Category: love and chocolate


Earlier today i was sitting working in Starbucks while Chris Martin sang gentle somewhat melancholic tunes to me.

SUDDENLY, like in a movie [one that was maybe titled ‘Everyone in Starbucks rushes pointingly at the window’] everyone in the store suddenly started rushing to the window behind me, pointing and looking very much like they had just witnessed someone steal a laptop computer from an unassuming customer outside before jumping through the window of a car that came screaming up and drove wildly off into the distance.

What had happened to cause such a ruckus, you might ask? [especially if you were the kind of person who uses words like ‘ruckus’ in ordinary everyday sentences].

Well, outside the Starbucks store, and clearly visible through the window behind me, a man had just had his laptop grabbed by a young guy who then jumped through the window of a car that came screaming up and drove wildly off into the distance. 

Talk about action. No, that was an observation, not a command. Stop actually discussing the concept of ‘action’ and pay attention here…

laptopii

TO LAPTOP IT OFF

What made it a little worse for the guy in question was that a short while later i overheard him speaking on his phone in Starbucks and he was telling the person on the other end of the phone, [and me, i guess, but with far less intentionality], that this was the second time it had happened to him. The second time he had lost a laptop.

This was starting to sound like my life for a second [For the record, i think i am on three – two stolen and one blown over the side of a mountain by a gust of wind – true story!]

i was super bummed for the guy and spent a bunch of time trying to figure out if there was anything i could do for him. “Um, sorry you lost your laptop computer, but can i buy you a Flourless Chewy Chocolate Cookie?” didn’t seem like the most helpful of things to say, and “Hey, can i buy you a new laptop?” didn’t feel like anything i wanted to try and explain to tbV later that evening.

TWO BREADS, FIVE FISH

The one thing i had heard him say [this is not a blog post about the importance of not eavesdropping on people in coffee shops just in case you thought that was the twist cautiously making its way to you] was something about needing to go somewhere to pick up a different computer so he could finish the work he needed to do.

On this particular day i happened to have the black tinted window gangster BMW we have been kindly lent for the last few months and so eventually i approached him and pretended to grab his bag. No, i didn’t. That would have been horrible. Stoppit! But i asked him if he had a vehicle and explained that i had one and if he needed to get somewhere i could give him a ride.

He seemed genuinely moved and appreciative, but he turned down the ride with some or other reason i didn’t listen to [i felt like i’d eavesdropped enough by that point] and i went on my way. And as he left the Starbucks a little later, he turned to me and gave me one of those we-both-get-the-same-thing subtle head nods and i smiled at him because i had no idea why he was subtly head nodding and figured i needed to pretend i did or else he might come back in and try to explain it to me.

START WHERE YOU ARE

So a story about me not giving a stranger a lift. How useful is that?

Well, i am hoping there is a bit of a point.

This past weekend the whole #YesAllWomen hashtag and ensuing stories and blog posts and articles really affected me quite deeply. i resonated so deeply with the message that was being both passionately shared and enthusiastically pushed back against. But i didn’t really have any idea what to do to make any of it any less painful.

So i wrote this blog post. And it didn’t feel like much at all, and probably wasn’t. But it was something. Like the little kid in the story of Jesus feeding the crowd who gave up his lunch [which let’s face it was completely ridiculously underwhelming in the face of the immense need] i gave what i had and hoped against hope that it would be used to accomplish far more than it ever had the capacity to achieve in and of itself. All i really had to offer was awareness and i am looking at what feels like the next step which is asking the right questions [anyone know what ‘The Right Questions’ are? or one right question? even one ‘Heading towards rightish’ question might be a good start?]

DO WHAT YOU CAN

On another day, the laptopless guy might have really appreciated a lift somewhere. i hope that i will be the one asking when that happens.

i am trying to cultivate a mindset of being more open to invite the interruption that happens around me. You see, i had a bunch of work i was in the middle of doing, so giving this guy a lift would certainly not have been convenient. It probably would not have been comfortable [cos he probably would have wanted to speak to me or something… urgh… and then expected me to maybe speak back.] But it would have been great.

If he had needed a lift, i imagine he would have felt loved. Actually i imagine he felt that anyways [that subtle head nod had to mean SOMEthing?]

And that is a great start. It is not a great finish. There is more we can do. There are more significant ways for us to get involved, but we have to do what we can and hope that something more impressive reveals itself as we do so.

