Dating & Marrying Ethnic Men

Question of the Week: How Can I Avoid the ‘Fit Hitting the Sham’ at Thanksgiving Dinner with Your Rainbow Man!

Thanksgiving is in a week, so I thought this question was quite apropos:

“I’d like to bring my rainbow man home to meet my family. They have NO idea he’s not black, and I’m not sure how I should broach the subject to my parents. I’m getting very nervous.”

Well, first things first: Have you told your man about Crazy Uncle Larry, who smells of menthol and drinks Night Train with his morning toast and sausage? How about the aged former Black Panther third-cousin-twice-removed who has Tourette’s syndrome and shouts Cracker! or Kill Whitie! when he’s off his medicine? If not, you might just want to check on that. Otherwise, you’re going to need some SERIOUS antacid after dinner, mixed with vodka, mixed with gin, mixed with Jack Daniel’s.

Which reminds me of the first time the hubster and I went to my peoples’ house. I had to explain that just because some of my cousins think furry pimp hats are THE RAGE!, they’re not really pimps. Not to mention the awkwardness I felt when the other guys, perhaps a little ego-bruised by my white boyfriend, came on hard with the handshake-fist bump-side-hug combo with him, and of course, Mike had only seen this cultural practice on television so…yeah. Pass the vodka. No ice. Straight up. Make it two.

Lee Moulton, rainbow man married with kids to a black beauty, told me about a very uncomfortable situation he had: “I do remember a Thanksgiving guest going off about “homos” and “the pit of hell” in a, um, “mixed” crowd. Again, embarrasing (for him). Looking around the room, you see a bunch of people with that painful upside-down smile that says “oh damn”

RULE ONE: DO NOT throw your rainbow man to the wolves and hope for the best. Here’s more advice from Tina B. Tessina, PhD, “Dr. Romance” psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.

You might be worried about how your family will accept your date, but you could also be worried that your family has issues that would look bad to the date. Definitely prepare your family and your date in advance. Don’t set this new person up to experience rejection, or a family disaster. If there’s an issue, let your date know what the problems are, and if there are any real trigger issues to stay away from (Don’t talk politics with Dad — he’s a rabid right-winger. Talk sports or hunting instead.) (Mom will love you if you complement her cooking) (Do – or don’t — offer to help Mom in the kitchen)

In addition to the hints about what to talk about, when to help, etc. have a silent signal you’ve agreed upon in advance (I pinch my husband’s thumb surreptitiously) to say “Don’t go there” or “Let’s leave now.” Also, get an agreement in advance that if you change the subject, your date will go along.

Yes, I think in extreme cases, such as a loudmouth family bigot, rageaholic, or out-of-control drug use, it might be wise not to bring a date home at least until meeting your family is inevitable. But, make sure you aren’t exaggerating your family’s problems or lack of acceptance in your mind before you make this decision. If the situation is this extreme, you probably have a therapist, so talk it over in a therapy session.

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