I met him at a Michigan soccer game. I was the awkward freshman who was trying to imbibe as much school spirit as I could in the five days of Welcome Week. He was the sophomore who just had to help me and my roommate learn all the Ultras’ chants.
Love at first sight? I would like to think so, but who am I kidding. I was Indian and he wasn’t. And that meant that there was no way I could ever be with him.
It wasn’t until the next semester that I saw him again. Though we were both Michigan Daily staff writers, his world of sports journalism never crossed with the bubble of student government reporting that I’d immersed myself into. But there he was at the next paper-wide bonding event. One moment led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting across from him at dinner making small talk for what would be the first of many dates to come.
The days flew by, and I was falling for a guy who was more kindhearted, talented, funny and attractive than I could have ever imagined. While I think his biracial upbringing made it easier for him to see us as a couple, I couldn’t help but linger over the fact that we were so fundamentally different to begin with.
It hit me the hardest when we stood in front of a mirror together for the first time. He was hugging me in my 12-by-19 South Quad room, and I turned around to face the reality that was our relationship. He was standing — a whole head above me — and grinning wider than I had ever seen before. The entire time, I was incredulous.
There was no way this could be right. We looked absurd!
For the first time I realized that I had subconsciously worked race into my criteria for relationships. I was a descendent of a long, never-ending line of arranged marriages. I had spent hours in sleepovers with my girlfriends talking about what part of India our ideal boyfriends would be from.
I always imagined my dream man to be exactly like me. While I was born in Chicago and was raised as an American for a time, I went to high school in India and did most of my growing up there. India was where I had had my first love and my first heartbreak. India is where I developed a sense of who I was and what I wanted.
I grew up viewing interracial relationships as an abnormality. At first, I started to see my own relationship with the same skepticism that I had viewed other different-race couples. Yet all that changed over time. When I let myself believe that it was OK to date someone with a skin tone four shades lighter than mine, I started to realize how wrong I had gotten it all.
There’s something so raw and exhilarating in telling someone about yourself and realizing that they want to become a part of your world. The person I was dating wanted to learn more about Indian cultures and religions just a month into our relationship than most of the Indians I knew bothered to learn in their entire life. I’d been so hesitant to make myself feel something for someone of a different culture because I didn’t think we could connect. Instead, I fell harder than I ever thought I could.
Maybe it’s easier to be with someone that speaks the same mother tongue as you and celebrates the same religious holidays. Maybe there’s a reason why inter-caste relationships are all the rage back home right now.
But for now, I’m with someone who watched a cheesy Bollywood movie with me only three dates into our relationship and replies to me when I intersperse Hindi words in my sentences. Did I mention that he’s a Hispanic Jew? I really am the luckiest girl in the world.