Actress Diane Farr writes amazing book on interracial romance, Kissing Outside the Lines (with video!)
Whatever prejudices you have about actresses-turned-authors, know this: Diane Farr is right there with you.
As a steadily working-but-not-yet-household name (Rescue Me, Californication, Numb3rs), Farr nevertheless is the first to lampoon any Hollywood phoniness – often during her sidesplitting turns co-hosting the radio show Loveline and magazines pieces in G.Q., Esquire and Cosmpolitan, along with her syndicated newspaper columns on motherhood issues.
But Farr has broken her own stereotypes – in more ways than one -- penning a new book on interracial relationships, Kissing Outside the Lines, that just might go down as the first handbook for romance in the new millenium.
In crunching the data from the latest U.S. census, experts say America is entering a "pivot decade" of explosive diversity growth. By 2015, racial and ethnic minorities are expected to become the majority of young people, while the population of non-white citizens has increased in every state since the year 2000.
The simple conclusion: We’re going to see a lot more kissing outside the lines very soon. And somebody has to teach us all how to overcome the last socially-acceptable prejudice many people teach their children: Who they can and can’t love.
Farr had selfish reasons for writing this book, which documents her romance and marriage to the love of her life Seung Chung, a Korean American man who emigrated to the U.S. with his parents. As a second generation American child of Irish and Italian heritage, she wasn’t quite prepared for what happened after her then-boyfriend admitted “this is gonna be a problem for my parents.”
Kissing Outside the Lines documents her efforts to cope with resistance among Chung’s relatives, salted with stories from other multiracial couples she consulted to help strategize on how to navigate these tricky cultural and emotional waters.
I caught up with Farr in mid-May not long after she got disappointing news; the series pilot she filmed for Fox wasn’t picked up for fall, months after Fox also rejected a pilot script she wrote for a series featuring three multi-ethnic couples “(It’s like, you swing, you hit the ball, it’s gone foul and yet you’re running like hell for first base, for no reason,” she says, ruefully. “That’s been my year.”)
ME: We’re in a unique cultural moment, here.
Farr: What’s so funny is in this exact moment of time, Asians are having like a moment in the sun, between the Tiger Mom and the cover of New York Magazine, and they’re being portrayed as either Nazi-like parents who have no sense of humor or meek, short, sheltered cattle. It seems everything about being biracial in America is about black and white. Sometimes I even feel funny to say I’m in a biracial marriage because people are like, ‘Oh, he’s Asian?’ The subtext is, ‘Who cares?’ You didn’t marry a black person. No one’s paying any attention to you. So for the first moment that we’re paying attention to Asians, we’re putting them down.
D: That’s how it works for people of color. The first time you really get paid attention to, you know …
F: It’s for your faults?
D: Pretty much. You know, you may have written the first handbook for romance in the 21st Century.
F: In truth, more than 50 percent of me was writing the book for our parents. I was writing it so that if you were on the verge of marrying (someone from another race or culture), you could give it to her parents or yours because nobody’s a bad guy. I tried so hard not to really portray anybody as a cartoon character, as evil, because it’s (nonsense) to think we all don’t judge people. I judge preschool teachers and actresses shamelessly. The first five minutes I meet them.
D: I loved when you described your mother telling Seung she was so happy you didn’t marry outside your race. To her, there are only two races: black and white.
F: The posit of the book was that love is the last prejudice parents openly teach at home. My parents really did believe in the Golden Rule. They really did believe that all people should be treated equally. They had friends of every culture, we celebrated different holidays, but really, secretly behind it, they had no problem telling me who I couldn’t marry. And the dichotomy of it is so ingrained in so many families that you know there’s something wrong with it because we don’t openly talk about it.
D: You go through a lot of effort to win your husband’s family over, even learning Korean rituals, and then many of them didn’t even come to your wedding.
F: I think so much of the time when parents are saying, no, I don’t want you to marry outside of your race, they’re worried about either the death of their own culture or what’s gonna happen to their kid because it’s out of their realm of knowledge. And if we can keep it in that idea that it’s from fear, it’s not from hate … yes, of course, it’s ignorance, but that people are acting from love or fear, it’s just one or the other.
D: What advice would you give interracial couples starting the same journey now?
F: Let everybody else figure out how to get around you. It’s not your job to accommodate them, but we still work on this. Seung has a cultural, ingrained reflex to do anything an elder relative asks him. It’s not racism anymore; it’s like claiming turf for culture.
D: I thought it was interesting that your therapist pointed out to you how many of your relationships were outside of your culture.
F: I’ve interviewed probably 15 kids that were born between 1972 and 1985 for the next half of the book, which is raising biracial kids, looking at what worked and what didn’t work. So to be half-Iranian and half-Jewish in Arizona is a whole different experience than my kids being half-Korean in L.A. But one of those guys, his dad was a Shiite Iranian and his mom was a red-headed Jewish woman from New York, and (laughter) he was raised in Arizona.
D: That’s a sitcom. You know that, right?
F: I know. He’s like, ‘I’m a walking holy war.’ He’s so funny. And he said, yeah, in high school I never got the cheerleader. I had to like the left-of-center girl who was interested in the fact that I was all these things. And I’m looking at him in the interview and I’m thinking, ‘I was that girl’ – and I was a cheerleader. Like you shouldn’t have written me off.