That is all. Except i’m not that convinced that i would ever go and watch a movie called  ‘Everyone in Starbucks rushes pointingly at the window’, no matter how much Johnny Depp starred in it.

start

[One man who has inspired by me in this by sharing his platform with some women so that their voices can be heard is Micah J Murray and you can read some of those powerful posts over here in this first post by Becca Rose]

“It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.” [Jack Handey]

Ah, i love me some Jack Handey, but as i continue to look at some different aspects that define the character of a person, i’m not quite sure that would be the best approach.

However, when we hear the word “Sorry!” coming out of our mouth, we should always be asking ourselves one key question:

sorrycaught

i imagine, to some great extent, that uttering the phrase, “I’m sorry” is a natural response to being caught in some kind of wrongdoing or hurt-causing and we should always at some point, really take a moment to pause and think about how sorry we actually are.

sorrychange

There is a difference between saying the words, “I’m sorry!” and actually being sorry. Maybe a word like repentance is more helpful because it carries the idea of an about turn or a change in direction. Is my action following my wording going to back up my wording? This links to closely to the post i wrote on your actions needing to back up your words and the phrase, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear the words you speak.” 

Trying to move away from false knee-jerk apologising would be a good start in this. Another quote i read on this went along the lines of encouraging you not to give an excuse when you apologise. If there is a reason for your action or if something was misunderstood and an explanation feels necessary then it might be more helpful and meaningful to separate the two. When you say the words, “I’m sorry, but…” it probably starts to feel about as believable as a good old, “I’m not racist, but…” [almost always followed by a racist statement of note!] An “I’m sorry but I really shouldn’t have to be sorry and here are the reasons why” kind of thing.

So maybe figuring out what a valid apology is. Maybe it is simply, “I’m sorry that you were hurt” or “I’m sorry that your expectation was not missed” or something that acknowledges the pain of the other person.

A QUICK RECAP

# Am i genuinely sorry? Am i seeing my fault in this? Am i owning whatever was my responsibility in this situation?

# Am i apologising in a way that doesn’t sound like it is coming off as an excuse which really negates the whole apology?

# Am i planning on changing my actions or doing something to make this thing better or giving recompensation where necessary?

[This last point a particular touchy point for most white South Africans i imagine – of course we are sorry for apartheid and everything that went with it, but we don’t particularly want that to cost us anything.]

KICKING THE LIE IN THE FACE

i remember reading this statement as a child, probably in one of those “Love is…” cartoon strips that were so popular then:

‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’

Urgh, what a load of raiSIN-infested bollocks! But really. It might sound like a good idea. And can be truth if you are pursuing the idea of saying alone not being helpful. But if the idea is that you never have to own your crap or change your direction or back pedal and make up for something jerky you did, then it really is an unfortunate greeting card and nothing more. Love is being committed to serving the other person and grabbing hold of responsibility for actions or words even when that is uncomfortable or painful for you, because you know that you were in the wrong. When this is coming from both parties, then strong relationships start to form.

And a whole lot more, I’m sure, but for now, just the opportunity to reflect on the idea that being a person of character means taking responsibility in the best and most helpful and healing of ways when, intentionally or not, you mess up and hurt someone else.

sorryheart

[To return to the beginning of this series on Character, click here]

gradidges

When Brett asked for some volunteers on this topic I sprung at the chance but it has taken me a while to get some words down as I wasn’t sure what to say or what aspect to focus on or what I really wanted people to get out of this post… To be honest I am still not 100% sure but I hope either way it will challenge you to think deeply about race, relationships and your own prejudice.

My name is Kathy and I am married to Philippe. I am white. Philippe is coloured. [Brett: While we realise that in Americaland, calling someone ‘coloured is highly offensive, in South Africa it is the descriptive name of one of the diverse groups that make up our beautiful country and so it is helpful to know that, especially if you are from Americaland]

We will be married 5 years in June. Our relationship was pretty whirlwind… we met, went on our first date 1 week later and within 3 months were already talking about getting married, got engaged after 6 months and married a year (almost to the day) after meeting.

When my Grandmother met Philippe for the first time she said to me “You do realise he isn’t white?” To be honest I had noticed! But mostly our friends and family were supportive. We got used to the stares by strangers (and there are stares) by giving them something to stare at (mostly long kisses!)

The differences in our upbringings were not too huge… We both come from families with 2 parents with similar values and beliefs and we both have siblings (Philippe a few more than me). We both attended university and actually met while both doing our Masters.

I, however could attend any school I wanted and was never given hassles about the colour of my skin. I, however could go to any beach I wanted and was never asked to leave because of the colour of my skin. My family could live wherever they wanted and not only in a “coloured” area.

