Love and Death and Racist Jokes

In high school, I had a crush on *Tina.   She said that she liked me, but she did not want to go against her parents.

Tina was Italian.  Her parents wanted her to date Italian men.  Other Italian parents wanted their daughters to date Italian men.  Many Italian girls would mislead their parents to date non-Italian men, and have dates without chaperones.

Italian girls were not allowed to be alone with their dates.  A family member would serve as a chaperone.  The girls would lie and tell their parents that they were going out with their girlfriends.  That way, the girls could have an unchaperoned date with whoever they wanted.

When I asked Tina out, she said, “I would like to Gary, but I don’t want to lie to my parents to go out with you.  They only want me to date Italian men, and you’re not Italian.  My parents would never approve of you.  I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

Tina’s eyes filled with tears as she told me.  And once again, I was reminded that my skin colour was different.

Things were uneasy between Tina and me after that.  I did not mind her avoiding me because I felt uncomfortable around her, too.

I never thought about Tina after graduating from high school—that is, until the other day.  I received an email that Tina had died.  My first thought upon reading the email was, “For sure, there is no chance of dating her now.”

Rest In Peace, Tina.

*Mutt and Jeff, two schoolmates, always teased me about my skin colour.  Both were born in Canada.  Mutt’s parents were from Scotland, and Jeff’s parents were from Greece.  Sometimes Mutt and Jeff’s jokes were cruel, but racist jokes were socially acceptable back then.

I never said anything, but somehow Mutt and Jeff heard about Tina rejecting me.  After that, they stopped teasing me with racist jokes.  They never made fun of my skin colour again.  Methinks that Tina’s rejection shocked them because they realized the reality behind their jokes.



*Not their real names

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About the Author

I am Minnie and Chic's son.