one can only hope that it remains the same way for decades to come.

Happy Anniversary to us!

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The Struggles of Dating/Marrying a White Guy

Last week my husband and I were in the DMV, seated right next to each other on a bench waiting for Hearing Room # 3 to open when a guy walked by, looked me dead in the eyes winked at me and smiled. Greg, my husband, saw the entire thing and shot the guy an annoyed ‘Dude, I dare you to try it’ look. I just shook my head. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is something that happens to us all the time, despite sitting or standing next to each other, somehow people never ever think we are together; simply because my husband is White and I am Black.

I know this guy wasn’t being facetious, he just assumed, like most people do, that Greg and I were not a couple even though we were actually physically together. No matter how close we are to each other, even when we are in deep conversation, short of us holding hands or being loving with each other, people will assume we are not a couple. The dating and marrying outside our race have brought with it a mixture of comical, unbelievable, amusing sometimes even inconceivable experiences. It’s been 5 and a half years in total since we’ve been together and the weirdness still persists.

No One Ever Thinks We’re Together

It has become quite comical to us that no one ever thinks we are together, but depending on the situation it can also be annoying that people refuse to ask the pertinent questions but instead will just go with their assumptions.

Recently Greg let me off to go into the doctor’s office while he went to park the car. After checking in with the receptionist, letting her know who I was, I went to the ladies room. Greg arrived inside the doctor’s office less than 5 minutes afterward, he looked around the waiting room and didn’t see me so he asked the receptionist if “his wife” had just walked in. The receptionist without even asking Greg his wife’s name or asking for a description of his wife said, “No.” Greg asked her, “Are you sure, she should have just come in?” The woman again said, “No.” I walked out of the ladies’ room saw Greg at the receptionist desk and said, “Hi Babe, you found a parking spot fast, huh?” The receptionist turned bright red with embarrassment trying to explain herself. What I really wanted to ask her was why she would choose to go with her ignorant assumption that I was not Greg’s wife instead of asking him his wife’s name; but Greg wouldn’t let me, he told me to behave myself and let it be, after all, we should be used to it by now.

Things People Say to Us

The most common one we get is the inquiry as to what our respective families said or thought when we first started dating. Honestly, nothing. My parents thought nothing of me bringing home a white guy and vice versa. It really was not a big deal. My parents liked Greg because, according to them, they could see how much he cared for me. My mother liked the fact that Greg hung onto every word I said and looked lovingly at me each time I spoke and my father liked the fact that on the numerous occasions we all went out that weekend Greg paid for everything despite him (my father) being there. They embraced and love him.

As for my mother-in-law, sometimes I wonder if she even notices that I am not white. She has never mentioned anything about the color of my skin to Greg. She has been nothing but warm and kind to me from the very first day I met her, which was a few months into our relationship. She is extremely sweet to me and always ensures that she sends me a birthday card every year with a nice handwritten message inside.

People also ask us a lot about procreating, even strangers. The most common query we get when people do realize that we are in fact together is about babies. People are constantly asking us if we have any children together and when we say no then the next question is usually when are we going to have one, followed by the statement that we would make “some beautiful babies”; and yes they are very certain about this. Apparently, interracial couples never make unattractive babies.

One Sunday afternoon as we rode the subway into the city, an elderly woman sat across from us. I caught her staring at us several times so I finally smiled at her and that’s when she spoke. She commented on how nice we looked together, asked how long we had been together and advised us to have a baby. Before she exited the train she told us that she hopes that when I get pregnant it will be a girl because “she would be absolutely stunning”.

Then there are also the “jokes” bordering on snide remarks that people make. The one about “why couldn’t you date a black man / white girl instead” or the assumption that we could not find someone who is our own race, makes my blood boil. Are you kidding me? My husband and I have amazing chemistry that’s why we are with each other. Not because a guy is black does not mean I will have chemistry with him and it goes the same for my husband with his white female counterparts. The worst jokes and remarks though are the ones with the negative stereotype. Or the one about our time together having an expiration date because either one of us must have a “fetish” or might be going through “a phase”. Yeah, people go there, especially when one or the other of us is not around and they perceive that we are close enough to them for them to go there.

