Sunday, February 24, 2013

White Girls Can't Hula

(I am a week and a half into my Lenten Facebook Fast and realized that without my addiction, I have lots to do.  Like lots of stuff I wasn't getting done because I was busy dinking around on Facebook.  So, being busy, and therefore exhausted, I also haven't been writing much.  I was determined to get something written tonight, when I discovered this post I started in January and never finished.  Here I give you the reason why I'm giving up my Caucasian Membership Card.)

I recently returned from a family trip to Hawaii and I have come to a startling conclusion:

I am entirely too white.

Yes, it's true--with a ethnic background made up exclusively of Northern Europeans, I spent a week in tropical sunshine and never got more than a shade past pasty.  I have tried to embrace my milky skin tone, but having married into a family of olive-complected sun-lovers does tend to give one a bit of a complex. 

How I look to Hawaiians
While I would have liked to come home with a Coppertone tan, I realized during our trip that it was more than my skin color that pales in comparison to the Hawaiian natives.  It became clear as I listened to tour guides, talked to locals and watched the dancing at a luau that perhaps my personality was also too white.  Have let myself slip into a stereotype of a "typical" Caucasian American?  I might as well been wearing Bermuda shorts, socks with sandals, and camera draped around my neck.  As the locals talked about traditions and local culture, I felt like I must seem pretty bland and boring to them. 

While I don't mean to suggest that being a Caucasian American is a bad thing, let's face it, we don't always embrace differences, which doesn't make much sense, living in a melting pot of a country. (Give us your tired, your poor--unless they speak a funny sounding language or worship a god other than our own.)  We also don't have the best reputation when dealing with native people (smallpox anyone?) or those with skin color any darker than taupe (I'll take a side of segregation and Jim Crowe laws, please).  What did we Northern European Americans contribute to the cultural landscape?  White bread, fast food and strip malls, to name a few. I can proudly say my own ancestors brought you Ballard and lutefisk.  (Ohh, how exotic!)

One of the bus drivers in Honolulu explained the meaning of aloha as "sharing the breath of life" and that Hawaiians used to greet each other by breathing through their noses into each other's face, thus sharing their spirit.  "Haloe", he said, meant "one who doesn't share the spirit."  Apparently some non-natives took offense to strangers exhaling in their face. 

I have decided to be haole no more.  I will breathe in your face and accept the spirit of my fellow humans.  I will learn about other cultures and step out of my comfort zone. 

How I think I look in Hawaii
I will not wear socks with my sandals.

A recent issue of Sunset magazine has an article about the Hawaiian lifestyle, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants. In it she describes the kind of laid back life style and spirit of community many would envy.  I am ready to embrace my place as a true Hawaiian cousin.

I may have been born an uptight white girl, but I believe I have the soul of a wahine (who just happens to burn unless she's wearing SPF 30 sunblock). 

(In researching the term "haole" I stumbled across an article entitled Haole? The Unbearable Whiteness of Being.  I wish I would've come up with that title first.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I'm with Stupid

It was my great misfortune to be born into an intelligent family.  I am the youngest of five children and whatever nugget of wisdom I came upon was already old news to my siblings.  I remember coming home from first grade bursting with the knowledge I had gained that day, excitedly sharing with one of my brothers my new found facts.  I was told in the most bored way possible (which can be achieved only by an older sibling to an occasionally annoying little sister): "Well, of course, everyone knows that."  I was the youngest, the smallest and knew the least.  No one asked for my opinion.

This did not squelch my thirst for knowledge, but only drove me to learn more.  I became an avid reader, got good grades in school, attended college and got my BA in English.  I still assume everyone knows more than I do, but this just makes me want me to keep learning.

Now, I am no Einstein; there are many things I do not understand.   There are gaps as big as the universe in my comprehension of such things as actuary tables and football, calculus and insurance policies.  However, I try to consider more than one side to any argument, gather as much information as I can, and carefully weigh all facts before forming an opinion. (I also hate to be wrong, which makes it sometimes difficult for me to come down firmly on one side or another.)   I will freely admit to many unflattering character traits:  I am a mediocre house cleaner, at best; I will choose to eat apple fritters over vegetables and wonder why I'm not losing weight; and I rarely remember to floss.

