(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)
I‘ve missed out on ethnicity, I said.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Around the pool, drinking Alicia’s smoothies for breakfast with two of my neighbors, Bob Johnson, a retired farmer from Massachusetts, and Don Jackson who used to own his own CPA firm, I was thinking again.
Don’t you miss having an ethnic background, Don? What are you, anyway, Dutch?
“My mother’s family is Finnish and my father’s is German/Irish,” he said, somewhat defensively.
“And I’m Irish, Catholic,” said Bob in support. “What are you talking about?”
Just look at this morning’s smoothie. There is nothing even remotely ethnic about it.
“But it’s good,” Bob said. “Why do you think we come over here? To listen to you?”
Ignoring him, I continued.
Take my wedding. I got married in a Polish church. There was a Polish reception. A polka band played. They had a one-armed drummer. It was great. It was so foreign. As if I was in a foreign county, only it was on the Tug Hill Plateau. It was fun.
When I grew up we didn’t have anything like that. Fortunately for my psychological development, I didn’t know anything was missing. Everyone around me was just like me: white and Christian. The only hint that we were missing anything was the occasional Italian friend who might invite me over for dinner. That’s when I discovered that there were ways to cook food other than boiling.
Bob and Don were pretending to be keenly involved in their smoothies.
As a matter of fact, food seems to be the center of all of my culture deficiencies. I’ve got no culinary imagination. The most diverse thing in my kitchen is Australian Shiraz. Since my parents were Irish, English, German, and Catholic, the only thing I knew about culture was boiled food, beer, and St Patrick’s Day. And everyone gets to celebrate St. Patrick. Everyone gets to pretend they’re Irish – how fair is that?
Just look around. Everyone is oozing with passionate ethnicity. Asian-Americans have brains and restaurants. African-Americans own jazz, soul, rap, hip-hop, in fact, most music. Hispanic groups own the rest of the music and salsa. And, they have a language. American Indians own casinos. Greeks have their own food. Italians and Jews both appreciate the same thing: mothers and food. Again. Food. It’s always food.
“Aren’t you stereotyping, again?” asked Don.
My whole life is stereotyped. And, I continue to be stuck with it. Life is boring. We even have a community gate to keep people out who are different. Except to clean our pools and take care of our lawns, that is.
Going to a party with you guys is boring. It’s always the same food: beige. Always the same beer and wine: also beige. No music. Ever. And the same middle aged, white women.
“I should bring somebody besides my wife?” asked Don.
We are boring.
“Wait a minute,” Bob said. “Isn’t Alicia from Georgia?”
Southern does not count. It would help if she were Black or Cuban – at least that would be interesting. But NASCAR, a flag, and deep-fry does not count as ethnic culture.
No, I continued, I’ve been disadvantaged all of my life. I’m just now realizing it. My whole family is deprived.
Don and Bob both looked worried. “You’re not going to tell this to your kids?”
I don’t know. At least they’re half Polish. Maybe if I warn them they can marry into culture.