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The following exchange is excerpted from a dialogue group assembled in late August to "test" the small group dialogue software developed for this site.

2. Intro's (con't)
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 7:01 PM/EST
dlmz

I'm here to learn with others who face relationships with one or more out of the "norm" (realizing that normal does not exist) circumstances.

I'm 36 and my husband is 25. We're separated (for one month). We've been married for 1 year and 10 months. First marriages and no children. We've known each other for 3 years plus. I'm not aware of any recognizable "eruption" from our age differences. Although I am becoming aware that it definately represents that we come from and approach our problems VERY differently. I don't consider that to be awful or insurmountable. But, I'm not sure what he thinks.

Our real obstacle(s) is the death of my mother just four months after we we're married. This is also compounded by the (clinical) fact that I'm Bipolar with major recurrent depression. I know I'm a handful, mouthful, mindful, heartful and hurtful. I work to change and manage my behavior (therapy each week for three years and still counting, also medication).

His response? Rageful outbursts at the sometimes lack of sense it all makes....can't accept that I may have "epsiodes" where mania rules my mouth --temporarily. I'm sure he's debating as to whether he wants to deal with "me"-- all of me, not just the "nice-y nice" me.

I've been honest since day one about Bipolar, therapy and meds. No secrets. I'm angry that he seems to have given up. It's only been a month. We'll see...

3. Introduction
Sat, Aug 21, 1999 - /EST
onyx72

My mother is bipolar. It is truly a challenging disability. She also has moments of indulgence when she'll let loose on some poor unsuspecting person. I've gotten used to apologizing, and explaining, for her, but it can be extremely rough at times. She was diagnosed as a schizophrenic at first, but they got it right finally and she hasn't been hospitalized since (it's been well over fifteen years). She has a significant other now, which is awesome considering how long she hasn't had the opportunity to be in a good relationship.

I'm sure with my sister and me both having Muscular Dystrophy, my mother was challenged beyond my ability to understand, but I think she did a great job considering the circumstances.

My sister is married (28), my brother is divorced (30), and I'm single (26). By my age, both my brother and sister was married while I haven't even really dated. Since Tamar (my sister) is also disabled, I can't even use it as an excuse. Not that I'm terribly lonely, because I do enjoy my own company, but lord knows single life ain't easy. Being on a respirator sure doesn't simplify matters either.

All things considered, I still think I'm doing pretty well. I'm pretty active in my community. People respect me and my work as an advocate for the disabled. I have a great apartment and I'm content with the life and friends I have. I firmly believe I haven't sucked all of the nectar out of this Coconut I call my life.

I wonder where this trail will take me?

4. Introduction
Sat, Aug 21, 1999 - 4:38 AM/EST
jeanne

I've always felt I could respect opposing points of view on issues (i.e., capital punishment, abortion, etc.) even if I completely disagreed with them. I don't feel that way about bigotry.

I grew up trying to get away from my sheltered world. I lived in an all-white, middle class neighborhood in Tulsa, OK, a very segregated city - north side/south side kind of stuff. I wasn't really aware of the segregation, however, until I went to a "magnet school" (voluntarily integrated) during high school. Nothing ominous there - I spent 3 hours a day on a school bus, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Even in high school, I never really thought about race or ethnicity. It just wasn't an issue for me. I'm not saying I didn't notice skin color or appearance - of course you notice that! People who say, "I'm colorblind," bug me - I know what they're trying to convey, but yeesh - how absurd! I had friends of all races, creeds, and sexual orientation, and none of it by design.

Anyway, I'm not sure why I'm here except that I find myself baffled by people's (particularly my parents') negative reactions regarding interracial relationships. I'm 37 years old, and 2 years ago, when I started dating a black man, I discovered that my parents are racists. It still stuns me. I'm happy with whom I've become in life (so far), and I attribute much of that to my parents' efforts in raising me.

So now, here I sit, trying to figure out how I reconcile my utter disdain for people who pass judgment on others based on things like race and religion with my utter gratitude to a couple of people who did a pretty good job of raising me and never (in my opinion) acted with any malice.

Actually, I wish I just didn't care. :-)

5. Introduction
Sat, Aug 21, 1999 - 2:45 PM/EST
robin

I was born in the Midwest and adopted as an infant by very loving, though overprotective, parents. I had a pleasant childhood, growing up in a small town, going to church on Sundays, attending the local public school.

I moved to the Southwest after graduation and stayed there for 15 years. Eventually I moved to New Orleans, where I became involved in an interracial relationship. My parents did not approve of this relationship, but accepted it with "gritted teeth".

When this relationship didn't work out, I moved on again, this time to Miami Beach where I met my husband, who is from Santiago Chile. He is a wonderful, loving individual and is the anchor in my life. His main drawbacks are his stubborness and his inability to speak English well. We decided to move back to my hometown after the birth of our daughter and my father's diagnosis of senile dementia.

It has been a real culture shock after living in large cities for the past 28 years, to return to my roots. The community as a whole has been very accepting of him and our relationship, which was a bit of a surprise.

Many of the people here are what I call "closet bigots". They will say that all people are equal, but when it hits close to home they change their stories and become racists.

I do have very strong views on marriage and family values. Children need the security of knowing that their parents are married. Living together just does not demonstrate good moral values to them. Parents must always put their children's needs first. I feel that families should do whatever it takes to have one parent in the home with the child. To improve our society,we must begin at home.

I do not intend to offend anyone with my views, my goal is to try to make people more aware that there are options out there and that we have to take action individually to improve our society as a whole.

