Guess Who Came To Dinner?

Meeting your significant other’s parents for the 1st time is often “interesting.” Sometimes it’s a story retold for years.

For Christelyn D. Karazin, it’s a chapter in a book.

Christelyn Karazin

She publishes, aimed at African American women moving beyond racial boundaries. She’s also an accomplished lifestyle writer whose new book — Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed — will be published May 15.

One chapter is already generating buzz. Posted on the popular website, it describes her own “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” moment more than a decade ago, right here in town.

Mike flew me in from California to the foreign land of Westport, Connecticut, home of Michael Bolton, the late Paul Newman, and Martha Stewart (before she got run out of the place). I walked off the plane, covered head to toe with cold-deflecting clothes, but winters on the East Coast was like nothing I had ever experienced. The only way to describe it is, the cold went all the way through my hat, jacket, and sweater to my bones.

But there Mike was, his green eyes twinkling and brilliant smile so bright, I was warm in an instant. The hour-long ride from JFK to Westport had my stomach in knots and needing to get to the nearest gas station bathroom.

But that was just the start.

If there was one word to describe what it was like meeting the In-Laws Karazin for the first time, it would be “awkward.” Mike’s mother, who had never associated with black people in her life, and his father, a judge, probably saw his share of trifling black folks and had his antenna up for any possible hoodrat-iness. Introductions went all around, and I was my friendliest, bubbliest self. Mike’s father gave a terse greeting, little eye contact….

He probably was a bit uncomfortable, as was everyone else at the table, except for Mike, says he doesn’t remember being nervous. In fact, he can’t remember a thing about that day, except for the meeting-me-at-the-airport part. I was grateful for bedtime, but the next day was worse.

Someone—I can’t remember who—made an offhand remark about black people and . . . I lost it. Not in front of them, but I excused myself to weep in Mike’s older brother’s childhood room. I cried, then I got it together. No one was mean, no one was rude, but they were clearly uncomfortable, and so was I.

If it was going to be up to me to break the ice, I had the ice pick.

That was then. Now, according to her bio note on BeyondBlackWhite, Karazin has written for Woman’s Day, Better Homes & Gardens, Ebony/, and
Reuters News Service.

“Most importantly,” though, she is “a mother of four children– three of them biracial– and has been married to her husband, Michael, (who just happens to be white) for (almost) ten happy, hectic years.”

I look forward to reading Swirling, and seeing how the wedding went.

The Karazin family today.

9 responses to “Guess Who Came To Dinner?

  1. I loved reading this, Dan. My own memoir, coming out when I finish it, relates a similar story. I, a white Peace Corps Volunteer, was introduced to my future husband’s parents before I knew I would marry into the family. But they guessed, and were worried!

  2. Maybe this is not meant to be as auto-biographical as I’m reading it because I’m shocked that someone had this experience in Westport. It sounds more like a singular, individual’s experience than a town norm. It’s also, the use of – and, this isn’t exclusive to this author – the use of past & present resident ‘celebrity’ names more than a bit gratuitous. And, why fail to mention the significant ‘not white skinned’ past & present residents also of celebrity status?

  3. The bad news is that her experience can be matched in any commmunity in the US, including Westport. The good news is that, in my experience, the parties usually get past the initial discomfort/disorientation/reversion to stereotypes, etc. and get on with life with each other in good order. As far as the gratuitous reference to celebrities who have lived quietly in Westport for generations, that is sometimes necessary to give readers a snapshot of what the town might — might — be like. It’s an excusable and understandable device, especially since — believe it or not — Westport, CT means nothing to great chunks of the US population for whom it is just a town. If the author’s experience had occured in a blander community minus celebs, like, say, Summit, NJ or West Hartford, CT (no offense meant to either community), a potential publisher’s eyes might glaze over.

    • The use of resident celebrity names is crass. I understand that in this context its a publishing-marketing tool but, and especially because she left out the names of resudent-celebrities not ‘white skinned’, it’s harmful.

      • In no way is it “harmful.” I’m starting to wonder what your problem. I’m not quite sure, but I know it’s huge.

  4. Hey Anon [and you should be],
    Please provide a list of all those you wish mentioned in this chapter of someone else’s book and this blog. WHAAAT?

  5. Westport has been associated with its celebrity residents since the 1940s. None of them seemed to mind the occasional mention in the public press. Many came to Westport so that their kids could have normal lives, instead of the lives they’d lead in LA, and so they and their families could be part of a community. They achieved that goal when I was growing up in Westport in the 50s and 60s and I assume they continue to do so. I don’t kow how crassness enters into this at all, but, as I recall, we’ve been down this road before on this blog. Something about protecting Bette Davis’s sensibilities when Bette herself didn’t care to protect them. .

  6. I do not speak for Ms. Karazin, but her so-called “crass” name-dropping is a necessary device. In books, it’s called “framing”. Her readers are probably ignorant of Westport CT, but they are probably NOT ignorant of those boldface names. In order to make her readers understand just where she is (in terms of the lack of diversity, etc.), that is what she needed to do. There is no negative agenda afoot.

    I, too, look forward to hearing about the rest of the encounter — including the eventual wedding!

  7. rosemary jackson

    God bless you and your family ,