I think back to my preconceived ideas about coloured people (with a bit of shame) and how I asked him if he was ever in a gang or was there gang violence in the area he grew up in?  Embarrassing really!?

Being in an inter- racial relationship has taught me on the one hand that it really is true – we are all the same. It has also taught me on the other hand- that we are not. We are not the same in how we handle situations, how we relate to people, how we think about situations such as politics or race. BUT I don’t think those things are due to differences in race. I think they are due to differences in upbringing, education, life experiences and family interactions.

And here is another BUT…

BUT In South Africa where privilege is very tied up in race because of our history, race does ultimately have an impact on your socioeconomic status, your education, your life experiences and even your family set up. And so does result in differences and sometimes divisions.

In our marriage, we love to joke about “it’s cos you are coloured” “it’s cos you are white” and we can because it is our safe space. But we also tread carefully around race when we are fighting/ arguing because an attack on race may be misinterpreted as an attack on the other person’s identity, culture and family. What we try keep in mind is that these differences are not necessarily race related but upbringing, family and personality differences…

Marriage is hard work and an inter-racial marriage is at the end of the day just a (more colourful) marriage. Coming into marriage I unconsciously felt my (and therefore my family, culture, races) way of doing things was the right way. I have to consciously remind myself that my way isn’t necessarily the right way.  And I don’t always get it right. But it feels like a good thing, a positive thing- to think outside my small box of past experience. And it is a great thing to navigate life and all these new experiences with the love of my life, even if he has more melanin than me!

============================================

Kathy also wrote a piece about her son which i want to include here as well:

My name is Kathy and I am white (a particularly pale white!) and I am married to Philippe who is coloured. We have a son who is… (Pick an option)

a) coloured b) white c) white/ coloured d) who cares!

One of my most vivid rac(ial)(ist) moments with my son was when I took him to the local Dischem to have his immunisations. As I got there I turned my back to the queue to fill in the sign in sheet (so I didn’t lose my place in the queue).  While I had my back turned with my son staring over my shoulder at the people already waiting this old lady says to her son (in not her inside voice): Wasn’t that a white lady? How does she have that child?

Needless to say her son was VERY embarrassed and apologised profusely and explained his mother was a little senile… Out of the mouths of… senile old ladies???

I also get asked a lot “ What nationality is his dad?” I think this is people’s polite way of asking whether his dad is white/ black/ coloured/ indian.

I think our sons (racial) identity is one of the things that I think about a lot. In South Africa being coloured is a distinctive racial group. This is different from other countries where coloured is more a term used for people of a mixed race. In SA coloured people have a separate culture, language and identity. And although us white English SA’s often complain that we don’t have a definite identity or culture, we do.

In raising a child you realise that your identity is pretty tied up in your race and culture. And I am aware that knowing your identity and culture are important factors in feeling secure in who you are. Luckily as Christians we have a new identity and culture. And as a family we are trying to create our own traditions that merge our different cultures and identities and create a safe place. A safe place where he can grow up secure in the knowledge that although he doesn’t fit neatly into a census check box he is loved, he is our son, he is Gods son and he has a place in this world.

 

[For other stories on Mixed Race and Culture connections, click here]

[For other conversations on all different aspects of Race-related things, click here]

marciaflorian

Marcia’s Point of View

Initially when Florian and i started talking, the race factor did cross my mind but didn’t bother me at all. Florian is such an amazing guy, our personalities just clicked right away…

I think we get the best of both worlds and culture. Sometimes i even forget that we’re interracial. I don’t really think about it.

Do race and ethnicity matter when it comes to relationships? apparently, race is mattering less these days with the exception of about 20% of people who still seem to can’t get past the fact that different races can fall in love. I must admit, sometimes when we’re out at the mall or just out for dinner, i’d notice a few people staring, but that doesn’t faze me at all.   Florian is so cool, calm and collected about US, OUR RELATIONSHIP and OUR LOVE that just by seeing us through him gives me the assurance that this love was meant for me. In the beginning of our relationship, i was a bit nervous about telling him some things that probably would be difficult for him to grasp, like the fact that the hair on my head is a weave and that he should not, under any circumstances run his fingers through my hair !!!, Is not allowed to wet my hair and pull on it !! Lol… But later on in the relationship, we reached a level where i felt he was ready for the revelation… hahaha… Now i have my weaves lying around everywhere in the apartment.

Dating Florian allowed me to know about different cultures, particularly the German culture which involved food, religion and family structure. I have no worries about my family understanding our relationship because i come from a pretty much diverse family and being a product of an interracial relationship, my parents and family have embraced us most lovingly.

