I am in an inter-racial relationship.
And as it turns out, so is my friend.
Except in my case, my fiance is Chinese. In her case, her boyfriend is Portuguese.
Inter-racial you ask? Well, maybe that is going too far. But after spending a night with her at a Portuguese dance, I realized that although we are from Europe, we are not at all the same.
We stand out like Babylon whores, as my friend points out.
I'm not sure about that. But we do stand out. Partly from our pale skin and light hair, and partly because we towered over all the Portuguese people by about a foot.
British people are not exactly a tight knit community sort of people. Sure, back in gay ole England they are in pubs bonding over the common lack of dental care.
But here? It's not like we stick together keeping our culture alive and reminiscing about the 'old country'. I do my part: I drink tea and watch Corrie on CBC.
But Portuguese people really keep their traditions alive. So do Italians, Greeks, Arabics, Chinese, and the list goes on. I think it must only be us.
So here we were, two tall blonde girls, at a Portuguese Valentine's Day dance. In a gym. Connected to a church. And one of us was wearing leopard print to be 'ethnic' (I'll let you guess who).
This is the deal: you pay $40 and get all-you-can-eat-and-drink. The gym is decorated in the fashion of a prairie hall wedding: pink paper hearts, streamers, doilies. There is no mood lighting for dinner. Nope, the lights are bright so we get full view of Uncle Jesepe's hairy chest and gold cross.
The food is DELICIOUS! We had Portuguese buns, of which I had two. Then soup with sausage, kale, potatoes, carrots and other yummy things. Then salad. Then rice with a seafood platter.
Oh the seafood platter. I helped myself to fried sole with a special hot sauce. As well as several mussels and peel-your-own shrimp. When I realized it was 'all you can eat' I may have gone a little mental. I finished off our platter, then the boys' platter, and then we ordered another platter! My plate was round with shrimp debris. I was such a graceful eater. I went through about 20 napkins, was licking my fingers and dropped lettuce down my dress.
We were still not done. Next came platters of roast potatoes, chicken and beef. Followed by cheesecake. I did not like the cheesecake. But possibly because I was a Portuguese bun myself at this point.
All the while we are having endless bottles of red wine.
I love Portuguese people!
When dinner was finished, the lights dimmed (finally. I had shrimp guts on my dress) to announce the beginning of the dance.
To this polka-ish Portuguese music played on keyboards and an accordion. Who doesn't love an accordion?
The floor was full of husbands and wives who have been together so long they both resembled potatoes (you know that way old people do). Mothers making their daughters spin them on the floor (and I don't mean 12-year old girls. I mean middle-aged daughters). Kids twirling around the feet of the adults. Really old grandpa's dancing with any woman who would say yes - not because they were being pervy, but because they missed dancing with their wives. It was amazing.
K and I just bobbed on the outskirts.
We were very popular. Men would come up to us, some wearing shirts with a glittering Jesus faces on the front, others with low-buttoned shirts showing off their hairy chest glory. One man got so excited talking to us, his fake tooth popped out and landed on K's shoe.
You must think I am being conceited right now. I'm not. This is just what happens when you are the foreign fish in a pond. All the other fish are fascinated by your presence.
Firstly, they would all ask if we were Portuguese. Obviously not. But they wanted to be polite.
Then they asked if we were sisters. The only resemblance being our deathly pale complexions and yellow hair (maybe it's like that thing us white people have with Asians: they all look the same to us).
Then they would recount the reasons why they love Canada and why being Portuguese is awesome.
It was not only the first time I had been in a gym since 1996, but it was the first time I had ever been the popular girl at a dance in a gym in my life. It was like being prom queen.
Which set up the Portuguese wives hating us. Again, K referred to us as Babylon whores. Or it could be the fact we don't speak the language (well, I sort of do. I can say 'thank you' in Portuguese, which is what I said to anyone who talked to me).
But whatever the reason, those wives disliked our presence. Tooth man tried to introduce us to his wife. She glared at us and pulled him away. Yes lady, that's right. Us outsiders have snuck into your party to steal your toothless husband. We prowl all the European community centres looking for men from the 'old country'.
K finally convinced me to dance with her boyfriend, who twirled me around the room to said Portuguese polka music. But after my pound of prawn, the spin around the room made me want to vomit. In fact, without the food I would probably want to vomit. Those Portuguese really like to twirl!
The dancers kept going late into the night. It was fun watching them. They are all about 5'2'', and were shaped like little apples. They were dressed in their finest and having the time of their life.
From the outside, we can tease communities like this for their brightly dyed blonde hair that is a tad too yellow, or the skin-tight dresses and open shirts. But what we might fail to see is that this community sticks together through thick and thin. They all enjoy seeing each other. Smiles are bright and genuine. And once they get around the Babylon whore shock, they sure are open to letting us join in on their community.
If only for one night.