Last weekend, while on the phone with Shirley, she asked me a random but very loaded question: “Do you think you’ll ever stop looking for whatever it is you’ve been missing in your relationship?” It took me a few moments before I could answer, and when I did, I said, “Yes, I think I will.” But when I hung up, I realized, I think I already have.
No relationship is perfect, we all know that. Granted, some people may have regressed into thinking that there could be a perfect relationship, no doubt a manifestation of watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. But it’s when we recognize the flaws and take it upon ourselves to live with them and adapt to them that we reach what can be called a perfect arrangement for an imperfect relationship.
I was made ever more aware of this some nights ago, at the dinner table with my parents. My father was talking about his cousin Ruby’s daughter’s Bharatanatyam performance (which I missed, thank the good Lord now), which led to him saying that Ruby’s sisters, Rosemary, Rosanna and Rina (yes, I know), had all recently confessed to being astounded the first time they met Afham. “Couldn’t your daughter have done any better?” they deplored. Now, aside from the obvious fact that he is of a different race and color, when my father told me this I could see absolutely no other reason for them to profess thus, as they do not know him, and clearly now have no intention of so doing.
Although I was careful not to let my face betray me the way it always does, I was seething on the inside as my father relayed this conversation to me. It was a statement completely uncalled for, and even if it had been otherwise, I thought it profoundly unfair that they would speak so freely about this to my father, and without me present to defend myself or Afham. That said, I am well aware that the moment such thoughts leave a person’s lips and judgment has been passed, nothing I or anyone else says will change anything. After calming myself down by thinking up all the responses I could have given had I been there to hear their opinions (“Looking at your husbands, I’d say y’all could do better too!”), I realized that it really doesn’t matter what they think of him, or of me for being with him.
It’s true that many people have spent the last two years telling me I could have done better as far as getting a man was concerned. The men who want to share my bed have told me that. The racists who consider my consorting with any other race but my own repulsive have told me that. And the religionists who find the possibility of my taking up a new faith in the future inconceivable have told me that. “You can so do better!” these (so-called) friends would say so thoughtlessly. “I mean, you look like this! And he looks like… that.” That was when I decided that these people were not worth explaining anything to, because anyone who knows me would remember that outward appearances have never really been a big priority for me, as all my previous relationships have clearly indicated.
But it’s also true that in spite of all the flaws and all the issues we’ve had to face in this relationship, he is the only one who has been willing to put up with me for as long as he has. And that is something I have tried never to lose sight of, because when I think of the aberration that was Gregory Chang, whom I once thought was everything I had been looking for in a man, I have to remember that even he eventually found me unlovable as well. And truest of all: no matter how good-looking, how wealthy, or how well-connected someone is, if they don’t accept you the way you are, you would be no better off than the ugliest pauper, which is one of the most painful lessons I’ve had to learn over the last nine years.
So now, when people tell me that I could do better, I recognize that even if I could, I wouldn’t. And ultimately, it would make no difference or be of any importance to anyone. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors except the ones behind them.