I want to marry her, but at what cost?
January 21, 2008 2:30 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I have religious and cultural differences. How can our relationship work?

My GF and I have now been going out for almost 10 months. We're in love and care deeply for each other. We're already talking about marriage. However, things are complicating our long term future.

She is Catholic and I'm not religious. She's deeply religious and wants to raise the kids Catholic. I have no problem with this at all. But, she feels that in order to raise the kids Catholic, both parents must be 100% behind it. What she means by this is that she would like me to go to church with her. I am not Christian in the least and have no plans of converting.

My GF's rationale is as follows: If she goes to church and I don't, the kids will ask why dad doesn't go to church. This might lead them to religious confusion.

Another problem is that our cultures are not remotely similar. I'm from Asia, and she has an American dad and Mexican mom. She is worried that she will be shut out from my culture.

Finally, she asked me what we have in common. She says we don't have religion or culture in common. This concerns her as to what sort of an identity our future kids might have.

I deeply love this girl, and want to make it work, but she has stated the options as follows:

1. She leaves her religion and culture behind, leading to possible resentment of me.
2. I go to church with her and the kids, leading to resentment from me.
3. We break up.

I don't want to break up, but also don't know how to resolve this situation so we can move forward. Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

This is one of those few things that is a dealbreaker. If you're committed to her, go to church. If she's committed to you, she'll calm her folks down.
posted by k8t at 2:37 PM on January 21, 2008

You seem open to a compromise, she doesn't, this doesn't bode well for the future of your relationships in many respects beyond this.

Also, your gf's theory of avoiding "religious confusion" is pretty unlikely to work out as planned. Tons of kids reject the religion they were brought up in, it doesn't matter how much both parents are pushing the religion, one day your children will think for themselves and they may or may not stick with the religion they were brought up in. And by the way, regardless of what you do, if you guys have kids and one day one of them rejects Catholicism, it will be *your* fault, I promise you.
posted by whoaali at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

This question is sort of relevant, but I'm sure there's at least one more that deals almost directly with your situation (can't find it off hand).

My reaction to your post is that while she may be worried that she'll be "shut off from your culture," she seems to be the one who's doing the shutting off, and denying you the ability to bring who *you* are to the relationship and the parenting. I don't think your differing backgrounds are a problem with raising kids per se -- diversity of heritage and influence can be good -- but I think it will be very difficult to avoid a rift over at least that issue between you and your fiancée, if she's that dead set on having your parenthood go according to her own fairly narrow plan. If that happens, that could lead to a sour atmosphere, or worse, for the kids.
posted by Drexen at 2:50 PM on January 21, 2008

It does sound like you have been served with an ultimatum. She should have respect for your beliefs too. My opinion is that faking belief to keep the peace is an ultimate disservice to everyone involved, but that's just me.

It might not hurt to have a meeting between you, her and her priest. See what he says. He most likely will have dealt with this before and may have useful advice. The Catholic church is fairly progressive, believe it or not.
posted by gjc at 2:50 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't agree with k8t. Religion is not one of those things that you can "settle" on. You either believe or you don't, and if you don't, then giving lip service is detrimental and will garner resentment.

I don't like suggesting this, but if you're unable to coexist in a marriage/childrearing situation where both belief/nonbelief systems are respected, then it may be best not to continue/bring kids into the picture.
posted by phredgreen at 2:50 PM on January 21, 2008

If she's not willing to compromise on the religion aspect, I don't see how it could work. It's not like picking a china pattern, it's a belief in the meaning of your existence, and that's not something you barter with. Also, whoaali is correct that it doesn't matter what you tell your kids, they will reach an age where they decide for themselves what, if any, God exists. She's fooling herself if she thinks she can have any control over other people's religious beliefs.
posted by bizwank at 2:54 PM on January 21, 2008

Seconding gjc's idea of seeing her priest. If you're considering getting married in the Catholic church you'll probably have to do premarital counseling anyway, so this is like getting a head start. When my husband and I did it we were counseled by a couple that specialized in mixed-faith marriages. A priest will be able to set your girlfriend straight.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:55 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, perhaps, beliefs aren't cast off like old clothes, at least by most of us: you won't alter yours by converting to Christianity. I don't know what you do believe. Maybe you're a Buddhist, or an atheist. Don't you think you'd like to be able to put your side of the story to your children? Or, at the very least, to be your own person in this respect? I think your girlfriend has to accept that you are different from her and will provide, by acts of commission or omission, a different set of principles to your joint children. If she can't tolerate that, then I think you have to seriously consider what her love amounts to in your case.
posted by londongeezer at 2:55 PM on January 21, 2008