Not Black Enough

Apparently, there are varying levels of being black and I am not black enough or can’t possibly be down with the struggle of my people because I am married to a white man. Yes, people have said that. It’s harrowing how much people think they know about you based on who you married. I can assure you that my being married to Greg doesn’t make me any less vested in the issues that affect my community. Guess what people? I can still be “woke” and love my caucasian man. I will continue to speak out against oppression and racism and fight the good fight, and trust and believe my husband will be there right alongside me fighting with me. I am 100% sure of that! I didn’t lose my love for my race and my culture because I fell in love with someone who is not black and the implication that I did is ludicrous. Again, ignorance!

Greg and I are a strong, confident couple, who are able to stand up to the social biases that still prevail in our society even though it’s the year 2018. We are open-minded, compassionate people, who embrace each other’s differences and idiosyncrasies. Whatever squabbles and or disagreements we may have are the usual disagreements that occur in same race relationships, like why in the world he won’t bring the toilet seat down after he uses it, that still irks me. Similarly, it boggles his mind and annoys him when he has to wait for me because it takes me 2 hours to get ready whenever we are going out. We are the same as any other couple and the sooner society’s naysayers recognize that the sooner we can eliminate the struggles that seem to automatically comes when one dates or marry outside one’s race.

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5 Lessons I Learned from my Divorce

“I got another woman pregnant.” Those were the words uttered by my then husband to me that fractured my seemingly perfect world on July 3, 2004.

Not long after he said those words I was looking for an apartment and filing my own divorce. To say I was devastated was an understatement. Every day for weeks, perhaps even months, I woke up wishing that the moment I had heard those words was just an extremely bad dream, that I could rewind the hands of time and that those words would not, in fact, be my new reality.

My reality was that I was a brand new mom, at the time my son was a mere 7 months old, still being breastfed. I had just started my law practice, which meant I had no money and my entire world revolved around my then husband. I had been living in the United States less than 3 years and I hadn’t yet gotten my permanent green card. I was still, according to the United States Government, “a temporary resident”, and my entire life was falling apart.

I think I cried every day for about 2 weeks straight. I remember crying in the ladies’ room of the Courthouse just minutes before I was scheduled to go on the record to make oral arguments on behalf of a client. To this day I still can’t believe the remarkable outcome I got in that particular case; it was nothing short of a miracle.

It’s been 14 years since those devastating words and in retrospect, I realize that I learned a hell of a lot about myself, relationships and marriage, in general, as I went through the absolute worst phase of my life.

1. Lessons in Finance

Try looking for an apartment in New York City without a few thousand dollars stashed away somewhere. I wasn’t making a lot of money, to begin with. I had recently started my practice on May 1st of that same year and I only had a handful of clients.

However, whatever I did earn, no matter how small, some of it could have been put away for a rainy day; but in my world, at the time there was simply no need to do that since I had a husband. It’s not that I wanted or expected him to take care of me, Lord knows that was not the case, it’s just that I felt comfortable. Nowhere in my head did I ever think of opening a savings account solely in my own name and putting away even a small percentage of any retainer I had earned.

I am almost embarrassed now thinking of how financially naive I was. My broken heart and wounded pride made me want to take my newborn and get the hell out of Dodge. I wanted to leave but I had no money to leave. Talk about being stuck!

2. Lessons in Victimhood

I quickly learned that I don’t do very well with sympathy. Word of my Ex-husband’s infidelity spread very quickly among people we knew, and after word got around, I would typically be greeted with one of either two looks – either one of sympathy or the ‘Thank God I am not in her position’ look. Oh, how I hated those looks. I was always a proud, confident woman, so having people feel sorry for me was the absolute worst. Those looks served as motivation though, for me to be strong, or at the very least, try.

