Last week, after I unintentionally offended some people with a blog post I should have thought more carefully about, some commenters pointed out that I should be writing in a way that helps women accept themselves and their bodies, no matter what shape or size they are. I like to think that I do do that, most of the time. I think self-acceptance (within the realm of the healthy) is the only route to happiness, and to happy relationships — even though I also know it's not easy to feel content with yourself.
But just as much as we should accept ourselves, shouldn't we also be accepting of others?
Yesterday, I hung out with a friend who said that the Buddhist approach to life is to accept others first, and to seek to understand them only after having unconditionally accepted them. That sounds pretty similar to the basic Christian credo: Love one another as God loves you. As Father Zossima in Dostoevsky's classic Brothers Karamazov puts it, we should "Love all...creation.... If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." One of the central tenets of Sikhism is compassion: an emphasis on overlooking others' imperfections and helping to relieve their sorrows.
The same friend also recently returned from a year in Jakarta, Indonesia, and as we talked about her time there, the topic of dating people from other countries came up. I've dated men from Italy and India and Ireland and England (and have gone out on dates with men from more countries than I've had enough coffee to recall at the moment). Given the chance, I'd love to find myself another attractive foreigner — because I feel that dating people from faraway lands is a great way to expand my knowledge not only of the world but of myself and what makes me human.
The recent novel Kapitoil (written by one of my bestest friends, Teddy Wayne) depicts a lovely burgeoning relationship between two 20-somethings who are, at the outset, pretty foreign to each other: Rebecca, a Midwesterner who is working in New York City, and Karim, a guy from Qatar who lands a job at the same hedge fund where Rebecca works. Flipping through Teddy's novel again last night, it occurred to me the book illustrates at least ... 4 (MORE) GOOD REASONS TO DATE A FOREIGNER.
1. The language barrier can be endearing.
Karim has learned English through the worlds of finance and technology, so he speaks in a stilted, oddly charming way. For instance, instead of saying he feels better, he usually says "I feel enhanced."
2. The accent can be hot.
3. It's a fun way to learn more about another culture.
Much more enjoyable than a history class, dating someone from another country is the best way to learn about different parts of the world, different religions, different takes on how life should be lived. Karim teaches Rebecca a little about his country — and introduces her to a Middle Eastern delicacy called ma'amoul (cookies stuffed with dates). In turn, she teaches him about American culture, and Bob Dylan in particular.
4. You can feel connections in unique ways.
I know many people like to bond over things they already have in common — shared love of an old TV show or an old movie or a certain band. But what's more exciting, I'd argue, is when you can bond with a person due to your love of something new he (or she) shows you. For instance, I myself will always love the movies of Italian auteur Federico Fellini — and when a certain Italian dude I dated introduced me to the movies of that extraordinary filmmaker, it was exciting to feel closer to him due to our shared enthusiasm.
Anyway, folks: Tell us your stories about how dating a foreigner improved your life! Or, add to this list. I'm sure I've left a million things out.