"I been hurting Since I bought the gimmick About something called love" - Iggy Pop, Lust for Life courtesy of DJ Jessica.
I sat down at the iron wrought tables and chairs facing the 4 young women sitting just a couple tables down. They were young but couldn't tell if they were high school or college age at first. A little eavesdropping and it was easy to tell that they were high school seniors. They discussed which colleges they were accepted into and talked about their boyfriends and the crazy guy that had tried hitting on them in Noah's Bagels who wouldn't take No for an answer. It was inane conversation but that's not why I was paying attention to them as I drank my Jamba Juice (Orange Dream Machine with a Fiber Boost if you're wondering). I examined them because I couldn't tell what they were and I found it curious in light of the book I had brought to read, Half and Half, a gift courtesy of a new np reader, cynthia.
Not one of them appeared to be all of something. There were Asian, Polynesian, Latino influences in their skin tone and faces. There was just a hint of their mixed ethnic heritage in some of their mannerisms. They seemed very white to me over-all though. Likely students at the prestigious and private Notre Dame High School or Harvard-Westlake a little further east, they were obvious victims of success. With one parent likely making their first foray into middle/upper-middle class, their families moved up and moved out exchanging much of their cultural identity for the supposed benefits of an idyllic American lifestyle. The trade is far less stark in Los Angeles than most places, our cultural roots and diversity are so strong here that it's unlikely you would be able to insulate yourself from the others even if you wanted to, but there is a trade. For most minorities, success often is synonymous with separation from your roots. That intensifies exponentially if you happen to date outside your ethnic community.
I date White girls*. It's not as if it's a deliberate thing but the majority of my relationships have been with white women. Most recently there was Molly, or Mauli if you accept her unofficial reinterpretation of her name, she was French Canadian and Irish. Ex-Girl, Amy, was full blooded Italian, mostly Sicilian. In high school, there was the polish Tracy who lived next door and who I hooked up with on occasion on the roof of our building. Before that, there was Becca (Half-White/Half Argentinean) and our tryst at a conference in Bloomington, Indiana. And first on the list was Kara, the daughter of two biracial parents, both with South American lineages.
I outline this only because it gives me pause. When I was with Ex-Girl, she often created the path that she imagined our life would have. She wanted to live in some community where the schools were great, the children were safe, we could smell the woods and spend our time in them, and live a nice, happy life. And that did seem like a wonderful situation at the time. My childhood was somewhat nomadic. I went to three different elementary schools, 2 different junior high schools before we settled in. There were desperate times in my family. We lived out of a motel for 6 months once. But...we always lived in mostly urban, mostly diverse communities. I won't say integrated because that word suggests something I'm not sure I like but they were multicultural. I realize now how valuable that was. That experience was as important to forming who I am as was our mostly middle-class lifestyle. That was particularly true once we made our stake in Los Angeles. Even if I was the only black kid in the smart kid classes, I didn't feel alone. It wasn't a shock to see other brown skinned people. In the times I've lived in less diverse communities, I immediately start counting. There was that one brother at radio shack...I saw a black woman getting gas...The Asians at the Chinese Restaurant but I think they were Vietnamese. Ex-Girl's ideal life is a nice life but it's also a very white life. I don't want to have to count. I don't want to have to think about it. I wouldn't want my children to have to consider that they were unique and different all the time. That they were always "the other". I wouldn't want them to lose connection to the things that have been true to me most of my life.
That diversity is not something to fear. That all of our cultural currency is valuable. That you can easily live in all circles if you want to. That difference brings knowledge and understanding and imagination and multiple perspectives and art and laughter and love and life.
That everyone is an other. We're all others. And brothers. And sisters. Twisted together in such a way that we can be as comfortable in each other's space as we are in our own.
I guess what this really is is a kind of prenuptial to whomever I end up spending my life with. I suspect it will be someone with a different ethnic makeup than me as that tends to be my deal. I'm telling you right now, you will not be taking me to the suburbs. You will not be selling me on the benefits of that homogenous lifestyle. Being in a half + half relationship no longer means I'm giving up my half.
Ya smell me?