But I am not stupid.

Which is why I feel compelled to remind those on social media  (or the news media, or any particular religious group or political party):  Just because I don't share your opinion doesn't mean I don't understand the topic.  Facebook is a great place to catch up with old and new friends, share recipes and ideas.  I have no problem with you voicing your political or religious views there.  But please, for me, your oldest friend from high school/new acquaintance/fellow soccer mom, don't make broad statements against those who might not share those views.  That political figure you didn't vote for?  Guess what, I did.  That group of people who don't think your religion is the only way to heaven?  Might be me.  People who prefer dogs over cats?  Guilty as charged. 

Am I a bad person because I don't agree with you?  I hope you don't think so.  Remember, it's me, Kristin/Kris/Krissy/KLAG.  We used to finger paint together/skip study hall/stay up all night complaining about our parents/boyfriends/jobs.  Don't you recognize me from over there?  I am not crazy because we're on different sides of a debate. We're just on different sides. 

You can rest assured that I weighed the same facts you did, I considered the "what ifs" and "what fors" and might have come to a different conclusion.  Please do not group me into the "you're either with me or you're wrong" group of those who may (or may not) be ruining our country.  Just because I took 2+2 and got 3+1 or 5-1 instead of 4 doesn't make me against you.  I just see it in a different way.

I try not to take it personally, but I have to say the presidential race was tough on me.  So many opinions being shared so vehemently.  I try to remember that these are people that I know and respect, friends and family.  People who have taken 2+2 and gotten 4, while I was composing an essay on what the number 4 means to me.  I'm trying to be open minded and take it all in stride.

So feel free to share with me whatever you're passionate about.  Tell me how your day was, boast about your kid, promote whatever cause you want.  Un-friend me for my opinions if you must, just please don't call me stupid.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Candy Revolution

I don't know if you've seen them, hanging out in front of the local grocery store in their blue vests, stopping people and asking for money.  They always have impeccable manners and a winning smile, pawning off boxes of candy on their unsuspecting victims.

They are Camp Fire girls and they are out to take over the world.

It seems innocent enough:  young children raising money for an organization by selling mints and Almond Roca--even their candy supports a local company (Brown & Haley out of Tacoma, Washington).  They ask politely and they always say "Have a nice day" if they're turned down. 

I suggest you don't turn them down. 

The Camp Fire organization promises to give young people the "opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are."  Sounds like a call for uprising to me.  They send out these fresh-faced minions in their badge-covered vests, weaseling their way into the community with their Almond Caramel Clusters and sweet smiles.

The next thing you know, the whole country is living the Camp Fire way of life.  They will teach your children manners!  They will encourage our young people to participate in charitable giving (one local group collected donations for a no-kill cat shelter) and involve themselves in the community (marching in Christmas parades and making Valentines for veterans).

They want your children to spend their summers outside!  At camp!  During these indoctrination "summer camps" your children will learn to swim, in lakes, and breathe fresh air.  They will roast marshmallows and sing songs of revolution, such as Tarzan of the Apes (in which the radical Tarzan proclaims his love for "bananas, coconuts and grapes") or Black Socks ("They never get dirty, the longer you wear them the stronger they get").

Once they learn the Camp Fire way, these youngsters will grow into responsible adults, with a sense of camaraderie and money handling skills.    They will become community leaders and contributing members of society.  They will possess the secret of the Creamy Smooth Mint Patties.  There will be no stopping them.

What can we do about this coming coup?  I suggest you stop politely when approached by the Children of the Blue Vest, ask what they recommend, and then open your wallets to them.  They will remember those who've supported their cause and will find room for you in their brave new world. 

And when you see that other subversive group, the Girl Scouts, peddling their cookies next month, give 'em a wink and the secret hand shake.  Tell them the Camp Fire Girls sent you.

(The Camp Fire organization is made up of both girls and boys, but I 've only come to know the female of the species.  My apologies to the young gentleman revolutionaries for excluding them.)