Is my new husband’s teenage daughter a racist?
THE man of my dreams and I got married in 2017 and I adore my John. He is white and I am black — and I feel proud of our union.
I’m nearly 51, he’s 47. We don’t see my adult kids too often, though I speak to them daily.
John is divorced from Sally and has four kids. Sally and I get on fine; she’s in a new relationship.
My problem is with John’s eldest daughter Jade (15). Things had been fine; I’d even been sharing revision duties with Sally which was fun.
However, I found Jade’s cannabis when she was staying with us and wanted to leave the discipline to John and Sally, but Jade accused me of trying to come between her and her father and of telling on her — which isn’t exactly what happened.
Here’s the worst part — and I am crying as I write this — Jade called me a ‘black b***h’. I was really hurt.
John’s family have been lovely to me generally, but there is a little tension, as I am the only non-white person in his family.
I try not to let it bug me, but I can’t help feeling self-conscious. Anyway, Jade also told me she wished her dad hadn’t married me and that I embarrass her. Whenever I remember her words, I feel absolutely crushed.
I tried to talk to John, but he always seems cagey and Jade still hasn’t apologised. I don’t know how to broach the subject without being the typical black person going on about race. But I also wonder if that’s how she really feels.
Now I’m scared of saying anything because John and I have never really had a conversation about race — or rather, racism, as I tend to avoid the subject.
He’d hit the roof if I called Jade a racist. Maybe I’m being oversensitive. I honestly don’t know.
I’m starting to feel desperate and dreading Christmas. I’m confused about John not saying anything to Jade.
Please help me find a way to address this with my husband and his daughter, whom I loved before now. Now she’s like a stranger and I hate feeling so bitter. I just want things back the way they were.
This is such a sad story, but it makes me angry, too. A teenage stepdaughter can often prove troublesome, but this one had absolutely no right to speak to you like that. her abuse was vile. No wonder it makes you cry.
in love with your husband as you are, establishing a stable, contented family and forging a good relationship with John’s ex-wife, you’d reached a pinnacle of proud contentment — until this.
Although you do mention ‘a little tension, as i am the only non-white person in his family’, that may even be hindsight — because of Jade.
‘Over-sensitive’? surely not. Anybody in your position would feel desperately wounded. To be honest, i’m so appalled i feel at a loss.
so perhaps my way into this dilemma must be to do what you have sensibly made your policy — and avoid the race issue for a moment. Because many a step-parent has had to endure appalling rudeness (and worse) from a beloved partner’s offspring.
SUPPOSE Jane had called you a ‘tedious, interfering old cow’ — what would i say? i’d advise putting some distance between the girl and you, deep breathing to regain self-control — and only then to find a moment to explain to her very quietly and calmly just how hurtful her words were.
say you don’t believe she meant it, but was just hitting out because she’d been caught. emphasise that you love her and have been very happy in your relationship until this point.
Then add that you don’t expect a
great discussion, but just hope she is sorry she hurt your feelings... because then you can put an end to it. A mature, measured approach.
Jade’s response may be a shuffling embarrassment and a muttered ‘Sorry’ at best or sullen silence at worst. Because that’s what teenagers tend to be like (believe me, I brought up two of the difficult creatures). The key is to expect very little. Then you won’t be disappointed.
Of course, nobody should have to endure racist abuse. However, you make the important point that you ‘loved’ Jade before this. Surely that indicates there was no whisper of prejudice in any of her dealings with you before the row? If there had been, I doubt you could have written that you ‘loved’ her.
So suppose my scenario above is correct and she was just lashing out because she was caught out. Perhaps she is consumed with guilt and remorse.
But here we come back to the words themselves. Did they come from her deepest self? Do they identify her as a racist — and, if so, should you call her that to your husband?
My answer to those questions has to be a conciliatory ‘No’ for the sake of your husband. And because I don’t think a 15-year-old is entirely responsible for their actions and words (one reason never to give the vote to under18s) and to called her a ‘racist’ would just trade abuse for abuse.
No good can come of it. I don’t think you can ask John (in effect) to choose between his wife and daughter — although, of course, in time you and he need to have a serious conversation about what this incident did to you. That cannot be avoided.
What happened was horrible — but right now you have a choice about whether to let it spoil Christmas and potentially affect the rest of your married life or put it behind you.
You are right to believe that all discipline must come from Jade’s parents. So I would step back for the sake of your own dignity — but be sure to find the time to have that crucial talk with her, along the lines I suggest above.
You will have to take rigid control of your feelings and stay calm. I hope with all my heart you can deal with this and realise that, although you can never un-hear what the girl said, you have it in your power not to allow those stupid words to damage your life.