Kyle and I went on a spur-of-the-moment camping trip this past weekend (which is why I didn’t post on Sunday like usual). I was watching people the whole time, seeing how they were reacting to us and especially to Kyle, and I thought I’d write about that.
Then I thought of something else. Wherever Kyle and I go, we show people a model of an interracial couple. We normalize interracial couples for people who’ve maybe never seen one before, because we go about our lives, doing the things that couples do. We help people see that an interracial couple can be just an ordinary couple.
So what do people see when they see us?
The host at the Lake Wenatchee campground saw a couple who’d just arrived at the campground walk up to his RV to buy some firewood. They were a white woman and a black man wearing thick glasses. They asked, courteously and friendly, for two bundles of firewood. He was glad that they had exact change. He got two bundles of firewood out of the cage that they’re stored in and handed them to the man, who said he wouldn’t let his wife carry them, because she’d had surgery. Then the host joked that if the firewood was too heavy he could bring it to their campsite in his cart. The couple laughed, and were pleased to follow the shortcut that he pointed out to their campsite. As the couple walked away he might have thought that it was unusual to see anyone who wasn’t white, and maybe he thought to wonder why.
The woman behind the counter at the little country store near the campground (which has an amazing collection of gourmet and specialty items as well as the ordinary stuff you’d expect), saw a white woman and a black man come in the store and look around. She heard the woman ask the man, “Hey, handsome, do you want to get some more hot dogs?” (That’s my nickname for Kyle, “Handsome.”) She observed the couple come up to the register, the man paid for their purchases, and they said “thanks” and wished her a good afternoon.
People at the campground saw an interracial couple sitting at the picnic table at their campsite, reading, talking, sitting by the fire in the evening in the dark, eating, passing an iPad back and forth on which they were playing Scrabble, the woman sitting on the man’s lap and them hugging each other. People would have seen the woman chopping wood and doing the cooking, and while they might not have wondered about her doing all the cooking, they might have wondered why the man wasn’t wielding the hatchet. Maybe they saw his thick glasses and figured it out. Maybe they wondered if the couple had any kids, and if so were the kids with grandma and grandpa for the weekend.
The morning we left, people at the campground saw an interracial couple packing up, the woman in charge, and heard the woman get impatient and irritated at the man.
Anyone who came by the little beach where water flowing out of Lake Wenatchee becomes the Wenatchee River, on the Sunday afternoon, saw a white woman wearing a T-shirt and a pair of panties, swimming out in the river, coming back to shore and getting out as though she’d had enough, and going back in. They saw the woman finally get out of the water for good and pick her way up the beach and up to a black man reading a book on his iPad sitting at a picnic table. He was surprised that she’d actually gone into the water all the way up to her neck, cause he thought she was just going to go wading. That’s when she explained she’d gone swimming. And how the water was really cold but it was refreshing. He put his hand on her arm and said, “Sweetie.” When she said she’d swum out to the middle of the river, he just shook his head and said he was glad he hadn’t been watching her out in the water, otherwise he’d have worried about her getting too cold and not being able to make it back to shore. He watched while she hastily changed out of her improvised swimsuit into her jeans and sports bra. When she said she needed to get into some warm sunshine cause she was really cold, he readily got up from the picnic table and they left.
The people who were driving along old two-lane State Route 209 saw, at a particular turn of the road that had a good view of the Wenatchee River Valley to the south, an interracial couple standing there in the sunshine, enjoying the view.
So these are some of the things we do for people. We go on about our lives, and they see us, an interracial couple, doing ordinary things like anybody does. And maybe they think interracial couples are a little less strange and more just… normal.