Thursday, September 02, 2004

White Chicks Can't Dance
While watching the closing ceremonies for the Olympics it occurred to me, not for the first time, that I have no culture.

I’m not talking about Chopin-listening, poetry-reading culture, I’m talking ethnic identity culture.

Like many Americans, I’m a mutt. I’m a little French, a bit of Scots, a tiny bit of Irish, maybe even a pinch of Native American. But I’ve never identified with any of those cultures, and so I have no cultural identity. I’m a white chick, and we have no history.

I envy my friends who have tradition. The Passover Seder. The Cinco de Mayo festival. Chinese New Year. I have no childhood foundation of traditional foods (unless you count Thanksgiving), traditional dances (I shall glaze over the years my parents took Disco lessons at the local Rec center), or traditional forms of dress.

I only speak English, much to my embarrassment. I cannot share with others a heritage of music and feasts. And, in spite of being raised Catholic, I don’t have any real holiday feelings – although I do love both the giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas. Especially the receiving bits.

There is something missing in my life, but it’s a gap that I find I am powerless to fill. I’m just not the kind of person who can adopt other people’s traditions just because I want to. It would just feel false, which is not what I’m looking for.

I just wish I had more of a culture. Oh sure, as an American, I can point proudly to jazz and the blues….but little else has arisen that can be called “American,” and that fills me with any sense of belonging. And even those, while among some of my favorite forms of music, hardly compare with what my more culturally rich friends have to offer. When was the last time you saw an ad for “The Annual White Chick Festival?” (And no, Lillith Fair doesn’t count.)

When I’m surrounded by Greek Festivals, Carnival parades, Cherry Blossom festivals, and the other glories of the wonderfully multi-cultural San Francisco Bay Area I must confess to feeling woefully inadequate in the heritage department.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about the same thing and googled "i have no culture" and found it. I'm of english-dutch-german-scottish-norwegian ancestry which means I'm just a "white guy" since I feel no connection to any of those cultures. My culture is going to public schools, going to college, and getting a job and starting a family so they can do the same thing. The rest is just details like TV watching and consumerism. My older relatives (aunts & uncles) live very bland lives without any really meaningful events or rituals.