I can’t wait for the next chapter of our lives… Smiling face with heart-shaped eyesSmiling face with heart-shaped eyesSmiling face with heart-shaped eyesSparkling heartSparkling heartSparkling heartHeavy black heartHeavy black heartHeavy black heart️ With God’s blessing, we’re about to create MAGIC !!!

Florian’s point of view

I guess, my experience on being in an interracial relationship is somewhat different from Marcia’s. I come from a country without a history of apartheid or racial segregation, so, in general, it doesn’t really seem to me as a big deal. Growing up, I was always taught that despite our different looks, inside we’re all the same. I carried this strong believe throughout my life and so when it comes to how I treat people or who I date, race is never a factor. When I started dating Marcia, I did realize though that there are at least some differences. Until after 2 months into this relationship, I didn’t know what a “weave” was. She explained it to me and also told me that the lavish hair that many African American celebrities from Beyonce to Naomi Campbell wear is not really their own. This was quite a revelation! Even to this day, I’m sometimes startled when I open a drawer in the bathroom and find her scalp in it (of course, it her weave ). So, I had to realize that – for an African woman – taking care of your hair is quite a process. Skin care, on the other hand seems to be easier. Occasionally, I found myself envying her a little for her soft and flawless skin. I also don’t seem to be able to spot any change in color on her skin. One day when we came back from the beach, she asked me whether her skin is red. I looked at her and replied: “How do I tell?”

I do notice occasionally that she does have a different view on our interracial relationship. Often times we catch people on the street staring at us. She told me one day that she thinks the people stare at us because they have a problem seeing a black woman with a white man. I always thought the guys were just staring at HER because she looks so smashing. Maybe it’s a little of both…

Overall, I think, my experience of this relationship confirms what I learned as a child: Despite our differences in appearance and the fact that we come from completely different cultures, we have really a lot in common. I can only encourage people to not consider race as a factor in choosing someone to share your life with. If you disregard a large majority of people based on race or ethnicity, you might just miss out on the person you’re truly most compatible with. And I consider myself extremely lucky that my right match is this amazingly beautiful and wonderful woman that I am so in love with.

 

marciaflorianoneyear

 

wedding selfie

[Disclaimer: while in Americaland, the term “coloured” is a strongly negative term, in South Africa there is a unique group of people who have come from a heritage of different cultures but now have developed their own distinct culture. They are neither black nor white, nor are they mixed race, and they would call themselves ‘coloured’.]

 

We’re no different than any other couple.

Well, we are. Roxanne is from South Africa and colo(u)red and Greg is from America and white. The biggest differences we see between the two of us are our height and the fact that we spell words differently. So for this article, as we are writing it together, we will overcome inter-racial issues by spelling words both ways.

Recently, we were at a wedding where Roxanne introduced Greg to someone as her fiancé. This (white) man looked at her and then looks at him and the following conversation transpires:

Him: “Aren’t you colo(u)red?”

Rox: “Yes”

Him: “Don’t your parents mind?”

Rox: “Not at all”

Him: “Well, well done on you guys being progressive.”

Rox: “um… thanks?”

Thankfully, we don’t often have conversations like that but unfortunately there are still many people who think it is “progressive” for people to date cross-culturally.

We don’t.

One of Greg’s pet peeves is when someone says that Rox is “marrying up” as if the colo(u)r of his skin makes him a better person. He obviously feels that’s a load of horse manure.

Occasionally, we see someone do a double take in the mall, or someone asks an ignorant question, but actually, because we accept each other it doesn’t really matter whether strangers accept us or not.

We met, we fell in love. We have decided to get married. The fact that we are different colo(u)rs has not affected us in the least.  Actually, our oddness is so similar that it makes our cultural differences (which truthfully aren’t huge anyway) seem even less.  And our families love each of us individually and as a couple – why should race stop us from loving each other?

Yes, we have occasional disagreements but generally those are to do with us both being human beings more than the colo(u)rs of our skin.

While planning our wedding there have been a few cultural differences but those have been fun to discover. We will now have an American rehearsal dinner and a Colo(u)red catered reception – keeps everyone happy and celebrates both our heritages.

We love God. We love each other. And we love being able to celebrate being different with one another.

[To read the next story of mixed race and culture connections and meet Marcia Wells and Florian Adler, click here]

[For other conversations on all different aspects of Race-related things, click here]

biracial family selfie

James & Sherrell

American-African meets African-American.

