Cassarica Nadas and Gareth Mays see themselves as an ordinary couple – even if other people refer to them as being in an interracial relationship. The pair has been dating for five years, having met online on a MXit chatroom.
There was a time in South Africa when laws such as the Group Areas Act, the Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act stopped people of different races from having relationships or from living in the same communities.
However, since the democratic dispensation brought South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights, people such as Cassarica Nadas and Gareth Mays have been able to build close relationships without being harassed by the law.
Mays and Nadas marked their fifth year as a couple on 8 November 2016. The two were in a long-distance relationship when Mays moved to Cape Town for work in January 2013. Nadas eventually moved to Cape Town in September 2014. They now live together in Johannesburg.
In light of Brand South Africa’s campaign, Play Your Part and Know Your Constitution, Play Your Part and Live Your Constitution, which was launched in October, this couple have spoken about their relationship.
The three-month-long campaign focuses on empowering people with knowledge and information about their rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Brand South Africa says this awareness is integral to the promotion and advancement of South Africa’s constitutional values.
MJ: How old are you and where did you grow up?
CN: I am 26. I grew up in Malabar, Port Elizabeth.
GM: I’m 30. I’m also from Port Elizabeth, the friendly city.
MJ: What month and year did you meet?
CN: We met in August 2011.
GM: Oh that’s trouble. I can’t say which month exactly, but it was mid-2011.
MJ: How did you meet?
CN: Gareth and I met while in a chatroom on MXit. I thought he was interesting and we continued to chat over the next couple of weeks. He then wanted to meet me in person, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I was aware of all the horror stories people tell of meeting people online.
One day after his badgering, I finally said yes and told him to come on that specific day or I wasn’t going to agree on meeting him again. I remember thinking there was no way he would come, with having responsibilities at work. I was so wrong. Gareth took off time from work and we met at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University campus where we chatted for a few hours. I skipped class and he showed me the architecture building I had never seen on campus.
GM: We met online, over MXit. I was charming and mysterious, of course.
MJ: How did it feel when you started dating someone from a different culture?
CN: There were no real feelings towards dating someone who was out of my culture. Gareth was my first boyfriend and I had more feeling towards my new relationship than any feelings towards his culture.
Gareth’s family is very much like my own in a sense that they look after each other and I felt very comfortable with them. I also feel quite westernised in my own culture and I identified with Gareth’s culture more than what someone would think I did in my own culture.
GM: My feelings were somewhat neutral, because cultural differences aren’t a major focus in my family. Essentially Cassie’s and my interests and habits were similar already.
MJ: How did your families respond to your relationship?
CN: My family were a bit cautious when I first introduced Gareth to them. He was the first boy I brought home who was not a friend. It was new to everyone. They didn’t have a problem with his race or culture. They had more of a problem that he was the guy who was taking away their daughter, like most parents have.
GM: They were positive. Cassie is my sweetheart and probably more favourited by my parents than me.
MJ: How have their attitudes changed or evolved over time?
CN: My parents are very accepting of Gareth. They treat him like a son and are always buying him gifts. He is part of the family.
GM: Only in the sense that we or they are closer and more loving.
MJ: How did your family feel when you moved in together?
CN: My parents were not keen at first. They are old school and have different principles and values. It was tough at first but they quickly came around. When we moved in together I moved to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth, so my parents were also dealing with my moving away as well as moving in with Gareth. We then moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg together. Skyping my parents helped a lot with this transition and I keep in touch via Whatsapp and phone calls.
GM: My family is indifferent. We believe individuals are free to make their own choices. I suppose supportive would be more accurate to say. Bottom line is it was our choice, not anyone else’s.
MJ: How do young people versus older people react when they see you together – especially strangers?
CN: We have never really had any outwardly negative reactions from other people. Most people are accepting of us or hide it really well. Young people don’t seem to be bothered about our relationship but I do get some stares from the older generation when we are out shopping.
GM: I’d say younger ages don’t really react differently. Older people may give one or two odd stares. This is the best time to kiss your girlfriend.
MJ: What have been your worst and best experiences as an interracial couple?
CN: The worst experience has been people judging Gareth based on the colour of his skin. I lived in a predominantly Indian and coloured neighbourhood. When Gareth used to drop me off at my parents’ house while we were still in Port Elizabeth, we had incidents of people who lived in my street making comments as I got out of the car. They would remark on his race and what car he drove.
One lady who lived a street away from me saw my friend’s mum at a corner shop and said: “Cassie walks on egg shells, because of her white boyfriend who drives a BMW.” My friend’s mum didn’t even respond to that lady. I feel people are quick to pass judgement without knowing how it can hurt others.
I wouldn’t say that there has been a best experience as an interracial couple, but we have had many experiences as a couple that have been amazing. A particular one was when we lived in Cape Town and we were walking to the shops. Gareth was helping me to put on a plaster because I had burnt my hand. To people who were passing by, it must have looked like he was proposing and this lady basically pushed half her body out the car window and started shouting at me to say “Yes!” and she wouldn’t stop until I did.
Of course, he wasn’t proposing but it was wonderful to see a random person get excited for someone else’s happiness.
GM: I really can’t say what the worst was. I guess those types of events I let go and move passed quickly. It’s no one’s business except our own. The best experiences are just like anybody else’s. I guess the only stories that spring to mind are when we approach counters or clerks and they don’t know we’re together so we let them think that till the last moment. Then a surprise kiss or hug throws them.
MJ: What do you love most about each other?
CN: My favourite things about Gareth are that he knows me very well it is almost scary. He knows when I want something and I haven’t asked yet, and then he just does it. It is almost as if he reads my mind. I also like that he is very intellectual and that we can discuss serious topics and joke about crazy things.
GM: Cassie’s cheeky or mischievous laugh, or when she knows she’s up to nonsense and I catch her. I love her cute and lovable nature. Also, I love how much she likes unicorns. She makes me feel whole and happy.
MJ: What do you have in common?
CN: We love technology, gaming, and enjoy the same movies, especially superhero movies and animation.
GM: We love being comfortable and growing together.
MJ: Finish this sentence: Love is…
CN: Being able to count on one another, to look past the flaws and accept all of a person.
GM: Tea… and maybe roti.
MJ: What do you like about the Constitution?
CN: Our Constitution looks after our interests and makes it easier for us to be who we are. Without the Constitution in place we would not be able to express ourselves freely or be with who we love.
GM: We have one of the best if not most advanced constitutions in the world. I’d say it is part of what makes me a proud citizen of this country.
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