The whole issue seems to stem from her, so given that you are "not Christian in the least and have no plans of converting," what would she choose? You've already made your choice.
posted by rhizome at 2:55 PM on January 21, 2008

Religion is a personal choice. Forcing you to go to church against your wishes for the sake of the children is sending a stronger message that your personal beliefs are not to be valued. I'm not sure if the "both parents in" mentality is a good one. There will be a lot more areas that you will disagree on throughout yours (and their) lives. Tell your GF to get used to it or move on.
posted by purephase at 3:01 PM on January 21, 2008

My GF's rationale is as follows: If she goes to church and I don't, the kids will ask why dad doesn't go to church.

That's a ridiculous rationale. Such is the case in many, many families (for instance, mine); it's practically a cliche. If you have no problem with her desire to raise the kids Catholic, she should be happy. To try to force you to be religious when you're not is beyond the pale.
posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a kid who grew up in several different cultures, it is a very valuable experience that will always be useful and many people envy. What's the difference between having a teenager finding him or herself and a kid who is 'culturally confused'? Your children will grow up differently than you plan, whatever you decide.
posted by Corduroy at 3:10 PM on January 21, 2008

Very good engaged friends of mine are from drastically different cultures, with drastically different religious beliefs. (I'm the maid of honour.) Their plan is to raise their kids following both cultures/religions; he'll practice how he's always practiced, as will she. The kids will get a good dose of both. Finally, the plan is to allow their kids to decide what they feel is right for them when they're old enough.

However, this is still a 'theory'; the wedding is June. To their credit though, they've already gotten past the hurdle of what sort of ceremony to have, with relatively little bloodshed or grief from either side of the family (yet...)

Just a thought. I guess it all boils down to compromise.
posted by cgg at 3:11 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If she goes to church and I don't, the kids will ask why dad doesn't go to church. This might lead them to religious confusion.

She's so worried about what her future kids may think that she wants to break up with you? Oh my. The answer is that daddy is from a different background and doesn't go to church every Sunday. If the kids go through a phase where they have a lot of questions or are confused, they can talk to their Sunday School teacher or the priest or their mom about it. Having questions doesn't mean irrevocably confused.

Finally, she asked me what we have in common. She says we don't have religion or culture in common. This concerns her as to what sort of an identity our future kids might have.

The simple answer is that they'll be half Asian, half Mexican-American kids of a devout Catholic mom and a not-religious dad. Her own parents have a mixed-culture marriage -- I wonder how their marriage is and whether she's projecting.

1. She leaves her religion and culture behind, leading to possible resentment of me.
2. I go to church with her and the kids, leading to resentment from me.
3. We break up.

This is a pretty rigid set of choices, and not exactly realistic. She can stop going to church, but that won't be leaving her culture and religion behind.

You two are going to have to compromise on all kinds of things, especially if you have kids. How about you agree to go to church once a month but agree that the kids go with mom every Sunday? What activities can help her better understand your culture so that she can feel more included?
posted by desuetude at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2008

Good thing you're not married yet. If you're not actively practising another faith, try giving Christianity a chance. There are all kinds of ways to understand spirituality and lots of even Catholic priests are okay with a variety of interpretations of the bible. All this assumes that you do believe in Christian fundamentals - love thy neighbor and the 10 commandments for example. If you have an aversion to those ideas you may not be able to reconcile your spirituality with your GF's and then it may be a deal breaker.

For what it's worth, a spiritual journey IS a nice thing for a family to share - and there is so much humanity in religion I believe there's something for everyone.
posted by MiffyCLB at 3:33 PM on January 21, 2008

Her three options are immature. I think you should go to church with her on occasion, not as a potential convert but just to soak up the part of culture that is important to her. If you really care about her you should at least take a passing interest in things that are important in her life. It won't hurt you or turn you into a babbling religious idiot. I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination and probably will not be turning my life over to Jesus but I can accept the importance that religion has had in our world. It does make you a well rounded person to understand it.

