Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ethnic Identity

image I spent all day in bed listening to music and writing (which is not as bad as it sounds; there's literally no where else to sit in the whole house except my desk and the piano bench--it's all the piano studio, which is why I usually go to Borders--but I'm trying to save money).

It's just I kept finding more music (Thank God for YouTube), particularly Mana, an AWESOME Mexican band (thanks, Melanie!).

And this is crazy. I didn't go downstairs to eat until about 5 because I didn't want to take my headphones off and stop hearing music. (I've just emerged from a LONG dry spell when it comes to listening. And I'm not good at listening and doing something else. If I'm listening to music, I'm listening to music.)

I am totally in love with Mana. I want to learn to speak Spanish so I can understand Mana.

A voice can totally turn me on. If you go here and listen to the first free track, he talks in Spanish. I have absolutely no idea what he's saying, but man does he have a voice that makes me melt.

Listening to Mana got me thinking about ethnic identity. I'm a mutt, of course. My father who was not biologically related to me was French; biologically I'm mostly German and Native American and West Virginian (well, isn't that an ethnicity, LOL?!)  My non-birth mother is biologically related to me, so I've known that part of the family, but aside from the West Virginian thing, they weren't particularly ethnic, and even then it was more accidental than pride.

Anyway, after my dad died, my mother married into an Italian family. Growing up in an Italian family (I imagine in any ethnic family) forms part of your identity. (Talk about burying your lead!)

It's something that's always there; like if you go to a strange new town, you're automatically part of the group, you know? There's some elemental relationship that is there, some automatic connection.

Like, when I went off to college, my stepfather went up and got me settled into Little Italy. I was given a job and an apartment that very day in the neighborhood, and my stepfather was promised everyone would look out for me.

But I'm a mutt. So once I was out in the real world without the family name or Italian looks, I was suddenly no longer Italian. It's a bit strange, because you go to a party and all the Italians are grouped together and you feel like you belong there but... to them, you're not Italian.

Of course, they're friendly and stuff, but they don't relate to you in... that way. I can't quite explain the difference, but it's there, and it's both subtle and big.

When that connection isn't there, when that part of your identity is no longer there, it feels weird. I kinda miss it sometimes.

That probably sounds strange.

I was also adopted, so I'm told (and agree) that it's just part of it to always feel a little bit alone. This isn't an identity crisis, LOL. I'm not sure why I'm on this tangent today.

It makes me wonder: as Americans, do we have an ethnic identity?

It's one reason why I miss DH so much. He's my one touchstone, my one sort of always-there foundation. My best friend is like that, too, but it's different, too.

To be part of a family but not quite or not really can be weird. Unless I can make my own, I suppose it will be the story of my  life. I wish DH was here, though.

I need to find a way to hook my computer up to some good speakers. This is Mana singing Rayando el Sol, which seems to suit my mood perfectly today. I haven't the slightest clue what the lyrics mean, LOL. I could be listening to a song talking about happy birds and thinking it's melancholy! Do you know what it means?

19 bonus scribbles:

Erica Orloff 6/29/2008 06:12:00 PM  

OK . . . translation (roughly!!!)

Scratching the sun
Scratching it for you
This sorrow hurts me, it burns me without your love
You didn't call me, I am desperate
I cried for you under many moons
Scratching the sun

Despair!
It is easier arriving at the sun that at your heart
I am dying for you

I am living without you
And I cannot stand it anymore, it hurts a lot to be this way
Scratching the sun
I went to your house, and I did not find you

In the park, in the square, in the theater I searched for you
I have got you trapped between my skin and my soul
But I cannot stand it anymore and I want to be with you
Scratching the sun

Despair!
It is easier arriving at the sun that at your heart
Scratching for you
I am dying for you, I am dying because I am not living with you and I can't stand it, it hurts a lot to be this way
Scratching the sun
Scratching the sun
Despair!
It is easier arriving at the sun that at your heart
I am dying for you, I am dying because I am not living with you and I can't stand it, it hurts a lot to be this way

Scartching, scratching the sun
scratching the sun
Scratching it for you...

spyscribbler 6/29/2008 06:18:00 PM  

Well, crap. That's exactly how I'm trying not to feel, LOL.

Okay, I'm buying this album. Just one, I swear!

Erica Orloff 6/29/2008 06:18:00 PM  

Now onto ethnic identity.

My father is Russian. I very much identify with that, so much so that the Magickeepers trilogy is about a Russian family. I think a lot of Russians fit that "brooding" stereotype. I know my father does. When I saw Eastern Promises, I saw my family on film, I felt. They are fiercely proud and can be ruthless.

My mother's side is Slavic. They are LOUD and FUN and BOISTEROUS, and a total opposite of my father's family, which was closed and dark, and not like that at all.

