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Platform : Mixed Couples: What Are the Issues You Have to Deal With?

<i> Compiled for The Times by Berkley Hudson</i>

ANDY SUZUKI

Architect, Irvine

I’m a third-generation Japanese American. My wife’s Jewish on her mother’s side, Lebanese on her father’s side. She was raised in a Catholic boarding school and had a grandfather who was a Greek Orthodox minister. She now is sort of a Buddhist.

There’s a richness in this diversity. But sometimes she will misinterpret what I say. Her perspective is certainly different from mine. Part of that has to do with culture.

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Because we’re parents now, we’re finding there is overlap in Japanese tradition and Jewish American tradition, with a strong emphasis on education and discipline. We have really little difference of opinion on how we want to raise our son. He’s four and adopted. He’s whiter than white. He recognizes that Daddy’s of Japanese extraction as are grandma and grandpa, and that Mommy’s not and grandma Phyllis is not.

I get some strange looks when I take our son places. I was at the beach once. I showered him off. People gave me a funny look. They weren’t sure I was related to this child. I turned around and said: “It’s OK. He’s my son.”

JAMES BADHAM

Magazine editor, Los Angeles

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I’m as white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant as you can get. My background is German, Irish, Scottish and English. My wife’s from Brazil. She has Italian, South American Indian, some Spanish and probably some black blood.

My wife’s skin is so brown. Our son is blue-eyed and blond. People always think she’s the nanny even though we’re living in Los Angeles in 1994 where there are so many mixed couples.

The main difference I’ve noticed is how round her culture is and how linear ours is. We tend to be much more compartmentalized. They don’t have a word for inhibition. She is so happy to be with other people, whereas I’m a private American for whom personal space and privacy are important. Americans tend to be more formal about social arrangements: You don’t suddenly have 12 people over for dinner. Brazilians will do that.

If things don’t go right, it’s no big deal to Brazilians. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of suppressed anger waiting to come out in rage. I have much more a hair-trigger than my wife. This is the value of an intercultural relationship. You’re both tugged toward the middle a little bit.

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LAVIVA SIMMS

Employee relations specialist, Long Beach

I’m African American. My partner is Mexican American, a Chicana. When I think of family, I think of her and me. For her, family is her entire family: cousins, nephews and all of that. Her brother and his three children live with us.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to get adjusted to the fact that her family has a common bond she and I don’t have: mannerisms, values, ways of doing things. Those are culturally-based.

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Even though we are both people of color, we interpret differently what that means. My awareness is more heightened to racism.

The strong point that I see in our relationship is a strength that comes from being two positive, confident women of color.

To my family, the fact that I’m a lesbian, that’s more of an issue than what race my partner is.

Our issues as lesbians aren’t that different from a straight couple who’s interracial, except for the idea of our not being able to legitimize our relationship.

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KAY YEE

Art teacher, Altadena

I’m Chinese American. My parents were both born in China. My husband’s an Anglo of Dutch, Irish and English descent.

We have one boy, who’s 2 1/2, and a girl, 5 1/2.

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One thing we’re very aware of is that both our children are biracial. I want them always to be comfortable in their environment, where they go to school and in their social surroundings.

My father came over in 1921. He was discriminated against tremendously. So because of his culture, what happened to him as an immigrant, I have consciously raised my children to be aware of civil rights. That’s very American thinking but it was taught to me by my father who is from China.

My father would have preferred that I had married a Chinese person. But once we got married, then there was never any animosity toward my husband.

Besides the food, the Chinese holidays and the language, I really don’t find that much difference between us, except that he was raised Catholic and I was raised Presbyterian.

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ALAIN COHEN

Owner of French-Mexican restaurant, Tampico Antilles, Santa Monica

I was born in Tunisia and lived in France growing up. I’m Jewish. My wife is German and non-Jewish. We met in L.A. four years ago and have one daughter,

3 years old. She is a merging of our cultures and personalities.

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Both our families are still in Europe. In the beginning it was difficult for them to accept our marriage. But after, we were wholeheartedly accepted by both sides.

Marrying someone not from your background is not easy. It forces you to question all your values and ways of being.

On the other hand, the relationship is never dull. After we go through the differences, resolve the differences, we discover that behind this cultural strata there are values and traits in common that make us like each other, love each other.

It’s a bonus when you go through that veil of differences and find something really particular to that person that you like, that you can find once in a million people. That’s a great gift.

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