Work on compromises before you both commit. Neither of you should make compromises that will make you unhappy.
posted by JJ86 at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2008

It doesn't sound like she wants the (currently extremely hypothetical) kids to be catholic, she wants you to be catholic. Right now. I know what I would do and I'm sure you have a rough idea how this makes you feel.

Also, as an additional point: I know at least 4 people who were raised catholic (by both parents) and went to catholic school who are all now, as adults, atheists.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:35 PM on January 21, 2008

Even if you had the same views on religion, your kids will learn of different views from interactions with friends, teachers, coaches etc who are from different backgrounds. This notion solved a lot of conflict between me and my other as I realized we didn't have to match exactly. It's the meta-level view that is the most important --- are you ok with exposure to ideals that are different or do you have to move into the davidian compound, amish village, etc.
posted by about_time at 3:54 PM on January 21, 2008

4. The kids get exposed to positive role models from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds

I don't see how anyone could think the above is a bad thing, but I'm not Catholic.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:27 PM on January 21, 2008

Do not have children until this issue is fully resolved in your heart and mind. You can go to the church services with your GF/wife - or not (you can't be married in the Catholic church without taking classes in Catholicism and being baptized. I don't know whether or not a full conversion is still required). If you go to church, you can listen passively or argue in your mind with everything the priest says. You can treat the Mass as a mental exercise.

Once you have children, though, and they are attending Mass, it's sheer hypocrisy to let them be steeped in a religion in which you don't believe. Don't lie to your kids. The Catholic church is not a passive religion

Whatever you decide, work it out now. Don't pay lip service to your GF's religion, and don't let her convince you that it'll be okay. It won't. Ultimately, it will make you crazy and drive a wedge between you, your wife, and your children unless you find a way to resolve it now.

As for cultural differences, they should be much easier to deal with. I've known a lot of people from extremely different cultural backgrounds who married happily. The only thing it requires is a modicum of tolerance on both sides. Do you both have that?

As to what you have in common, what drew you together in the first place? If you are polar opposites, how did you meet? Why did you start to date? Why do you love her, and why does she love you? What would you miss most if you broke up tomorrow? Can you live without that? How much are you willing to sacrifice of yourself to keep it? It sounds as though you are the one expected to do the sacrificing.
posted by clarkstonian at 4:28 PM on January 21, 2008

Yeah, this is a show-stopper. A good friend of mine was in exactly your situation and his marriage fell apart shortly after they'd had a child.

The Catholic religion is particularly good at breaking up relationship and screwing up children because of how forceful it is about the afterlife. Your significant other's parents will likely be a huge strain on your relationship. There was a post here recently about someone whose Catholic mother in law performed some sort of secret baptism.
posted by krisjohn at 4:32 PM on January 21, 2008

I am Catholic, liberal, go to church every week, choir and parish council member, my husband is a Jewish atheist. We've been together 38 years, have three sons raised Catholic, all now agnostic as adults. They are all good, moral men, so I am satisfied, whether they choose to affiliate with a religion or not. I wanted them to have some religious background and Catholic is what I know, but certainly do not feel it is the only way. We respect each other's beliefs, but also laugh a lot at the absurdities on either side.

I did not expect my husband to convert, or to go to church except for weddings, funerals, Baptisms and First Communions. He was fine with attending those family events, and purely social things like dinners and concerts at my church.

I am of Polish and Irish descent. My Irish Dad came from a very religious family and went to church every week. I don't remember my Polish grandpa ever going to church. Most of my friends whose Dads were Italian seldom went to church either except for special events, maybe Christmas and Easter. Most of Southern European cultures have a very relaxed idea of men and church; it is mostly the women who "keep the faith". It sounds like your girlfriend is expecting you to follow the Irish extremely religious male model of weekly attendance. There are plenty of families that do work it out in all kinds of mixed marriages, if neither side digs in and tries to order the other to attend church or not. Keep talking, there may be hope yet.

