Out of Place
I identify profoundly with this post:
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.
A woman observed Klara and me playing outside yesterday, loudly admired how beautiful Klara is, listened to Klara prattle on and on, and then asked. . . if she speaks English. Because if a 15-month-old mispronounces a few words, it’s got to be because she is a child of immigrants and not because she is very little.
Klara’s speaking is very advanced. She says “thank you” and stuns everybody at daycare with how many toys and pictures she can name. But she’s 15 months and she only has 10 teeth so far. Of course, she mispronounces words. It’s not an accent. It’s how kids speak.
An alternative is to hang out only with university people who are not congenitally incapable of noticing nothing but one’s accent. OK, I went out with 3 colleagues who are moms to the playground. And it was even more uncomfortable than the encounter with the “does she speak English” lady. Two of the three colleague moms were immigrants themselves, so that’s a plus. Accents were not mentioned at all.
But oy vey, the entire time we spent on the playground, they exchanged slogans. It was like they were robots who had their Demonstrate Your Liberal Identity setting turned on. I love talking politics but these colleagues weren’t talking politics. They weren’t talking at all. They were mechanically delivering lists of points I’d heard and read before. Verbatim.
Then they started gleefully listing everything that made them superior to the locals. And that’s when I began to miss the “speak English” lady and wished I could chat to her instead. She hadn’t understood 80% of what I said but that was still more refreshing than the slogans and the gleeful superiority over the country pumpkins. From the linked post, this is how the encounter with these colleagues made me feel:
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.