Author Gathering Place

Glenda Chung Hinchey

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Not all mixed marriages
end in a culture clash

My second-generation Korean-American parents never objected to their children's dating or marrying people outside our culture. In fact, their sons- and daughter-in-law include a kanaka and two haoles. Our family is truly a melting pot.

Despite my parents' open-mindedness, I never dated Korean men -- not because I was looking to marry outside my ethnicity, but because none asked me out. Dating other Asians also proved tricky. During my first year in college, for instance, I agreed to see a movie with a local Chinese man. As I got into his car, he said his mother was concerned about his dating a Korean instead of a Chinese woman. He said he had to reassure his mother that he wouldn't be marrying me. Shocked by his tactlessness on a first date, I terminated our friendship.

Years later, I married a man of Irish, Scottish and English ancestry. Born in Berkeley, Calif., of Canadian parents, David moved with his family to Honolulu when he was seven years old. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor's degree in music and a master's in accounting.

We met in 1977 at a folk music rehearsal where he played the clarinet and I played the violin. He tells me it was love at first sight. I, on the other hand, thought he looked goofy with his long, bushy hair and drooping moustache. David began taking me home after rehearsals, giving me driving lessons in his new car and slowly easing himself into my life. He even shaved off his moustache, cut his hair short and quit smoking. Like the prince who slew the dragon and accomplished other feats to win the hand of the fair maiden, he gradually became the man I wanted to marry. His height -- all 6 feet of him -- didn't hurt, either. I fell in love with this persistent man and married him three years later.

One might think a Korean and a haole union wouldn't work because of cultural differences, but I'm here to tell you the marriage does work. Although David prefers to use a fork rather than chopsticks, he always removes his shoes before entering the house. He has acquired a Korean vocabulary and refers to body parts in Korean. Best of all, he enjoys Korean cuisine, especially kim chee. I was happy when my husband paid me the ultimate compliment: "You're a better cook than my mother."

My children also have benefitted from this cross-cultural union. They judge people for who they are, not on what they look like or where they come from. Like my parents, I don't care whom they marry, as long as they are happy.

As for me, I can't think of a better way to spend the rest of my life than with my husband, who happens to be different from me ... but just on the outside.

Glenda Chung Hinchey is an occasional commentator on Hawaii Public Radio and the author of "Like a Joyful Bird: a Memoir."


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