Site Meter Elsie's Space
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Location: New England, United States

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recent posts by two of my favorite bloggers got me to thinkin' (and we know how dangerous that can be). Young love. Joy. Pain. Anticipation. The feelings I could never describe as beautifully as those bloggers. Hopefully, we all have our own stories of young love. They're all unique. They're all the same. I look back, I remember, and I wonder. What's he doing now? Is he happy? Is he healthy? I know all the answers for some. But there are others I think about from time to time and wonder...

Jim. We went to the same high school, but we never met until we were seniors. We sat side by side in "Personal Typing" class. The first day, he greeted me with a warm smile and said, "So you're my partner. I'm Jim." I was nearly stunned into silence but managed to squeak out, "I'm Elsie. Hi." No one knew how much I'd been appreciating Jim's appearance for the past three years. He couldn't help but stand out. He was extraordinarily handsome. As it turned out, he was extraordinarily funny as well, and after a few days I knew I found a new friend.

We started spending time together outside of school. I'd recently broken up with my high school sweetheart and wished, with all my might, that Jim would show some romantic interest. He was a natural flirt, but I never felt he was interested in anything more than friendship. Then, he asked me to the prom. Oh, man, this is great. I can't believe it. I raced home to tell my mom. After dinner that night my parents sat me down to tell me I could not go to the prom with Jim.

"What? Why?" "People will think you are not a nice girl, so we have to say no." "What do you mean?" "We know you, but other people don't. They'll think you're not a nice girl if you date a black boy."

"Are you kidding me? This is 1979, not 1959! You always say everyone is equal. No discrimination. I can't believe this. You two are bigots!!! You can say all you want but when it gets right down to it, you're just like everybody else!!" Hit 'em where it hurts. I never expected their reaction. I'd honestly never thought about it at all given how I'd been raised. I was shocked and appalled. And I was more angry than I think I'd ever been. I was more disappointed in my parents than I'd ever been, too.

I tried again. "If we don't change things, things will never change. How can you say one thing and then do another?" "We don't think it's right. But you are our daughter. We are responsible for you. Your reputation, your future is what matters to us. You are not going with Jim." The argument seemed to last for hours. After exhausting every possible angle, I was forced to admit defeat. I thought about trying to sneak out to the prom with him, but my parents were no fools. There would be no sneaking, certainly not on prom night. I had to face Jim and tell him that I couldn't go. He was very understanding, but it was awkward. We never spoke about it again. I ended up at the prom with a friend. Jim went with a beautiful girl.

A couple of years later (when I was legally an adult), I ran into Jim. We started dating. Mom and Dad couldn't tell me what to do anymore. Dating him was much harder than I ever expected it would be. Every time we went out in public together there were stares. A few times people even made rude comments, once directly to us. It ended up being more difficult than either of us had bargained for. We had lots of fun, but we eventually drifted apart.

I've thought about him over the past 25 years. I wonder how he's doing. I wonder if not being white in this too white community is still an issue for him. I hope he's happy and healthy. And I think about how his kindness towards me and his willingness to try to be with me has made me a better person all these years later.

So here's to my friend, Jim, wherever he might be. I hope that God smiles on him as much as Jim smiled at me.

Me, Jim, and my first hot rod.
1981?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Winston said...

A wonderful, poignant story. Thanks for sharing it. I'm afraid that even now, many years later, the problems of mixed couples have not improved much. Some, yes. Some places more than others. But there is still an undeserved stigma that too often leads to tragic experiences and endings.

You did not mention which bloggers triggered your thoughts, but I hope that I was one of those with my recent posting about "Young Love, Old Flames, and Enduring Fantasies..."

6:13 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

Winston, it is unfortunate that almost thirty years later things don't seem to have changed much. I should mention that my parents have loosened up a lot (I think age must do that to you) and joyously celebrated the wedding of one of my dearest friends who married her Jamaican husband right in my living room! Then again, I'm not sure how they would have felt had it been me marrying him. I'd like to think their reaction would have been the same.

You are indeed one of the bloggers who triggered my thoughts. You've got a way of doing that, Winston, even when I don't write about it. I love your blog, and I thank you.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Joy Des Jardins said...

What a special memory Elsie...even under the scrutiny of mixed relationships...especially back then. Certainly not unusual. But I agree with Winston....there is still a stigma even today in a much more "open and accepting" (so they say) society.

Thanks for sharing this part of your life Elsie....great photo.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Wonderful and terrible story, Elsie.

In 1973 I took home a boy who I guess was probably half-caste. Like you, I didn't even think about it: my family did. Shock! Horror! Sometimes even those we love most can appear like strangers to us.

10:11 AM  

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