Cultural Differences: Can Love Last?

Excerpted from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: Celebrating Interethnic, Interfaith, and Interracial Relationships

Once you get involved in a multicultural relationship, it doesn't take long to realize that a good sense of humor is essential. That's because we enter these unions with the same societal stereotypes and prejudices just about everyone else has. When we laugh at ourselves, we can see how ridiculous our prejudices were in the first place. Let me give you an example from my own life.

A few months into my courtship with Mark, when I was working in Oakland California, Mark flew in from New York to visit. I planned a party so he could meet my friends. Once he arrived, our differences began to surface. First of all, he was shocked that the party wouldn't begin until 11pm. He wondered how, if we didn't finish up until 4 or 5am, we would be able to make church the next morning (church, after dancing all night?).

Then, my old friends began phoning for directions to the party. I was excited about hearing from them and occasionally lapsed into black English. You may already know that many African-Americans are bilingual. That is, we can converse in King's English when necessary, but when we're among our own folks, black English denotes a certain comfort level. But at the end of one of my calls, Mark asked, "What language were you speaking?"

As the evening progressed, I grew more concerned about our cultural differences. Mark had been raised in a Christian church that discouraged dancing. In my earliest years, I attended a black southern Baptist church that even encouraged dancing during religious services. Although he had moved beyond his most conservative childhood strictures, dancing didn't come easily to him, or so I assumed. As the clamor grew, I joined friends on the dance floor, while Mark remained engaged in conversations with another group of my buddies.

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