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March 30, 2009

Cultural Identity

-7 To look at me, few people would guess, I’m half Japanese, half Mexican. I know…the curly blond hair throws a lot of people off. O.K. technically no one in my genealogy was born in either Japan or Mexico, but don’t tell my parents that. You see my father, strongly identified with Mexican culture. He learned to speak Spanish in Mexico like a native, he enjoyed ranchero music, much to my teenage embarrassment, and of course, he loved Mexican food. As Mexican as my father wished to be, my mother out did him in her Japaneseness. My mother was raised in a part of Los Angeles that many Japanese families were relocated to after world war II, and subsequently was immersed in Japanese culture from day one. She does not speak Japanese, though she spent enough time in Japanese movie houses as a kid to have picked up a lot. She has a silk kimono complete with Obi. As children in the early 70’s we were the only blonds at the sushi restaurant, we got a lot of attention, and all the green tea ice cream we could eat. Today her house is hosed down in Japanese décor and she still loves her Japanese cinema. Between these two parental units I have plenty of stand up material should I decide to go into that line of work. I think I’ll wear a serape belted with my mom’s obi at the shows.

My husband on the other hand was raised by two people who were “actually” physically disabled. His mother’s legs were crushed at birth, and his father had cerebral palsy. Both of their disabilities made getting around very challenging. Subsequently my husband believes that he can never live in a house with stairs, or on a street with an incline, or go to a restaurant without close parking (that last one really kills me). I’d like to say this is because we spend so much time with my mother-in-law, but really it’s just because my husband is “culturally” physically impaired. When we remodeled a bathroom I had to talk him out of putting handles in the shower and toilet area. Seriously, it was a long discussion and he only gave in grudgingly.

All of this makes me wonder what cultural identity we’re passing to our daughter. Do you think they have a box under ethnicity for Mexican/Japanese/physically disabled??? Yeah, I guess not. Good thing they have that Caucasian box that can encompasses all our cultural identities. So far the only personality trait that I know our daughter got from us is her aversion to shoes. That shouldn’t be a problem, as long as she never moves from Southern California. I’m picturing a grown women standing in the snow, barefoot…..Yikes!

This is an original post for the LA Moms Blog.

When Elise isn't enjoying a little yakitori, or making carnitas she blogs at Elise's Ramblings


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