 

We met at university; both of us were on student leadership for our respective halls. Sherrell’s from Durham, NC. James is from Cape Town, South Africa (Well, mostly). Naturally, there are a lot of cultural differences we’ve discovered along the way. For starters, we have different likes and dislikes, some of them diametrically opposite each other, ranging from the superficial, like our tastes in music and to how we like to spend our free time, to the more complex, like our outlook on life and how we grew up.

 

We’ve had our conflicts over these last two years of dating, but what couple doesn’t. The source of these conflicts, however, hasn’t been race, but things in our lives that we’ve needed to work on, things we needed to mature in. Our church has played a large role in that: supporting and mentoring us separately and together, providing us with examples of successful multi-racial couples, and giving us a place to worship with people of other ethnic groups.

 

That’s not to say we don’t have outside problems relating to each other’s backgrounds. Only recently, have we begun to meet each other’s extended families. They’re all from the American South, so there’s good deal of  apprehension based on history. Between each other, however, we’ve chosen to look beyond our races. That doesn’t mean we ignore where each other comes from – to do so would be an offense on our identities. Instead, we see our differences and choose to work from there. We choose to see what makes each other unique and celebrate it. Sometimes, it’s pretty goofy.  At other times, it’s a wonderful time of growth and learning.

 

Most importantly, though, is our commitment to God. It truly is the love of God that allows us to love each other as boy- and girlfriend and, hopefully, as husband and wife. This should be the linchpin of any relationship, whether you’re multi-ethnic, all-white, all-asian, or all-black. To accept each other’s cultural differences, skin tone, and perspectives, put God first, each other second, and yourself last.

 

[For other stories of Mixed Race and Culture Connections, click here] 

alexaandcharles

Things that I wish I could say to my single friends….

When I saw Brett request this I thought “pick me pick me”!  Then I started thinking about how to write this with honesty & candour but in a way which honours my husband, marriage and my friends.  I am so aware that I am still VERY new at this – Charles and I only got married 6 months ago (on the 9th November to be exact!).

  • I still need my girlfriends and my husband his mates!  Yes, we have entered into a new way of being, of living, of relating to others but I realised very quickly that people were “giving us space” to settle into being married.  4 weeks after getting married I had a dramatic declaration moment (read this as:  I wept and stated): I was missing my girls.  My husband needed guy time, I needed girl time – we are both aware that we can’t be everything to the other and are okay with that.

 

  • Please give us choices as to whether we are available or not – rather than assume not.  Rather than “giving me space” because I am married – which I value that you are considering, please still give me choices as to whether I can participate or not.  I nearly missed out on what has been one of my BIG adventures with girlfriends based on an assumption.  So grateful that I was given the choice after the friend realised this- but with the freedom to decline (This adventure had cost implications which needed to be budgeted for – and we could budget for this since we knew we had to!).

 

  • Everything is negotiated: This has been the hardest thing about getting married for me; my space isn’t MINE – I can’t control the noise, the different way we do things or the fact that our schedules are different which influences sleep, wake up and other stuff.  This is the part of marriage that has revealed my selfish, frustration and struggle to adapt at times!  In honouring Charlie, I can’t always express what details of the negotiation are– this doesn’t mean I am excluding you from my life.  When I do share this stuff it is really okay for you to express that being single is easier some days or to remind me that actually I chose this in choosing to get married and even though it’s hard would I choose to have my single status back – no.

 

  • I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be single BUT that doesn’t mean that I pity you, think that I am better than you or that I am trying to marry everyone around me off.  It also means that it’s okay to say THIS IS HARD and I will still get it.   One of my biggest bug bears was married people telling me repeatedly how hard marriage was when I expressed feeling loneliness rather than solitude.  (I got married at 39 – being single wasn’t an intentional choice for the most part – getting married was)

 

Most importantly I guess I wish I could tell my single friends how much I value and want them to be a part of my story; that at times I am less available than before for very practical reasons often and I know this is hard – I feel like a bad friend some days.  I want my single friends to know how much I love connection time, giggles, chats and tears time too.  I want them to know that it’s not about the SMug *smug marrieds club* or the singles club and that there is ALWAYS room for a cuppa tea on the couch (sofa) and a chat – some days we will need to negotiate the time though ;)!

Alexa and Charles Matthews met at church in Jozi– which still shocks Alexa as she thought that this may happen in her 20’s but really didn’t expect it to in her late 30’s!  18 months later, on a rainy day and with a lot of adventures in life (including long distance skype dating and relocations to Cape Town) & love –  they got married. 

[For some other thoughts on what other of my Married Friends would like their Single Friends to know, click here]

[For many other thoughts and stories on all sorts of relationshippy things, click here]

 

%d bloggers like this: