The missus and I don’t talk to Weevy too much about her cultural or ethnic identity. I guess it’s because we’re both a little… vague about it. My wife was born in Korea and adopted when she was a year old by a nice Irish Catholic family on Long Island. I’m Jewish by birth, raised by an atheist mother and a father who somehow managed to get me bar mitzvahed despite my doing everything in my power to sabotage it. (Back in my teens, when he made me go to Passover seders, I’d wear crucifixes made of masking tape on my torso — leading the other guests to wonder what that ripping sound was whenever I slouched or bent over.) Neither of us gives religion much of a thought, so neither does Weevy. She knows she’s half Jewish and half Christian, but she doesn’t really know what it means, apart from the fact that she gets to celebrate Christmas AND Hanukkah. As for ethnicity… well, Weevy has been known to draw self-portraits with blonde hair. About the closest she gets to thinking about her Asian/Caucasian appearance is when she sees Asian cartoon characters and proudly proclaims, “I like her because she looks like me!”
A couple of weeks ago, Weevy and I were having lunch at her favorite Chinese restaurant. She’s been pretty adept with chopsticks since she was three or four, but she needs a chopstick helper to use them — it’s a piece of plastic into which you insert the chopsticks, making it easier to pinch them together.
“I’m never going to learn how to use chopsticks the way you do,” she lamented.
“Well, I didn’t learn how to use chopsticks until I was in college. And Mommy didn’t learn how to use them until even later. And she’s Asian!”
“I’m not Asian… am I?”
Well now, I thought. This should be interesting. I can tell her a little bit about her background, get her asking questions… it’ll be a beautiful father/daughter bonding moment.
“Well, you’re half Asian.”
I’m giddy with excitement, like a batter waiting to knock the next ball into the seats.
“Oh. So I guess I’ll learn to use chopsticks in… 10th grade?”
“Or even sooner!”
And the conversation immediately goes back to whatever she was talking about before. I don’t remember what, but I know it had not a damn thing to do with her racial or cultural heritage.
In one way, this is a good thing, right? Ask Weevy what she is, she’ll tell you she’s… Weevy. No race or ethnicity or religion to pin her down. When a girl from China started in Weevy’s class mid-year, Weevy just thought, wow, she’s from China! She didn’t think, ooh, fellow Asian! If we’re drowning in a sea of identity politics, Weevy is still on the shore, blissfully unaware of all that stuff.
But then again, where you’re at should also include knowing how you got there. And yeah, Weevy is only six, so I can’t imagine learning about her roots is going to be as fascinating as, say, Pokemon Go. But maybe a smidge of curiosity wouldn’t hurt.
In the meantime, my mother-in-law is busting our chops to teach her about religion. “She’s gotta have something, I don’t care what it is.” Personally, I don’t understand WHY she has to have religion, but the moment of reckoning will soon be nigh. And maybe we’ll toss in the whole grab-bag of This Is Who You Are when we get there. But not yet, for fuck’s sake. Not yet.