Taking a risk here, I expect backlash because that is how it goes these days. We forget that we all have experiences that are valid, we all have opinions. If you don’t like mine, feel free to create a blog, I will read it and respect your willingness to be exposed and true to yourself.
I have been thinking a lot about being “the other”, I decided to go way back and really think about it…
Sitting in classrooms from K-12 knowing others could read so easily, so fluently, so gracefully…not me, waiting for my turn to read aloud was torture. Being picked for kickball, standing in shame, how long would it take for the captain to look back and forth at the line of kids, past me, why did they always take so long? Watching all of the kids leave for CCD, why did they have Sunday school on Wednesdays? Why did the school day stop when they left? Why did certain kids have so many pairs of jeans, I get that the pocket had a different design, but how did that work, how did they get new clothes every single weekend? At art school I realized that kids actually had art at their high schools, not an old lady with tenure doing her makeup at the desk yelling da-rawwww go, da-rawww sumthin…these kids had ceramics, life drawing, and printing presses… they were at art school to continue learning, not to start. It was all fascinating how different I was from so many people. The other.
Being the other can really hurt. I will never forget failing my interview with the priest of the Catholic Church my boyfriend’s family attended…he was willing to forgive me for not being Catholic (after all, everyone cannot be that lucky at birth), but he was completely floored to hear that as an Armenian, I was not Armenian Orthodox. What on earth? How could my parents go so wrong, I was so close to being in the top tier of heaven (not the penthouse like Catholics, but high up there) and my parents blew it. How could I fit in with his family if I was not one of them? Sigh. The other.
A friend told me this story. She was working for a big company that is kind of WASPy, and the hip twenty somethings were getting ready to leave for the long Thanksgiving weekend, one turned to her and innocently said “what do you do for Thanksgiving”…like Jewish people didn’t know of this unique and fantastical holiday. My friend was angry but also frozen, how do you teach someone that clueless about religion and American History in just 30 seconds of pleasantries. My mom tells the story of meeting my 100% German grandma, my grandma (so white she was transparent) looked at my Armenian (with a summer tan) mom and with out an ounce of shame said, “a schvatza”. Look it up. Not nice. The other.
I fit in pretty well with different groups. I pass. Due to my own swarthy summer skin color and my commitment to volunteering while working full time, I hear what people say about the other. When visiting Italy, Mexico, and Guatemala people assume I speak the language. I am treated better, at least until I speak. When at a client recap meeting, the guy who complains about the amount of “breeders” at the event the night before. Hmmmm, I was at that opening, I just noticed a bunch of families. When with working moms, they talk about “those women at home all day, doing nothing but volunteering” (when in fact their very children are benefitting from the work these women do). When with my PTA crew they complain about “the working moms, who do nothing”. How can everyone be doing nothing? How can everyone be the other?
Lately I hear old timers from our town talking about the newbies, “those Brooklyn people”, “nobody home with the kids, they eat all organic, maybe if they just ate normal they could raise their own kids”, “they walk, e-ver-y where, what we need is parking”…it is hysterical since the people making these comments just made cajoodles of money by selling their homes to “those people”.
So… after rehashing my existence of being the other…not being smart enough, talented enough, Catholic enough, stay at home parent enough, PTA hating enough, Pleasantville enough…I realized I am so f*cking lucky.
I am crazy lucky, because 99.99% of the time I am very comfortable. I am just another hardworking, business owning, wife, friend, volunteer, mom in suburbia. I do not worry that my son will be murdered for running, driving, breathing. I do not fear being pulled over by authority when I am in the wrong, and I have mouthed off to authority without being harmed (other than punished by my parents) when I was in the right. I walk into stores and I am not followed. I attended college and it was not assumed I was on a scholarship. I can go birding and not have the world shocked that I have a hobby. I wake up every day with the promise that it can just be another day.
To those who feel like the other every single second of every single day, I apologize for being in my bubble and not realizing how hard it must be, how exhausting. I am trying to do better, to be better. I appreciate that you are angry that it took people so long to see and hear you. I appreciate you being patient while we learn how to understand the situation and do better. I hope someday there is no other.