By: Alexa McLeod
The relationship I have with my boyfriend is pretty strong; we trust each other, we value each other’s beliefs & opinions and we love spending time together. So then what’s wrong, right? People say that the only thing that should bring down a relationship is the “two of you.” I get that and I respect it because ideally, the only reason why a relationship should end is if someone in the relationship is done. But we all know that isn’t necessarily the case sometimes…especially where parents are concerned.
Growing up, I was always carefully guarded. I wasn’t sheltered or spoiled, but I never had to worry about too many ‘real world problems’ because my mom typically took care of it. Because of this, I metaphorically stood behind my mother’s leg, shying away from the world until it was time for me to go off to college. Going to college, especially such a proud HBCU such as Howard, was a huge wake up call. I was finally on my own and though it took me a few adjustments, I felt free. I learned to stand in my own skin and tout myself confidently to everyone, including my family. This came to a head when I first started dating my boyfriend.
We met as friends through one of those massive group chats that are typically put together for Freshman to get to know each other before the school year starts. He was an incoming transfer student, majoring in engineering (same as me at the time). He had lots of charm and was extremely respectable, sometimes making me feel awkward for my casual behavior. But above all, he was always there whenever I needed him to be.
As I said before, the transition from house mouse to city mouse was difficult for me. I was slowly but surely making friends on campus, but he was always a staple, ready to call or Skype 24/7. Though it took him some time to end up transferring, he would come out every now and then to settle paperwork at Howard/visit me. It was after his first visit that we starting dating. It was long distance, which made it difficult, but besides that, we never had any problems. We saw eye to eye on a lot of things, laughed at similar jokes and liked to eat the same kinds of foods. The only part where we differed were our backgrounds. He is Muslim, from Saudi Arabia and I’m black, from Texas.
We dated for a year before he finally transferred to Howard. And within that year, a lot had transpired, meaning I told my parents. I told them summer 2015 while we were on a cruise after my sisters—whom of which already knew about the relationship—pressured me into it. It was quite traumatic, with lots of tears, screaming and yelling.
The number one question was, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” It was a question that I automatically had the answer to: “I was scared.” It was odd to say it aloud because never had I ever been scared about anything regarding the relationship, but it was at that point that I realized the societal definition of what my relationship meant.
I was scared because I knew that this wasn’t what my mom expected for my first relationship. She wanted something that looked like Dwayne and Whitley. She wanted comfort, she wanted similarity, she wanted black. She wanted everything that I knew he couldn’t offer, which broke my heart because I knew that if she could just look past what wasn’t there, she would find that was so much more that was.
This said though, it was proving to be more difficult than I had expected. My relationship with her suffered more than it ever had before. As soon as I got back to school that fall, was when my metamorphosis commenced. I was no longer concerned about what anyone else had to say about my relationship because I loved it and I loved him. I started posting more pictures of us, talking about him more with her and starting to guide my life in the direction that I wanted.
And it’s not to say that all of this was easy, because it most certainly wasn’t. There were many days when I would get so depressed about not being close with my mommy, that I would just hole myself up in my room and just cry for hours. It was extremely tough for me to understand why I was going through this sort of pain and anguish.
I was confused as to why she just couldn’t accept him for who he was and see that he made me happy. And then on top of that, I hated to see him try to comfort me even though I knew it was hurting him too. I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have the parent of the one that you love treat you as though you’re less than. But even then, he was still, always there. It was then that I truly started to learn about the things impacting the world today and why they were impacting my relationship.
For me, it wasn’t just about #AllBlackLivesMatter, but it was also about Palestine and Syria and ISIS and the media reporting it. I realized that in a sense, it wasn’t necessarily my mom’s fault to think the things that she did about my boyfriend, because that’s all that she knew. And when she’s constantly told that individuals of this certain background are a threat, why would she ever think otherwise?
I began doing research of my own so that when she tried to come at me with news about what was happening in France and Belgium and San Bernardino, I would tell her about the airstrikes in Syria every day or the children standing up to fight for their homeland or even the fact that many Muslims here are standing with us in the streets to protest police brutality.
I would explain that even though what was happening in Europe and the US was deplorable, there was no denouncing the fact that Muslims were hurting too. And I began to notice that bit by bit, her tolerance was increasing. She was realizing that the profiling she was doing was the same exact thing that would’ve happened to us 50 years ago and still happens in 2016.
Today, he and I are two years strong and things are moving slowly but surely. I can’t say that there won’t be hiccup down the road somewhere, but I’m grateful that there are times when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think that my mom has come to understand that I don’t care if he can’t eat Christmas ham or drink Champagne to ring in the New Year. And I think that she’s beginning to see that those are things that even I don’t necessarily like to do.
She’s watching me evolve into my own person that is now minoring in Arabic, keen on traveling to the Middle East, and loves to eat rice & lamb. On the contrary, she sees that my boyfriend loves everything there is to love about my blackness and would never think anything otherwise. So, God willing & Insh’Allah, our Muslim-Christian-Black-Saudi love story will continue on.