I Won’t Ask, But…

When I was growing up, the kids I went to grade school with would always ask each other “what nationality are you?” Since we were pretty much all Americans, what we really meant was “what ethnicity are you?” I guess we were going on the assumption I still have, that being an American is a citizenship, not an ethnicity, and we were curious about the various places our friends’ families had come from.

Maybe this was the genesis of my affinity for heritage and ancestry. Or maybe it just dovetailed nicely with an inborn need to classify my environment — the same way I always, always have to know what time it is.

I still wonder what ethnicity people are, unless it’s obvious. But I would never ask, because I’m afraid it would seen as a version of all the “things white people say to [insert non-white ethnicity here].”

And I also wonder about gender, when I see an androgynous person. I’d be even less likely to try to find out the gender of a person than I would their ethnicity. But I will spend an entire BART ride wondering about either or both of those things respecting fellow commuters.

The third thing I always wonder about is age. I like to orient myself as older or younger than whomever I’m talking with. I’m less likely to wonder about the age of someone I simply see, but I definitely want to know how old my friends, acquaintances, and coworkers are. It’s the thing that’s closest to my need to know what time it is.

I’m just curious; I just like to have information. I have had friends and lovers of various ethnicities and combinations thereof, and I’ve learned things about their ancestral cultures, so I would at least try not to ask stupid or offensive questions about ethnicity. And I’m not just curious about whether someone is, say, Korean or Japanese. I’m curious if someone is Dutch or German, Spanish or Italian, Chilean or Argentinian. I’m an equal-opportunity busybody, apparently.

I have no real need to know someone’s heritage, gender, or age, but my curiosity is simple and sincere.

And I know I sound like some cranky conservative kvetching, “These days you can’t ask a simple question without someone getting offended!” The thing is, I don’t want to offend anyone, and so I don’t ask any of these questions except when I know for certain it won’t be taken badly. Actually, I’d never ask a gender question, but age and ethnicity I will occasionally venture into.

Oh, and I’m English/Scottish/Danish, about to turn 47, and a cisgender woman. Just in case anyone wondered.



Although I’ve thrown my hands up about the whole religion issue, there are several Bible verses that stick with me. One of them I use when I am borrowing trouble and worrying about what will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next. One is the second half of Matthew 6:34 in the KJV rendering: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

And then there’s Revelation 3:15-16: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

I feel so lukewarm. And by that I don’t mean that I am apathetic (although lately I’ve been having spates of apathy). I mean that in so many ways I have completely competing desires, and I find myself flailing in the middle.

  • Ethically, I would far prefer to be a vegetarian. But I don’t find a vegetarian diet satisfying; it’s much harder to plan meals; and then there’s chicken, which I love love love. My wishy-washy solution to this is to eat only chicken and, very rarely, some fish. The fact that I don’t eat mammals (or ducks) is probably not a lot of comfort to chickenkind.
  • About that not eating mammals. I do wear/carry leather. I guess at least the animals’ sacrifices are much more long-lasting than a meal, but OTOH, do I need to have a leather purse? Shoes are harder — you can’t find many comfy, breathable, decent-looking non-leather shoes in 10WW. Still.
  • I wish with my whole heart I’d been born and raised in Europe — the UK or France for preference, but anywhere in the EU really.  I can’t read accounts of people who get to move there (unless this is pre-WWII stuff), because it breaks my heart in pieces. I tried to move once and failed miserably and I became discouraged. That was 24 years ago. Now I am firmly ensconced here, with a secure job and a house and animals, and if someone handed me an EU passport tomorrow I would be paralyzed with fear and might not even go. This is my biggest “I want two mutually exclusive things” issue.
  • For a long time, that’s where I was with religion — part of me wanted to be a pious Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian, while the rest of me was an extremely liberal feminist. At least I’ve finally given up that struggle.
  • I struggle between believing in Fat Acceptance and saying, “I’m me; get off my back” and applauding people who embrace their lives and bodies…and wishing I weighed 130 pounds. The last time I weighed 130 pounds I was ten. It’s never going to happen.

Of course I have normal conflicts like “I wish I were a morning person so I could get up, have coffee and breakfast before I leave instead of rolling out of bed 12 minutes before I’m in the car,” “I really should get up off the couch, off the computer, and do something around here,” and “I should go to the farmer’s market and get locally grown, cheaper stuff, but the time window for that is so small and the grocery store is open until 11 PM.” But that’s not the same thing, because I don’t really want to get up early, do chores around the house, or…well, maybe the farmer’s market one works.

I’m really not sure what to do when I want two completely mutually exclusive things, especially when both choices are equally attainable. With the Europe thing, I should probably just learn to live with staying in the United States, since one choice is my current reality and the other is seriously difficult to get (even if I could get over my paralysis).

Somehow I think I thought by the time I was this age I’d have more things figured out. My bedroom seems like an apt metaphor for this — when I was growing up, parents’ bedrooms looked like something out of a hotel or, at least, a motel. Neatly made bed, a dresser or two, nothing strewn about, only actual tasteful framed stuff on the walls. My room? I never make my bed, ever — never have. My dresser has random stuff dotting it. My nightstand is piled with books, and the floor next to my bed has more books, whatever purse I’m carrying, and a laundry basket on it. Often the rocker has clothes tossed over it. I do have only framed art on the walls, but one corner has no art on the walls, a big mirror propped against the wall, a chair, a foot pedaler, and a big floor fan. It looks like the room of a twentysomething.

Yeah. It’s an apt metaphor. Now if only I moved and looked like I was still in my twenties!