Are you down with the swirl? That’s American slang for interracial dating. (Think swirled ice cream on a cone.) Mixed ethnicity families are on the rise in the UK (source: BBC), and according to The Guardian, nearly 1 in 10 people in England and Wales are in inter-ethnic relationships. Singles looking to mingle are increasingly crossing cultures to find their perfect partners on dating sites. After all, love is love, right?
You may be from one culture and your potential honey is from another. If your dating pool feels too small, it’s time to widen it. The fastest way to do that is by meeting people of different backgrounds. Dating can be awkward enough already when dating people from your culture so you can definitely expect awkward moments when bridging ethnicities. Take it all in stride and focus on seeing whether your values align, and you feel compatible and positive when you’re together.
Here are 3 dos and 3 don’ts for swirl-style dating:
1. DO be open-minded
Open your mind and your heart to the possibilities for love. Be aware that there may be cultural differences about certain things like flirting. For example, some cultures may seem more ‘aggressive’ than others. Respect the other person’s background. Be open and curious. Do some research on your own. Neither of you should see the other as a chief ambassador or racial educator for your group.
2. DO question your own pre-judgements
As people of colour, we are very used to being the ones who are discriminated against. After all, racism is still alive and well in our supposedly post-racial times. However, as human beings we all make pre-judgements against each other. Be aware and check yourself of what prejudices against another ethnicity you may be bringing to the table. If you would not want it said to you, do not say it to someone else. You don’t have the right to use slurs or be disrespectful of someone’s culture, even in jest.
Even if you have a friend of a certain background that doesn’t mind racial ribbing, don’t make assumptions that your date will feel the same way. Just because you’ve dated one person of a specific race doesn’t mean everyone from their background is the same. Don’t make assumptions. Remember that there’s a lot of diversity in any culture. Look how many kinds of black people there are!
3. DO date the person, not the race
Race is not a part of you getting to know each other. There’s no need to dwell on it as a topic before you even get to know each other. You can address it but then move on. We are all much more than the colour of skin we were born with. Discuss your dreams and aspirations, share your story, and get to know who you are, heart-to-heart.
Those are the dos. Here are the don’ts:
1. DON’T be anyone’s closeted secret
You’ve been dating for a while but you’ve never met their friends or family. Perhaps, they only take you to inconspicuous places in one part of town. Maybe you only date late at night. Anyone who is ashamed of being seen with you does not deserve to date you, whatever the story.
2. DON’T date fetishists
If anyone approaches you saying, “it has always been my fantasy to date someone like you,” they are just seeking to experiment. You deserve more than being someone’s trial run. There is a difference between someone who has never dated interracially but is interested in you, and someone just looking to experiment.
You also don’t want anyone who is dating you to make a statement. The same goes for you. You’re in a relationship, not a statement.
3. DON’T spring your partner on your family
Other people may have issues with your choice of who to love. When it’s some idiot in public staring or making an offensive comment, it can be easy to ignore. After all, if you love each other who cares what anyone else thinks? Your family is another matter.
Give your family notice – don’t surprise anyone by just bringing them home. Nonetheless, your family and friends’ issues are not yours. Inform your partner of family issues. If you know that your family is racist or has issues with you dating out of your culture, be honest with your love about this.
The bottom line?
Focus on you and your partner. This is not a project or to make a statement. This is your life. Have a sense of humour. Again, awkward moments are a part of life. Don’t assume everyone staring is racist. People could be thinking “what a gorgeous couple”.
At the end of the day our top dating advice is to follow your heart and be confident in your choices. Have the courage to reach outside of your type and go for it. Choose someone worthy of the wonderful person you are. I see you living, laughing, loving, and thriving.