Kiss and Tell3 April 2019
(Content Warning: racism)
I started dipping my toes in the dating pool at 14 years old. It was an exciting time. I remember when I had my first boyfriend, Clark, a Melburnian boy just a few years older than me. Clark had blonde hair, blue eyes and baby scruff on his face. He reminded me a lot of Michael Clifford from 5 Seconds of Summer, except Clark didn’t play the guitar and spent most of his days playing Assassin’s Creed. Clark was sweet and 14-year-old me thought he was a 10/10 quality boyfriend because he’d often tell me how much he loved me and shower me with a million compliments: “you’re so beautiful”, “you’re so pretty” and “you’re so exotic”. Yikes. Exotic?
As a person of colour, especially one that comes from a biracial background, being called exotic is common. I’m expected to take it as a compliment because being called exotic implies that I have features or characteristics that some people find unusual yet attractive. Right? 14-year-old me didn’t know any better, but when I received a text from Clark’s best friend mid-music class that read “Abby he’s only dating you because you’re not white”, the meaning of exotic changed entirely for me. Needless to say, I broke up with Clark not long after. Now I chuckle nervously when people happily exclaim how exotic they find me and roll my eyes whenever someone mentions they’ve dated an Asian girl before. Don’t get me wrong, my experience with Clark doesn’t mean I’m opposed to interracial relationships. I think interracial relationships are beautiful and deserve to be acknowledged,
celebrated and made visible. But for that to be possible, we obviously need more interracial relationships, right? With that, here’s a quick guide as to how to snatch a lover who comes from a distant land, from a faraway place.
- Show interest in our background
Squint your eyes when you look at us and in a very curious tone ask us, “Where are you reaaaaalllyyy from?” Nothing shows more interest in who we are as an individual than wanting to know where we’re from, other than the place we actually were born and raised in. It’s always a fun time explaining to people that I’m Singaporean, with a mum who’s Malay and Chinese with roots that go back to Malacca, Malaysia, and a dad with a mixed Arab and Indian background… only to be told, “Oh but you look like you’re (insert other race).” Oh no, I guess I wasn’t sure what race I was. Let me go take a DNA test. Thank you stranger for helping me.
- Compliment us
Everyone loves a compliment or two. In addition to calling us exotic, try telling us how you think we have pretty “almond-shaped” eyes, that our curly hair is so pretty and wild compared to boring straight hair (do attempt to touch our hair while you’re at it) and how we’re so lucky for the melanin in our skin that prevents us from burning immediately in the sun. Remind your friends and family that we’re so unique, polish us like a newly-won trophy and don’t even bother mentioning the fact that we are all actually different individuals with different personalities.
- Learn our mother tongue
It doesn’t matter if we’re Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or Japanese. We all understand what “ni hao” means. It’s a common greeting among Asians—yes, including Southeast Asians, Central Asians and to a certain extent South Asians. Try to pull a bunch of sounds together or better yet, string up some ethnic-sounding names and use them in a sentence. We won’t fault you for the bad execution and pronunciation. It is absolutely normal for people to butcher our language so hey, it’s the effort that counts I guess?
- Reject Racism
This point is a bit of a no-brainer. Racism happens around the clock. Marginalised ethnic groups are oppressed and silenced every day. Show love and support to your partner by never shutting up about what a good ally you are! Constantly remind us that you’re no ordinary snowflake and you’re here to save and protect us from the bullies out there. Bonus point: by rejecting racism and dating a person of colour, you are automatically not racist and can never be called out for making blatant racist remarks or appropriating our culture whenever you fancy.
- Be visible
This is a common rule in dating. You have to let people know that you’re putting yourself out there and are open to being in a relationship. The easiest way to catch our attention is to place it right in your Tinder bio: “Love spice, love rice, love chocolate, love curry”. You’ll be getting swipe rights in no time.