My kids' father is Mexican. His mother disowned him because she despises me so much. But his FATHER (they are divorced) is one of my favorite people in the whole world. He is a classical violist, and he is so terrific and music is part of him--a bond he shares with Oldest. I want my children to be very proud of their Mexican heritage. And though they are basically "mixed" race, in that regard (and Hispanic is more of an ethnic identity but it is a racial identifier for most censuses and so on), and I always identify them as Hispanic . . . I use sugar bowls and china from the great-grandmother they never knew on that side, and I have all these little bits of her around. I never met her either, but I like feeling like their heritage is a blending and seamless in their lives.

spyscribbler 6/29/2008 06:36:00 PM  

I totally want to ask you how your mother and father met. Sounds like a story to me.

I'm really looking forward to Magickeepers.

That's awful about your mother in law. It sounds beautiful, that seamless blending. You know, I was briefly reminded of your Middle when I wrote this--was it?--who was upset that she looked the least Hispanic. (Or is my memory mixing up the story?)

Erica Orloff 6/29/2008 06:45:00 PM  

Hi Spy:
My dad and mom met on a ski trip. He didn't ski and went to party and play cards. He saw her and that was it. They were married like six months later--love at first sight. Supposedly, bookies were laying odds they wouldn't last past the honeymoon. I was born nine months and 8 days later. After I was born, they had some hellacious fight and my mom left in the middle of a cold day, with me in a bundle. She sat on the stoops of their apartment until midnight or something . . . and thought, "I'll be damned if I'm going to prove everyone right about it not lasting." 45 years later, they are still together. He's blind and she takes care of him, and he is madly, insanely, pathetically in love with her.
E

Erica Orloff 6/29/2008 06:46:00 PM  

Spy:
P.S. Yes, my Baby Girl is sad she has blue eyes and freckles and doesn't look Mexican. But she is beautiful!!! I'll send you a picture.

spyscribbler 6/29/2008 07:32:00 PM  

*big sigh* LOVE that story.

Robin 6/29/2008 07:51:00 PM  

Those are lovely stories, you guys. I'm trying hard to lose my Jewish ethnic identity. I go around getting nagged by people I don't even know. I'll be innocently standing in line at the bakery, and a little old lady will poke me and advise me to get a challah for my kids. "It's the sabbath, you know." Cripes!
Spy: Thanks for turning me onto Google Reader. You changed my life.

spyscribbler 6/29/2008 07:56:00 PM  

Robin, you crack me up! That's hilarious.

Isn't Google Reader awesome? Have I turned you on to Co.mments.com yet? Wait until you start using that!

Robin 6/29/2008 10:20:00 PM  

Tell me more, oh scribbler of spy.

Edie 6/30/2008 12:31:00 AM  

Terrific stories. Funny about Robin. I'm Jewish, but don't look it. We didn't grow up in a Jewish neighborhood either. My next door neighbors (who I hung out with) went to a Catholic school and I envied them getting off all the Saint days.

Bernita 6/30/2008 07:39:00 AM  

I always felt I was an alien child.

lainey bancroft 6/30/2008 09:12:00 AM  

Great voice. And how funny the lyrics Erica translated so perfectly match your feelings right now while missing DH. Not funny funny, but...ya know :(

I'm not adopted (or so they tell me) but I felt for much of my life I must be. My Scottish born mother, my sisters and my many (mostly female cousins) are petit, fair and fairly tightly laced. I am not fair, definitely not small and only laced when I rein myself in. And I only do that because my mom says I 'open my mouth and let my tongue wag' =)

My dads family is Canadian way back to the establishment of the first government (town named after them in Manitoba) I never knew my grandparents on his side of the family because his mother left he and his brother when they were toddlers. An aunt raised them and they believed until they were teens and their father reentered the picture that she actually was their mother...anyhoo, too much tongue wagging...we found out his birth mother was Metis, so I guess that's where Groovy Girl and I get our coloring--and maybe a bit of our stubborn single-mindedness too.

StarvingWriteNow 6/30/2008 10:26:00 AM  

Well, he's a hottie! Can't wait to hear him sing.

spyscribbler 6/30/2008 03:34:00 PM  

Oh, Robin, I forgot! I meant to, today. I will tomorrow, I promise!

Edie, my best friend when I was little went to a Catholic school. They had a day off every week, it felt like!

I know that feeling! I was envious!

spyscribbler 6/30/2008 03:40:00 PM  

I love your imagination, Bernita!

Lainey, wow, that's a fascinating story! I actually didn't know who the Metis were until you mentioned it and I googled it.

I like people who wag their tongue a lot!

spyscribbler 6/30/2008 03:40:00 PM  

Writenow, he IS! I love that picture.

Melanie Avila 7/02/2008 01:50:00 PM  

Jeez, I step away from the blogs for a couple days and you've written all these great posts!

First, I'm so glad you like Mana. They make me happy every time I hear one of their songs, and they've the first group I've been able to recognize on the radio.

Props to Erica for the lyrics. :)

I'm a mutt (Swedish, Finish, Croatian, & English) and was adopted by my stepfather so I grew up with a Dutch last name. At least I physically resembled the rest of them. I found out a couple years ago my paternal grandfather may have been adopted and might actually have been born in Northern Russia. Interesting.

Now I'm married to a Mexican so our kids will have blood from half the world.