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 4:34 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Why do you want to a marry a girl who has to ask you what you have in common?
posted by xmutex at 4:46 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

My grandmother and grandfather were a mixed-religion couple, her hardcore Catholic, him atheist/agnostic. They did OK, but they respected each others' boundaries about religion. I know that she believed/feared he was going to hell. I know that he simply refused to discuss religion. It doesn't sound like your girlfriend respects your boundaries.
posted by klangklangston at 5:24 PM on January 21, 2008

To reiterate previous commenters, you're willing to compromise, she doesn't seem to be. She needs to make some exceptions if she wants things to work. This should be a warning sign for you.

Also, if she feels this strongly about it, she may make some 'compromises,' only to back out of them later, or insist that anything that goes wrong in the future on the religious front is a problem.

Incidentally, my father rarely-to-never went to church, if at all on Easter or Xmas, and I rarely asked about it, I just took it that he didn't go. She shouldn't be paranoid about it.

Last point, about the Catholicism. While there are lots of liberal, tolerant Catholics out there, you need to guage if she and her family are that way. If they are, great. If they aren't, especially if her parents are hard-core, then you could be in for a world of hurt later on.

It's great you're in love, but don't let it blind you.
posted by Jhoosier at 5:36 PM on January 21, 2008

If she goes to church and I don't, the kids will ask why dad doesn't go to church. This might lead them to religious confusion.

I'll give you me as an example. My English father converted to Catholicism to marry my Spanish mother. I was raised Catholic, and I'm now an atheist. My parents are still happily married and go to church every week. From a very early age, despite my upbringing I was 'religiously confused'.
posted by ob at 5:43 PM on January 21, 2008

The situation she's proposing is really common (dad goes to church in keeping with a secret pre-marital deal) and you know what? The kids can always, totally tell.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:43 PM on January 21, 2008

I was going to say something like what MiffyCLB said better- different parishes have different things to offer, but many do have rich social activities. And not the preachy-style bible thumping sessions. Bowling, softball, Men's Clubs, and so on. You could probably live a rich, respected "Catholic" life and never set foot in a pew for anything but weddings baptisms and funerals.
posted by gjc at 6:36 PM on January 21, 2008

My GF's rationale is as follows: If she goes to church and I don't, the kids will ask why dad doesn't go to church. This might lead them to religious confusion.

My girlfriend is a Seventh-Day Adventist and I am an Apathiest. She said the same thing to me when we first started dating. I told her that if it came to that to explain that I don't go to church because I work on that day (thanks to my career path that isn't untrue). The kids would eventually figure it out anyway. As far as religious confusion goes, I personally believe that children should not be exposed to religion when they are young because they are unable to make informed decisions. I consider that to be along the same path as brainwashing. But that's just me.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:16 PM on January 21, 2008

*Apatheist. Gotta love typos.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:17 PM on January 21, 2008

I think we need clarification on what's meant by "she would like me to go to church".

Does she simply want anonymous to physically occupy a seat in church every Sunday for an hour or so?

I'm an atheist but I don't think I'd find that a deal-breaker. In fact I often accompany my wife, who's a believer, to her place of worship. I smile, I show polite interest, I help out with charity functions, give old ladies a lift home and so on. Everyone knows I don't believe. It's not a huge problem. But on the other hand, it's not a Catholic church I'm talking about.

If she wanted me to lie, to pretend to believe when I don't, for instance, promise to tell our future kids I believed in God when I absolutely don't, that would be a deal-breaker.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2008

There have been some very good threads on this kind of topic before.

Don't underestimate cultural differences.
posted by idb at 8:27 PM on January 21, 2008

It can work for some people, but from what we've been told I think the chances are very low in this situation. As strong as her feelings are about religion (plus pressure from her family) I doubt she'll be able to maintain any fair compromise for years, even if she tries.

whoaali wrote: You seem open to a compromise, she doesn't, this doesn't bode well for the future of your relationships in many respects beyond this.

Yes. I'd worry about this as well.

Do you want to end up not much more than a sperm donor with child support payments and visitation rights? (And the kid[s] will be hers and her family's, not yours.)
posted by D.C. at 8:42 PM on January 21, 2008

This verse:

2 Corinthians 6:14-15: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (KJV)

was beaten into my head at the religious school I went to.

And horror stories of how good little Christians married nonbelievers and people from other denominations were pulled out of their "good church families."

