PARIS, FRANCE — When you met me, I had mild to moderate acne and little to no self-esteem. I remember waiting at the airport in Manila, holding a warm bottle of calamansi juice. Nervous. Partly because my mom didn’t know I was bringing a foreign man into our house, but mainly because it would be the first time you would ever see me. But when I saw you walking out of the arrival area, all my fears vanished. I was sure. Sure that someone this handsome, this tall, this white would never love a brown boy catfish who looked like me. Sure that you would take one good look at my face, pry the juice from my hand, turn around, and book the next flight out.
Yet 6 years later, here we are. After an avalanche of love letters, long hours waiting for connecting flights, longer hours at the immigration office, scratchy Skype calls, sandy kisses, all the flower petals against your wool sweater, here we are. On a boat in the river Seine, making a promise to each other. A promise I could have made with an onion ring in my pyjamas in our apartment. Because anywhere with you in it is a place I can call home.
That day on the airport, you did look at me, grab the juice, and take a sip. Then enveloped me in a bear hug and for the first time I felt what it’s like to be seen, to be held, and to be loved.
My husband, you are the warm cup of Sunday morning tea, and the cookie that goes with it, a lingering hug after a long day, the silent complicity of a love that has matured, a hand squeeze in a crowded train, a slice of cake on a tight month, the smile that says I will never, never be alone in the world again, until death do us part. My husband, I love you.
EDIT: So overwhelmed by the reach this post has gotten! Thank you so much to all the well-wishers. I am genuinely happy if this made you smile, hope, and feel positive. I just wanted to address some comments mentioning colonialism/colorism. I wrote the line about me being surprised that a white guy would go for a brown guy to highlight the headspace I was at when we first met (I was 18 years-old in skin whitening obsessed Philippines). Since then, my ideas have obviously changed. In my final year of university, I specialized in post-colonial studies and Orientalism (my thesis focused on analyzing how Asian men are represented, if at all, in French pop culture).
Me and Alex have been together for more than six years and all our major fights were rooted in debates about race relations. Mainly because I was so angry at the invisibility and misrepresentation of brown bodies in our media landspace. This racially-inflected anger I have many times channelled towards my white boyfriend. (Check this post https://www.facebook.com/rcultado/posts/10205207679108839) But the years also taught me to rise above this, and to move in the world not in anger but in love. Now, we only fight about whose turn it is to wash the dishes or take out the trash. This footnote did not exist before because my friends, the original target audience of this post, did not need it. They knew our story. Kisses to all of you beautiful strangers. And me too, I’m wishing, sana all ♥
NOTE: This article was first posted on Renee’s wall on Facebook.