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.)

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