Oh, did I mention this denomination teaches that the Catholic religion is too strict?

...I'm not religious. She's deeply religious and wants to raise the kids Catholic. I have no problem with this at all.

Even if you are okay with your kids going to church, they are not going to be okay with you not going. It's a big deal in sunday school when Mommy brings you and Daddy doesn't come. They can be ostracized for it, and lord knows it's hard enough to make friends.

I shudder thinking about the prayer groups we had with the poor kids whose parents didn't come. Grandparents love bringing their grandchildren to church regardless of the parents' desire and it turns into a nasty "us vs. them" sort of thing.

When it comes to children, religious doctrine dictates that they must be saved.

Are you really okay with that?
posted by M Edward at 9:07 PM on January 21, 2008

Even if you are okay with your kids going to church, they are not going to be okay with you not going. It's a big deal in sunday school when Mommy brings you and Daddy doesn't come. They can be ostracized for it, and lord knows it's hard enough to make friends.

Your experience is VERY different from mine, then. Dads not wanting to bother with church except for special occasions is so common (I've got a Protestant and Catholic side of the family, both fairly devout, I'll speak for both here) as to be a running joke.
posted by desuetude at 9:18 PM on January 21, 2008

Arrr... There's a ton of bad advice here, one poster mistakenly thinks you have to be baptized to marry a Catholic.

Assuming you're GF just means go to Church (in other words not lying about believing, receiving communion falsely, etc.) she is compromising. Not compromising would be refusing to marry you if you didn't convert. If she's asking you to decieve, etc. then that's wrong and you shouldn't do it. If that is the case, her notion of being devout is somewhat perverted. However, assuming she means just attending, I see how that's positive, presents religion as worthy of respect etc., but I don't think it will avoid conversations over religious differences "Why does Daddy never go to communion?"

As a Catholic I know some people who attend every Sunday with their families without being believers (or being Protestant) and for whom that seems to work well, but I know other families where it's been an issue and of course the Biblical advice is "do not be unequally yoked".

Finally, I think M Edward's non-catholic sunday school experience is in no way likely in Catholic circles.
posted by Jahaza at 11:16 PM on January 21, 2008

Whatever you decide to do, don't lie to your children. They can always tell. If they see you going to church weekly whilst not believing a word of it, then regardless of what you think you're doing, you're not teaching them compromise and conflict resolution - you're teaching them hypocrisy.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:39 AM on January 22, 2008

One more thing, you don't mention at all an issue that I'd expect to be a big one for someone non-religious marrying a "deeply religious" Catholic.

Are you OK with not using artificial contraception? Even if she doesn't plan on following this teaching now, her opinion might change in the future. Would you be OK with that?

I assume you'd be willing to have meat-free dinners on Fridays during lent, but Catholic teaching about the human life issues is a place where the teaching affects daily life in a radical way.
posted by Jahaza at 4:04 AM on January 22, 2008

Well, I wanted to remain anonymous, but I think I should clear up a few of the questions people are having:

1. My GF's parents are areligious. She found the Catholic faith to be a sanctuary and is the only one who actively practices it in her family. Part of the reason she is so adamant about church going for me is that she will not have any support from her family or mine in raising the kids.

2. She isn't asking me to convert; she just wants me to go to church. I won't be asked to become Catholic.
posted by stedman15 at 7:10 AM on January 22, 2008

Jahaza brought up a really good point. Of course, there are plenty of Catholics on the pill who agree with just about everything else the church has to say, but as someone who was raised Catholic, there's something about the way she is describing marriage that makes me wonder about contraception as well.

She sounds very young to have that kind of all/nothing idea of faith. Maybe she just identifies strongly as a Catholic out of some kind of attachment to her mother's culture? Has your family actually shut her out, or is it a fear? Do you think she might be a bit nervous about being separated from her own roots somehow and is insisting on you adopting her faith as a reinforcement to her own identity?

I actually was wondering if maybe she isn't sending signals that she isn't really ready for marriage with you? You know, kind of like how when you're trying to talk yourself out of something, you might make it sound impossibly difficult to do? Not saying she is stringing you along, but she might be ambivalent.

