n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.
It’s not the tendency, it’s the inability to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it. I can’t explain to you why I identify as whatever it is. It’s harder than explaining to a child why she can’t a kilo of candy. Because the child has no previous experience in eating a kilo of candy. A child of that age, of that context and of that biological make up, does not understand the consequences of her instant gratification. I can’t explain to you why we need to stop discussing what I used to identify as, because I just don’t care. I don’t care that you don’t understand. Culturally, I am not expected to question you back, because you’re normal, and I’m slightly darker, slightly larger eyed and slightly frizzer haired. I can’t ask you why you wear pants when my people wear saris and kurtas. I can’t ask you to explain the cultural significance of wearing pants.
Are chinos for special occasions? Do all the women wear dresses to a wedding? What’s up with the weird pasta shaped tie men wear sometimes? Is that a religious thing? Can you eat that since it’s not organic?
Oh, I’m sorry. Is that offensive? I didn’t mean to be offensive. I mean, I am just trying to learn and understand your culture through these questions.
And yet, you feel so comfortable asking me why women put a little sticker on their foreheads, and why we wear saris and kurtas and why we every Indian person seems to always smell like curry and whether or not we eat curry everyday and if we don’t like artichokes or asparagus or kale because of religious reasons, and where we are really from.
Let me be the millionth person to point out. Statistically, there’s more of my culture than yours. Please stop treating me like the alien, when you’re so outnumbered that you should be the statistic.
The hardest part of all this foreignness is that no one ever asked if I wanted to be the ambassador for my culture. You have always assumed that since I am slightly darker, slight larger eyed and slightly frizzier haired that I am the epitome of representation for millions and millions of people. You have never found that problematic. But god forbid, I make a generalised statement that goes something like “Americans something something something,” because then the uncultured swine that’s me is taught that all Americans are different and there’s a vast difference in culture from the East to the West to the South to the North, but you forget that the millions of other aliens that resemble me have a vast different in culture and language and food and clothes and traditions and religion and race from the East to the West to the South to the North.
So, what do we do? We don’t tell you our experiences, or if we do, we make fun of our own experiences because you found Apu funny. We become removed from our own cultures, but continue being the ambassadors, who inevitably, misrepresented themselves and the millions and millions of other people. Eventually, we feel out of place and out of sync but the fog will never lift, because we can’t seem to come to terms with ourselves.