I remember having dinner with a friend, less than a month after my Ex’s revelation, and she was amazed that I was doing so well. The reality was that I wasn’t doing well at all. I was dying inside! Really freaking dying inside, but every day that I made myself get out of bed and get dressed for work I thought about my baby boy Blake and how much he needed me. It sounds cliché, but I felt like I needed to be strong for him. He needed a strong mother, who was about to become a single parent, to raise him, guide him and teach him life lessons, and I would be damned if I was going to let him down.

So every morning I got up, got dressed, adjusted my crown, remembered who I am, put my high heels on, kissed my baby boy goodbye and stepped out into the world with my broken heart because I was determined to fake it until I could make it.

3. Lessons in Co-parenting

To this day I am very proud of the way I left my Ex. The day had finally come when I had enough money saved to make my exit. It was a regular Tuesday morning when he left for work and as soon as he was out the door I started packing. I had organized a group of friends to help me and I had all of my and Blake’s belongings out of his apartment before he came home from work that afternoon.

I would have paid good money to see his face when he opened the front door to his condo that evening only to find that we were gone. He blew up my phone for several days after that, and I refused to answer when finally he left a voicemail message threatening to call the police on me for kidnapping his son.

Oh really?! How about you bring the National Guard too while you’re at it!

I am not ashamed to say that I was not above being petty in refusing to tell him where we had gone and not allowing him access to Blake. Yeah, it was my way of trying to hurt him; but after 8 straight days of just me and Blake I answered one of his phone calls and agreed for him to come and pick up our son. The truth is I was tired and needed a break from the baby. However, It was at that moment that I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. The reality was that Blake also needed his father, as strong a woman as I am I had the wherewithal to realize that there were things that my ex-husband could teach Blake that I couldn’t. A woman can’t teach a boy how to be a man. He needed his father for that. I had to learn to co-parent with him despite how I felt about him. The truth is that even though my Ex had been a terrible husband he was a great father to our son. I couldn’t allow my desire to be petty to jeopardize his relationship with Blake. It wasn’t worth it; because in the long run, it would only end up hurting Blake too.

4. Lessons in Letting Stuff Go!

When your entire world comes crashing down around you it is extremely difficult to convince yourself that the best way to move on is to let go of the desire to punish the person who caused your pain. It’s human nature to want to hurt the person that hurt you, its human nature to want to see them suffer but the truth is that only cripples you; at least I know it crippled me. Trust me when I tell you that there is no moving forward when you hold on to the hurt.

I had to make a concerted effort to just let the shit go. It was much easier said than done though, but I had to make myself do it. I had to tell myself that I had a choice. I could choose to feel sorry for myself, talk about the heartbreak all day everyday to anyone who would listen and spend my time plotting and planning some kind of stupid revenge on my Ex, or, I could find something to do that would occupy my time and perhaps make me a tad less emotional over the entire ordeal, if that were possible. My saving grace was my budding law practice, I buried myself in my work and my cases. I also joined the gym and found a new love for a new dance exercise that was emerging at the time called Zumba.

5. Lessons in Forgiveness

It took months, maybe even a year, for me to be able to communicate with my Ex in a decent manner, you know the one where you actually talk in a civilized tone instead of saying everything with contempt and derision. The first year following our split was an extremely tough one in which I could never have seen myself forgiving his infidelity; but as time passed and I let go off of the hurt, I was able to move on and it became easier to move towards forgiveness.

It has now been 14 years since my Ex uttered those words to me, words that I thought were completely unforgiving; but life has a way of throwing things at us that we had no idea we were built for.

My Ex’s infidelity, despite being something I could forgive years later, will never ever be something I can forget. I will never forget the way I felt at that moment when I heard those words. I will never forget the time; the date; what he was wearing (a white T-shirt and plaid boxers); what I was wearing, where we were, and even what the room smelled like at that moment. I will never forget how his actions, changed the course of my life; but I have forgiven him and that ability to forgive has allowed me to let go, move on, and set me on the path to what, in retrospect, has allowed me to live my best life and allowed me to be the very best Racquel.