Alone in your Alone-ness

Thursday, my small family joined forces with a few other small families to form a large and diverse Thanksgiving dinner party.  The food was wonderful, and, after warming up to our friends and the host family’s lovely home, Baby N was comfortable enough to navigate the family room, the kitchen, and the dining room without our help.  Being physically separated from family can make the holidays either a trying time or an expensive time of travel, but thank God for friends nearby.

This was our first year having Thanksgiving with my husband’s coworkers, and they are an interesting bunch.  I made a new friend (who has the sweetest, most loving 7 month old son), and I am really looking forward to a play date.

But that’s not why I’m journaling tonight….

You can call me "Queenie".

You can call me “Queenie”.

During dinner, a conversation arose concerning one of the dishes: kabocha squash and quinoa.  The dish was out of the ordinary for traditional Thanksgiving fare, but quite tasty (N loved it!).  Even though I had never prepared kabocha squash, we often eat quinoa and other gourds in our house so it wasn’t a strange dish for us, but hearing people talk about it was amusing.  The funniest part of the conversation was hearing all the pronunciation attempts of the word “quinoa”.  Someone said they thought it was pronounced “queen-oh-ah” or “queenie-ow-ah”.  Another person laughed and said it looks like “key-noah”, suggesting that it takes after the Spanish “Quixote”.  The funniest attempt to me was, “Qua-ee-no-A”.  I still laugh when I say that out loud.  😀  Naturally, the conversation progressed to where quinoa, and the naming of it, originated, hoping that would shed some light on why it is spelled and pronounced the way it is.  I was in and out of the conversation mostly because I was trying to hold and feed N (who had her own agenda of trying to escape and engage in free range dining [now I know why high chairs have straps]).  But then I heard this,

“Well, even though it’s with the kabocha, it definitely isn’t a Japanese word.”

“Why are you looking at me?”

“Okay, you aren’t Japanese, but we’re still going to look at you.”

“Why?  Wait, am I the only Asian person here?!”

Quick, seemingly non-obvious glances around the room by everyone that everyone could see…

…laughter, real laughter (thank goodness).

Me (the only Black person there): “Hey, it’s okay, you’re not alone in your alone-ness.  You’re not the only one who’s just one of something.  Just saying.”

Laughter, still real, not nervous or awkward (still thankful).

My new friend (the only Latina there):  “Yeah, you’re not alone.  No one else here is from the Caribbean, either.  Way to go Bob.  Way to make everyone feel alone on Thanksgiving.”

*Bob is the white guy who started this part of the conversation, and that is definitely not his real name.  (I actually don’t know his name lol – husband’s coworker, remember?)

This little exchange really tickled me because it’s easy for me to notice when I’m the only Black person in a place, but I often forget to notice that I might not be the only minority just because there are no other Blacks there.  How many times have I been somewhere and not even noticed that there was also only one Brazilian or just one Indian* or the other only one minority present is actually white?  Where my husband and I live now, we’re both in the minority, which is actually kind of funny to me.  I know statistically he is a minority here, but, in general, I still don’t see him as being in the minority with me.  You would think that my perspective would shift with my surroundings, and it does sometimes, but not overall.  I didn’t notice at dinner that I was not the only minority until it was pointed out, but sometimes I do notice that I’m not alone in my alone-ness.  Maybe I notice when the other person has a more brown complexion?  Or maybe I notice when the other person is female?  I don’t know, but now that I’m more aware, it will be interesting to see what pops out for me in the future.

*Indian = person from India, not a Native American