How’d you get from a dance studio to the altar?
It was fate. I was living in Paris and one day my French roommate invited me to her African dance class. That’s where I first saw Fernando, my husband. He’s a percussionist and played for the class. He was with two other percussionists, all shirtless, and everyone was sweating and dancing. I thought, “Wow, who is that?!”
Sounds like something out of the movies.
We all went to a café after class. Suddenly, Fernando looked right into my eyes and, basically, I was toast. We all went to a party later and he spoke English! Very well! We had instant chemistry and talked, laughed, flirted, and danced all evening. That was the beginning of our now 23 years together.
How do you define your multi-ethnic family?
Gee, I don’t know, maybe GLOBAL! I guess we are Franco-American in that we all speak French and English, we go to France every year, our son went to a French school for six years. But we also have the Spanish, Japanese-Hawaiian and pioneer stock Irish-British in there as well.
You relocated to California from France in 1993. Why?
Although I love Paris and consider it one of my homes, I was having trouble finding work and that was hard on me. We began discussing a possible move to Los Angeles. I figured it would be a good place for my husband’s music career. Even so, these were not easy conversations. I was always saying, “I’m not asking you to move to Ohio. It’s LA!” Then one morning Fernando just said, “I think I could see myself living in LA.” It was a huge breakthrough and I’m so grateful that he was willing to take that leap.
January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, is big in France. How do you celebrate?
We love making and eating a Galette des Rois, a flaky, puff pastry with sweet, almond paste inside. You bake a little ceramic feve, or favor, inside the cake. When it’s time to cut the cake, the youngest person in the room gets under the table and the person cutting the cake asks, “Okay, who gets this piece?” And the youngest chooses who gets each piece. Whoever bites into the piece with the feve becomes the king and wears a crown that you’ve made that day. My son is always asking, “Can’t we make it on other days other than for Galette des Rois?” It’s so delicious!
Do you ever get tripped up by your cultural differences?
I think there are certain things that you can’t relate to unless you grew up somewhere. So there are things we may not feel or experience in the same way, but we try to at least be understanding of them. But yeah, sometimes in an argument we may say something like, “Oh, that’s so FRENCH!” or “Oh, very American.” LOL. On the plus side, we’ve got family in Hawaii and Paris. I mean, it could be worse, right?
Any tips for other cross-cultural couples?
Embracing your spouse’s family and culture as your own goes a long way. Fernando says that he appreciates my “French-ness” very much and that it’s made it easier for him to live in the U.S. The fact that I speak French, that I lived there and loved it and continue to love it and want to go there, that I learned how to prepare French meals and that we eat in a traditionally French way. For my part, I appreciate his relationship with my mother. He calls her “Mom” and she knows that he’s there for her.
The best part about being in a cross-cultural relationship?
Oh, my gosh, I love it! I can’t imagine anything else at this point after 23 years. It expands your experiences and your world view. Even now, we still discover new things about each other. We still correct each other’s language mistakes and the way we say things or interpret things can still crack us up. It keeps life interesting and fun!