Thursday, July 24, 2008

What It's Like To Be A First Generation Dominican-American

It's like, going to sleep with your boat tied up nice and neat at the marina, but waking up in the open sea. And one day being okay with it but the next day being scared shitless that you won't be able to find your way back to shore.

In my head, it's like that.

I have the best, and the worst, of both worlds. It's a constant struggle trying to straddle two cultures, trying to honor and be true to both.

I went through phases where it was DR IS THE BEST one day to I COULD NEVER LEAVE NY EVER the next. It's still this way.

When someone asks me my favorite song it's hard because I'm like, "In English or Spanish?" Who can choose between Fernandito and Prince? Not me, that's for sure.

Growing up knowing that your people went through hell and went without and made so many sacrifices just so that you could be born HERE... that shit weighs heavy on your shoulders. That makes you think HERE is better that THERE, but then they also tell you not to put too much stock in HERE, to settle THERE with one of THEM, and, hey, guess what? Don't worry about funeral arrangements... you see this slot here in the family tomb? That one is yours. Gee. Thanks.

There's pressure... you're the GREAT WHITE HOPE because you've managed to figure out how to be HERE and play the game like a native; you're like a spy. Except that every little mistake is scrutinized and thrown back at you.

"My mother didn't come here and take in people's wash so you can play around and flunk out of college."

I know she didn't. That's not why I flunked. Please just let me breathe. If I could just be allowed to breathe I'd be fine.

If my professors would stop stressing my occasional use of Spanish in my stories, if my elders would let go of the fact that YES, I date Black men and my friends are Black because HELLO, MCFLY, you raised me in a Black neighborhood, if I didn't have to choose between Team DR and Team USA in the World Baseball Classic... then maybe I could breathe.

If I didn't get the side eye for my gringa ways from Dominicans, and another side eye from Americans for my chancletas and rolos... too Latina for the Americans, too American for the Latinos... then maybe I could breathe.

Yes, the U.S. fed me, but DR made me. Why do I have to choose? How can I possibly choose between what gave me life and what nurtured it? And are they really that different after all?

The babies don't speak Spanish. I know. I'm sorry. You think I don't know? Calling me to complain about it...wasting my daytime minutes on a TransAtlantic call to ask why? Are you for real?

And they are darker than YOU'd both like. I know this, too. But I'm still not going to relax their hair so both of YOU, stop asking. Really. Stop.

I want to be a good daughter, I do. I want to make YOU proud. I really do.

But how? Tell me how to please YOU and THEM and still have a moment left for ME... to BREATHE...

*smooches...opening a vein for which there is no real band-aid*
and just so you know... from now on I will NOT be italicizing the Spanish I write. to hell with those who don't know what it means. I know what it means...