Here’s hoping that one day their innocent love will break down the institutions that bind them.
Deep within Melbourne’s metropolitan jungle there exists a rare and beautiful mixed race couple; but, be careful not to spook them, they meet in the shadows. For this interview, the couple have adopted a pair of aliases to ensure their relationship remains a secret. So let this be the story in which Frank and Claire Underwood, from Netflix cult hit House of Cards reveal their ongoing struggle of dedication and oppression, in which they strive to make the phrase ‘love conquers all’, their reality.
How did the two of you meet?
Frank Underwood: The place where everyone has a sesh, AKA Hungry Jacks.
Claire Underwood: I was new and he was already in the back flipping burgers like a real chef.
How long have you two been together?
Both: 3 years
Why do you have to hide your relationship?
Frank: My family is strictly religious; it is looked down upon in my religion because of the implications a relationship has (it is a sin). I’m not a practising Muslim myself, so if my family found out, they would most definitely kick me out of the house or possibly disown me. Also culturally, my parents are very traditional and had an arranged marriage, so they don’t completely grasp the concept of a relationship. That’s why hiding ours would be best for us for now.
Claire: I come from an East Asian family that are a little conservative, and I’m a first born Australian myself so you can see where our values differ. Since he happens to have a darker complexion, you can probably figure out why I’m keeping it on the down low. Being against interracial dating might be something from the ‘50s, you might think, but it’s still surprisingly a thing that people are kind of uncomfortable with. And even when we walk down the street sometimes, people would glance over at us twice without thinking.
How do you hide a long-term relationship?
Frank: We try to avoid places where our parents or close family friends will most likely be at. It is much easier online because we simply don’t post stuff on Facebook, nor do we tag each other in memes … sadly.
Claire: Online is easy because I rarely post stuff on there anyway as it is. In public it’s harder, but I usually get him to pick me up a street down my house just in case my parents sneak a peek out the window (which they have done by the way), otherwise, we take our chances with that.
In the initial stages of the relationship, did you realise how big the religion and race factor would be?
Frank: At the start I personally knew that the religion factor was going to be a big deal, and I knew my parents could not find out, but as we went along it became clearer that our families would not be as accepting of each other due to those race and religion factors.
Claire: I guess when people start going out, they don’t think about things in the long-run and neither did we really. It’s not like I was thinking about meeting his parents or him meeting mine and making things awkward between us. But, I did know that we needed to keep it on the down low for the time being and it kinda became a habit for another three years. And the religion thing doesn’t bother us since we both don’t identify with any particular religious label.
How does it affect your relationship?
Frank: Honestly we both recognise that our parents cannot find out so we are very understanding of each other when we are unable to make it to an event or have to cancel on something due to family plans. Sometimes we can’t see each other for a long duration of time. Sometimes weeks because of this, which sucks, but I don’t think our relationship is affected that much.
Claire: It sometimes sucks seeing my friends being able to do whatever they want, whenever they want with their boyfriends or girlfriends; normal things like coming over and actually watching Netflix and not the things parents always think you’re up to. It can be super stressful sometimes to always come up with a lie like, ‘Hey I’m going out for dinner with friend number 24,’ when we just wanna hang out (and I really am running dry with thinking of excuses now). But, in the end it makes our occasional arguments here and there seem really trivial since we’re faced with a much bigger one in the scheme of things – it makes us work well together.
Has your family ever suspected?
Frank: My family has never suspected anything of the sort because they think I am still practising my religion. Most times when I see her, I would say “I’m going out with friends, or going to uni.” My family just assumes I am at those places and they’re not very intrusive so they never question me about it.
Claire: My dad actually drove him home one time and didn’t question me that much. BUT, they did bring up one time that they would never have it if I brought home someone who was ‘dark-skinned’, but it was okay if I were friends with them. Like that would make their statement any better!
Have you ever thought about telling your parents? If so, how?
Frank: I don’t know how I would have to break it to my parents, if I had to it would probably be after I have moved out because I would know I will have a place to go if it turns out badly. If I did have to tell them, I would have to make them understand that I’m not religious and that having a girlfriend does not make me a bad person.
Claire: I’ve always envisioned they’d find out by something really dumb – like them stumbling on our messages or something.
How would your parents react if they found out?
Frank: My parents would most likely kick me out, or force me to break up and try to restore my faith in religion.
Claire: They’d just be unwilling to accept it for a long time; but my situation is nowhere as drastic as his that’s for sure.
Do you have any funny stories you’d like to share? Like near busts?
Frank: On multiple occasions, her parents or grandparents have come home to check up on stuff, so I’ve had to hide in the closet a few times which I have to say is very uncomfortable. Or I’ve had to sneak out of the house when they are on the opposite side of the house which is definitely heart racing.
Claire: It’s happened way too many times.
Art by Julia Chetwood
IG – @juliachetwood