Or, hey, her particular take on Catholicism is that you must attend mass with her as if you were a religious Catholic because that's what a husband should do. My ex husband tried to pressure me into converting to his newly reclaimed Baptist faith because, as he tearfully argued, we'd be separated in the afterlife if I hadn't been saved. Don't underestimate the power of even dormant faith to spring forth in a marriage and really mess things up.

If she's hoping for a conversion, remind her about all the great conversion stories that have nothing to do with being inside a church. St. Paul comes to mind - the stranger from Damascus and all that. St Augustine had his mother's prayer working quietly in the background. She has plenty of examples within her own faith about conversion that have to do with the person just listening to the small quiet voice in plenty of other places than a church.

It isn't your butt in the pew that counts, it's what is in your heart and the kind of life you lead. God loves you regardless of if you even believe he exists, right? It isn't what other people can see, other than your good works and caritas. After all, in the end, it's between you and God, isn't it?
posted by Grrlscout at 7:27 AM on January 22, 2008

Hi, just saw we crossposted. Actually, if she doesn't want you to convert, it's even weirder in my view. And a bit disingenuous, really. You mean she really doesn't care if you believe something but wants you to pretend you do? C'mon now.
posted by Grrlscout at 7:29 AM on January 22, 2008

You need to talk with her more deeply about her views about raising children. Yes, if you don't go to church, your children will ask why they and Mommy go to church and Daddy doesn't. But even if the whole family goes to church, your children will still have questions like "Where did Grandma go when she died?" and "If God can do anything, why does he let bad things happen?" and "Why does my friend Rachel go to temple on Saturdays instead of church on Sundays?" If you don't believe in Heaven or God or that Catholicism is more right than Judaism, will your future wife expect you to lie to your children about what you believe about those things? Keep your mouth shut while she tells your children the Catholic teachings about those things? Not ever tell your children, whom you are tasked with teaching how the world works and how to be good people, what you think about some of the biggest moral and cosmological questions human beings face?

Moreover, your children will ask "Why does Mommy take Communion when Daddy doesn't?" because you won't be allowed to take Communion unless you are a Catholic, and your children will wonder why. If you tell them you haven't been baptized Catholic and they've learned from their church that being baptized protects people from Hell, they'll worry that you're going to Hell. They'll ask where you're going when you die and why you can't come to Heaven with them. They'll ask a whole host of questions that neither of you will be able to predict in advance, because kids are naturally curious and their minds go to places we can't conceive of when they're trying to understand them world.

How far does this "not confusing your children" business go? Because just having you sit in church every Sunday will not prevent hard questions, and your future wife needs to know that. You need to have this difficult conversation with her now and then see where the two of you stand.
posted by decathecting at 8:08 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Her mom isn't Catholic. My GF had a serious illness as a child and the religion helped her make it through. That's the reason she's so adamant about the faith issue. At least that's what she tells me. I don't think she wants me to pretend to be Catholic. She wants me to go to church because she feels it will foster family unity.


We have had many discussions about the 'not confusing the children' issue. She thinks that they will grow up rootless and without an identity because her and I are so different.

Thanks for the replies, everyone.
posted by stedman15 at 12:19 PM on January 22, 2008

I understand some of your girlfriend's fears about identity, though I don't agree with them.

Being rooted is about how much you and your girlfriend would tell your children that they belong to your two cultures. It could be like a two-for-one deal, the best of both worlds. And since your girlfriend is worried about them being rooted in their own history, they most probably will feel rooted, since it is parents and their attitudes who create those roots. My roots are sort of unbalanced, because my mother is very interested in history and also our culture is largely passed through cooking - but my father neither cooks nor cares about famimly history. But I don't feel rootless, though I do feel a little less rooted than my husband, as both of his families (Jewish-German-urban intellectuals, Protestant-English- farmers and rural shopkeepers) care a great deal about roots, even though they are just as different in many ways as your two cultures.

I do worry that your girlfriend seems to be racializing roots and culture. It is true that biracial children do have a somewhat different experience, but that has largely to do with the prejudices of outside society, and it is changing a lot. I have had several biracial friends, and none of them felt "rootless" or confused about their identity. They were who they were - whether that was Chinese and Dutch, or Japanese and British, or whatever. But, of course, most of their identity came from who they were, and what they were interested in, not from their cultural backgrounds.
posted by jb at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2008

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