Women is...: A Game of Tug-o-War

A Game of Tug-o-War

Susan was excited to meet her future mother-in-law, Marie, and Arturo's extended family. But when she arrived at Marie's pleasant Washington Heights apartment, she was wholly unprepared for her greeting: "Oooh, you're so skinny!" said Marie with genuine alarm, leading Susan to the kitchen table and piling high a plate of oxtail stew. Susan, who had recently gone on a diet in preparation for her wedding � and wasn't sure how she felt about oxtail to begin with � didn't want to seem rude by declining Marie's cooking.

As the weekend progressed, Susan felt increasingly disoriented. Since there were a fair number of children in Arturo's extended family, Susan expected a traditional Easter egg hunt. But there were no chocolate eggs in sight. Instead Marie served up a traditional Dominican Easter pudding made with sweet red beans and decorated with a crucifix made of red wafers.

Small things, to be sure. Yet taken together, these details had Susan thinking about just how different her experiences had been from those of her fianc�. "Even though it was nice, it was unfamiliar," she recalls. "For a moment, there, I had to ask myself whether I could feel at home with a family that was just so different from mine. But once I familiarized myself with their way of celebrating, I began to relax and enjoy myself."

When Linda, who is black, and Alan, who is white, were first married, they both believed that their love could overcome all obstacles. But from the very beginning, their marriage lacked the support of either of their families. This increasingly painful situation strained their relationships with their parents, and consequently began to try their own relationship.

Alan's father, James, with whom he was very close, was the first to fully accept the couple. James became an ally, instrumental in helping to influence the other parents. Tragically, just before Linda became pregnant, James unexpectedly died. And Linda and Alan began to argue about what to name their son.

"I wanted to give him a name that was more traditionally African-American," says Linda. "It was important to me to preserve my culture and to hand that down to my son, who was going to be perceived by the world as a Black man. But Alan wanted to name our child James in honor of his father."