Some days, the world is an ill-fitting shoe. It’s annoys me, it hurts me, and I just want to take it off, throw it out, and get a new one that fits.
I am a good immigrant. I speak the language; I am a highly educated asset to this society; I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. My children are culturally 100% Americans; this is the best thing I could have done for them — to keep them free of the immigrant bull$hit. They are Americans; not Martian-Americans, not Wherever-Americans, just Americans.
But every so often, I feel, very acutely, how ill-suited I actually am for this culture into which I work so hard to integrate my family. How uncomfortable so many of the interactions are and how lonely the whole immigration endeavor feels.
All the parents of my kids’ friends are American-born. That means I am the only non-American-born parent on the basketball team, and the soccer team, and the swim team… And they are nice, lovely people, although they get visibly freaked out by me the first 74 times we interact. They get brownie points for trying to chat with me like I’m “normal” and for being surprised and then uncomfortable at their own surprise when I crack a joke and it’s a good one.
Still, I love going to kids’ sports. I love interacting with little kids, because they take things in stride. To them, I am just one of the moms. That may be one of the reasons why I love teaching undergrads; they don’t care about me as me, they just care that I am a teacher and a good one, and as long as I treat them well, with respect and humor, they are very happy that I am their teacher.
I went to lunch with two female colleagues yesterday and was in a bad mood all afternoon and all day today. They are nice people, they didn’t do anything bad. They talked, and I mostly listened. To be honest, I was really bored. I have very, very little in common with these women other than the fact we are all the rare women in a field dominated by men. Yet, they are arguably among the closest people I have around. And then I got angry that I have to socialize with people for whose company I am so ill-suited, and who can’t and don’t actually want to get to know the real me, or if they did, I know they would not like me, because the real me has no place in their world.
I haven’t thought about my childhood BFF in a long time. She died when I started this job, about 13 years ago (!), of a congenital heart condition. She was wonderful. I wish she were still around.
It would be nice to be known like I had people know me once upon a time. Here, I play the part of a good immigrant quite well, and smile, and joke, and say “please” and “thank you,” and chauffeur various kids (both mine and other people’s) to activities, and go to boring lunches, and pretend I don’t totally judge the colleague whose control-freakishness and not legitimate food sensitivities has restricted their food intake to water and air, and hate that someone will come to tell me that having written the previous sentence segment means I am insufficiently sensitive about anorexia or that I don’t actually know what health conditions the person has, and pretend that everyone is special and that anyone can do anything if they work hard enough while at the same time watching 10-year-olds undergo soccer tryouts for very decidedly tiered teams that would make Real Madrid scouts proud.
So much is fake and hypocritical in this society and some days, like today, it’s hard to keep up the facade that I am a good immigrant and that I find all this sooo worth it and just peachy, when in reality I want to tell everyone everywhere exactly what I think about this society and all the hypocrisy and everyone pretending that they are awesome even though we all clearly see that they are not…
And then I write a blog post and feel a tad better, and hopefully tomorrow I am back playing the good immigrant all over again… And don’t long to be known and accepted as a whole person, how I used to be known and accepted, a long time ago and a world away.