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

Now who’s eating humble pie

I met a new friend in my CrossFit class last month, and we get along very well.  We have a few things in common and often chat before and after class.  This month, our friendship left the gym and went out for drinks and appetizers.  Because of her name, accent, and appearance (caramel skin and eyes, straight-ish brown hair with highlights), I just assumed she was Hispanic and didn’t think much of it.  But then one day, she was holding my daughter and fluently speaking German to her!  Not Spanish…German.  I was so surprised that it took me a second to realize that my husband, who also speaks German and not Spanish, was chatting with her in not-Spanish.

Not Spanish.

I couldn’t believe it.  I found out over drinks yesterday that her mother is white American and her dad is Sudanese, and they raised their family in Germany.

She’s German.

Now who’s eating humble, misconception pie…. 🙂

Good Queen Charlotte

mother and baby in Charlotte

I don’t know what kind of woman Queen Charlotte was so I can’t say if she would have been proud or not of how Baby N and I were treated while visiting the U.S. city named after her.  Honestly, in her time, people with earthy tones to their pigmentation where not thought of highly so she probably would have stood aghast at the sight of kindness and consideration being given to a minority woman and her mixed-race baby.

Or, if she was forward-thinking and kind herself, she would have been proud.

Either way, N and I had a blast in Charlotte!  Not one single person asked me if she was mine…not a one.  Maybe she looks more like me now?  Maybe.  Regardless, our short trip to the Queen City was fabulous.  Of course, it would have been better if hubby was there, but we still had fun.   🙂

I do have two stories to tell you from that trip.  I’ll tell you one now and post the other one later.

Baby and I went to NC for my little brother’s wedding and stayed in a very nice hotel in uptown Charlotte.  The morning of the celebration, we had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant with my brother and another couple that were good friends of his.  After a delicious meal complete with pleasant, comfortable conversations, it was time to pay.  Now, I must tell you, my younger brother is about the same complexion I am and the other couple is also Black American.  Our waiter was white and had similar features to my husband (but he didn’t know that).  After asking if everything was okay with the meal, he then asked if he should split the check between the two couples, which my brother immediately responded, “Oh, we’re not a couple.  She’s my sister.”  The waiter let out a huge sigh and started laughing.  He nodded to Baby N and said, “Well nooow she makes sense!  I was like, ‘Man, he must be really in love if he doesn’t notice.  But how can he not notice?!’  That baby looks like she could be mine,” which was even funnier to us.

I liked this exchange between the waiter and our party because he didn’t express doubt that she was my daughter, just curiosity regarding her father.  And he was right!  Justin was not her dad and her dad really does favor him.  What’s also interesting to me is that we were in the South.  We were in an upscale establishment.  We were obviously very familiar with each other (almost everyone at the table held N at some point during the meal).  I wonder how a different waiter’s mental conversation would have gone in another setting like a hometown restaurant in the Midwest?  Or an artsy cafe in Cali?

Ooo, which reminds me, I owe you yet another story from Christmas 2012.  It’s a good one, too.  🙂