Thursday, October 8, 2009

Can I have that combination to go?

*This post is filed under "bizarre things people say to you when you date inter-racially"

Last week, since I am still low energy and recovering post-surgery, Southern Man picked me up from campus in the late afternoon. We were driving through the heart of Southern University with the windows down because the weather is still warm where we live (it was 80 degrees on this afternoon in particular).

Now, the thing you have to know is that I was EXHAUSTED. The truth is, I probably went back to teaching about a week too soon. And when I'm tired the synapses just don't fire that rapidly--although what happened next may have left me flummoxed even if I had been bright eyed and bushy tailed in the a.m.

At a stop sign, there was a man, who was probably in his early to mid 40s, who seemed to be of Mediterranean ethnicity, but also could have been Latino or could have been Middle-Eastern/Arab descent. In other words, he was a brownish-swarthy looking man. He looks into our car and waves at us, so I assume that my partner knows him. So we wave back and the man, who is walking in the same direction as our slow-moving vehicle (remember, we are crawling through the main part of campus at the end of the day), says to us:

"Hey, you make a great combination!"

Now, the thing you also need to know is that Southern Man is in the coffee business. And he had just told me about a new line of syrups that they were trying out -- ones that are organic and vegan. So I thought that this guy was a regular customer at one of the stores and had tried out a new flavored latte with one of these new syrups.

So we both nod and smile at the guy (and I should also note here that this man spoke with an accent that was not-American, but I couldn't quite place it) and the guy gives us the thumbs up with BOTH HANDS and continues to talk at us through the open window:

"No, really--you make a great combination!"

So now I'm thinking, "Wow, this guy must really like his coffee" and Southern Man is smiling and nodding at him and saying, "Thanks Man" and then the guys says:

"I'm Moroccan and French--I should know--really, you make a very attractive combination!"

And right then (because we were at a red light) the light turns green and at the same time the little light bulb in my brain goes off and I realize:

OMG! He's talking about US, not coffee! He's saying that WE make a good inter-racial combination!

When I turned to Southern Man to let him in on what was really going on with this guy's remark (and my previous confusion) he started laughing and said,

"Well of COURSE that's what he was talking about! I thought YOU were the one savvy about race--you really thought he was talking about coffee???!"


Again, I blame it on the fatigue. But I also think that when you are driving through campus to go home at the end of the day and an unknown Moroccan-French man is trying to pay you a bizarre compliment as an inter-racial couple by saying you make a "good combination" I don't know that it's necessarily crystal clear that he's talking about race.

Or maybe it is and I'm just slow on the uptake.

At any rate, I'm not sure what to do with the whole "good combination" comment--I mean, I do understand that he was trying to be friendly/complimentary, but I wanted to go back to him and ask:

"Are there bad inter-racial combinations? If I were an Asian American man and my partner was white, would that still be a good combination? How did you even know we were in a romantic relationship--we could have just been two friends hanging out? And isn't it unsettling to talk about inter-racial partnerships like we would talk about food?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just me (and definitely an outsider to the conversation), but I thought he meant a good combination in the sense of ALL relationships, not just inter-racial ones. Perhaps he was just affirming his support for inter-racial relationships (in general) over homogenous ones? I hope it's not racist of me to say, but I support pretty much all inter-racial relationships over homogenous ones.

Granted, the term "combination" is a little odd...I would have used "couple" when referring to people. But if he's French-Morrocan, English might be his second language; perhaps he didn't have the idiom to hand (I don't know, I didn't hear how he spoke).

Finally, as to how he knew you were a couple...don't know about you, but most people can guess at a glance that my wife and I are a couple, just by the way we relate to each other (even through body language).

Anyway...whole incident would have been better if he'd just said, "you two make a cute couple", amirite? :)