6. Sharmin
Sat, Aug 21, 1999 - 3:17 PM/EST
misslynx

Sharmin. Yes, it's my real name. I've been a different kinda chick since the day I entered this world. I'm a 20 yr. old Black woman who's no stranger to differences...
I grew up in a large town in Northeastern Indiana called Ft Wayne. My parents were very supportive when I was young, and because of them I thrived in school, being sometimes the only Black kid in all White honors and advanced classes. I grew up living in the Black community but spending my educational career with so many White folks. I had to be familiar with both sides of the cultural coin, and was often ridiculed by Black and White kids. I'm sure there are others like me who have experienced the same treatment. But, as the wise man says, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

I've always been different and open to new things, but telling my parents about my White, 29 yr. old boyfriend was a little difficult. My parents had always been comfortable with the few guys I brought home. I'm still a kid, I suppose, still walking on the skin of the earth and finding my place, but they are supportive and they know that I'm going to do what I want and learn from my experiences--which is why they've agreed to meet my boyfriend. Tonight...! He and I have been together for almost 6 mos. and this is the first time they're meeting him. I'm sure those of you in interracial relationships can understand...but regardless of who I date, my parents still love me and are willing to give him a chance for my sake. That's love, man.

I guess my thing is that, no matter what age a person is, he or she needs to know that his/her actions are his/her own, and the consequences, while it will affect those around him/her, are secondary to everyone but him/her. Being with someone who makes you happy should be your goal, regardless of who that person is. Everyone else will catch up and understand. And, if they don't, if they're ignorant--too damn bad.

8. Intro
Mon, Aug 23, 1999 - 1:54 PM/EST

Hi Everyone!

I'm writing from Port Jefferson, NY (Long Island).
I'm 21, African-American in the real sense of the word. My father is Nigerian and my mother is from the Carribean. But I grew up in Switzerland until I was 15. My folks separated and I came to live in the US. New York City to be exact.

My first encounter with difference was at boarding school where at any given moment there would be 18-22 different nationalities. I felt that these differences were celebrated and I grew to be very curious. I felt comfortable around 'others'

Coming back to the US was a bit of a shock. I hadn't really encountered racism or had to deal with race everyday. Just as Jeanne said, "it just didn't occur to me" to judge people that way.

My first black friends called me an 'oreo' and I was happy because it didn't seem like an insult. I later found out what it meant...and to this day I worry in the back of my mind if i am being an 'oreo.'

I'm in an interracial relationship. My boyfriend is Italian-American. I haven't really dealt with much yet other than the occasional stare. Still his family wont meet me and that hurts a bit.

More to come...

del

9. Hi!
Mon, Aug 23, 1999 - 6:42 PM/EST
suzannejan

I am a 59(oh, my god!)yr old female, Married for 38 years to a USAF pilot We have 2 living children, we lost a son at 16. Recently retired from a School Accounting position. Spent most of my childhood as a USAF Brat, traveling through all the states and living in England. After our marriage we spent 9 years living in the Far East. My son is a CHP(California Highway Patrol Officer)and my daughter is 3 yr law student. This makes for some very interesting family confabs. We have always tried to raise our family and live our lives in a open, caring and honest way. My religion was Catholic, now tends to-----------? My kids were always taught to accept people for what they were and not by the colour of their skin or religious beliefs. I look forward to meeting and sharing with all of you. Suzanne

10. Me, Myself and I
Mon, Aug 23, 1999 - 7:56 PM/EST
qazem

Hey Y'all
I'm 41, black, and father of 3. I grew up in a community where the only "colored" folks were my family members and church members. I know what it feels like to be an outsider in both communities. I didn't date much in school because I did not want the hassle the are part and parcel of black white relationships. Even 24 years after high school i still feel the same "under the surface" bigotry.

11. Introductions
Tue, Aug 24, 1999 - 2:30 AM/EST
sardine

I'm a bit late with my intro. but I'm a 42 year old Black woman married 25 years to a 45 year old White man. We have a 17 year old son. We've experienced passive bigotry on both sides of the family. It is still painful to think about but we've survived. Our son appears to be as adjusted as one can be in our society. He has chosen to embrace his Black roots, which on the one hand prepares him for the real world. And on the other, how sad that he feels he has to choose.

12. interesting people
Tue, Aug 24, 1999 - 11:18 AM/EST
cett

just a quick note to say how excited I am to be sharing this group with such fascinating and wonderful people!
Sue

13. Introduction - With Some Corrections
Tue, Aug 24, 1999 - 1:52 PM/EST
george

My name is George, my wife is Vicki. We were married in 1971 at the age of 19, so that makes us now married for 28 years, I think. We have two children, both are married and our son just recently presented us with our first grandchild. We are both wonderfully happy about it and look forward to being "involved grandparents."

About me. I am of Native American heritage and a citizen of the Muskogee Creek Nation. The Creek Nation is one of the Five Civilized Tribes and our Tribal Capital is in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Vicki has some Native American heritage, but is not a tribal member. Both of our children are tribal members.

Vicki and I are both college educated. Vicki earned her degree in Computer Science from the University of Tulsa in 1983. I earned my degree, ttending junior college and some university before completing the degree in an off campus self study program. I completed it when I was 39 years old.

I am a US Navy Submarine Service veteran. I was in the service from 1970 to 1979. I served on two nuclear powered submarines as a nuclear power plant operator. This time was a very trying time for our marriage since we were totally and absolutely seperated, no mail, no phone calls, with the constant threat of personal injury on our minds. Vicki was there by my side almost from the beginning, without her I am sure that things in my life would have been entirely different, probably in a negative way.

Since getting out of the service we have lead two seperate and divergent career paths. About 3 years ago, we came to the conclusion that a career is not worth sacrificing our marriage and decided that one of us would become unemployeed. The first opportunity for "unemployement" was presented to me and we took it. I am now better know as the "Significant Care Provider" and Vicki is the "Significant Income Producer."

I look forward to participating in the group.

George

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