Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sometimes This Divide is Just so Damned Great

You know, sometimes this divide is just so damned great that I don't even know why we bother, or perhaps I should say, why I bother. I have no idea what is the actual cause of it all. It could be the racial/cultural differences or my change in religious and political views or the reality of long-term monogamy. Hell, it might be my altered appearance post-cancer diagnosis. I can't even sort through it all.

Whatever it is, it is totally effed up and more than I want to deal with at this point in my life. But then, it's not really my choice, is it? I mean, when you're disabled like me, you can't just up and leave. I grew up with all of that "Independent Woman", "Miss Independent" bullshit on the radio and I loved all those stupid songs. But really, all of that is totally irrelevant in my life. It's just another way that living with a disability is worlds apart from the non-disabled world.

Can I just say, "I've had enough of your crap and I'm so-oo-oo out of here...Oh, and would you please carry my things down the stairs for me because I'm not supposed to lift anything heavier than a cat?" I'm not saying that I want out of this relationship for good. It's just the power differential is so great that it colors absolutely everything that goes on between us. He knows that I couldn't just tell him to get the hell out no matter how much he might ever make me want to.

I don't really talk about it too much but, as is apparent from our family photos, I am in a inter-racial relationship. He's lived here his entire life but his family is so solidly German that he might as well have been born there. It's amazing how much cultural habits and tendencies tend to get passed down through the generations even when a person has very little connection to their original homeland. For instance, my family still organizes around the cross-cousin kinship system.

My mother's brother's child is totally outside of my family. He wasn't raised around us and nobody really keeps in touch with him. On the other hand, my mother's sisters kids are basically like my brothers and sisters. For years, three of my aunts and their families lived within walking distance of our house. Before the hurricanes, all but one of my mother's sisters lived in the city together. My mother's brother lived with us too, but not his son. His son lives with his mother. Even now, my (parallel) cousins have managed to relocate in little bunches. Two of my cousins live with another one of my cousins who are the children of a different aunt. Another of my maternal aunt's kids settled down on the same street as me.

In contrast, The German has no extended family. It's hard for me to understand what that must have been like growing up. When I ran into trouble, I had a gang of cousins showing up to back me up at the drop of a dime. Hell, they'd still come running just as I would for them. As you can probably infer, we weren't exactly brought up to be pacifists. On the other hand, The German is as close to pacifist as I imagine one could be. People look at him and assume that he's probably some real "tough guy". Though he is a foot taller than me, I am the one that's most likely to speak up during a confrontation. In fact, that's a big part of the problem between the two of us.

He doesn't talk. To me he often comes across as non-responsive. He's just not demonstrative with his feelings. No one in his family is. In my family, when we see each other, we always greet each other with a hug and kiss but not them. It's just, "Hi" and that's it. That wouldn't be that big a deal if it just went as far as that. Unfortunately, it extends to how we communicate with each other. For instance, it wasn't until last year that I was even able to get him to talk about the fact that we are an inter-racial couple. Despite the fact that we've been together for *mumble* years, we have had few conversations about the role that race has played a role in our relationship. Usually, he just doesn't think that it has anything to do with how we see and deal with the world but I think it does.

We used to share similar views about a lot of topics but now...Well, let's just say he feels fairly comfortable holding opinions that I am trying very hard to shake off completely. When he met me I was a self-identified "conservative", member of a very right-leaning evangelical religious group, and completely celibate. This is basically the way we continued for the majority of our relationship, even when he moved in to this apartment with me and VanGoghGirl. In our relationship, he was the most liberal, hands down.

Ironically, living with him is what made it possible for me to even reconsider the beliefs I held. In the Church of We're Never WrongTM, there is absolutely no room for the idea of live and let live.

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