That Bloody Question

I found this in my drafts folder from last year. Like literally last year–I wrote this in October 2015. I haven’t been here in so long…but I think you may find this entertaining:

I’m twenty-nine years old and I still have issues with the question, “Where are you from?”

I feel like I have a limb in so many places that my brain refuses to settle on one succinct answer. After today, I decided that it’s high time I pick a city/country and just stick to it.

I went to HR earlier to ask a question, and she ended up mentioning how she was new to Arizona, and I had to go and say, “Oh that makes the two of us!”

Naturally, she had to ask, “Oh, where were you before this?”

My brain doesn’t know what to do with this question. Before this immediately? A tiny country in the Persian Gulf that I’m almost sure you’ve never heard of. (Unless you tend to read/know about mind-bogglingly rich Arab countries with a penchant for outlandishly expensive things).

I said, after a now-almost-characteristic pause, “Canada.”

“Oh where in Canada?”

“Montreal.”

“Oh, do you like it there?”

YES! She didn’t ask me if I spoke French! Good, good.

“Yes, it’s great!”

“What brought you down here?”

My brain is dumb. So dumb. So dumb in its unrelenting penchant for accuracy.

I paused again, motioned with my hands and said, “Aaaa…lot of things.”

Because I left Montreal in 2006. And I’ve been in two countries since. So, yes, a lot did happen to make me wind up here.

Now she looked confused. So I had to tell her that I’ve lived in a lot of places even though I was born in the US but I haven’t lived here. So when people ask me, “Where were you before?” I can literally say one of four different countries and I wouldn’t be wrong. I tried to be quick and simple about it, but after the hole I just dug for myself, there was hardly anything quick and simple to be found.

“Wow, that’s an interesting life story that came out of nowhere,” she said.

I wasn’t sure if that was a jab at my sudden idiotic rambling, or if she was genuinely interested.

(For what it’s worth, she lived in DC before coming here. DC is muggy and cloudy, and Arizona is not).

I wanted to kick myself as I made my way back to my desk. Why didn’t I say, “Canada. Montreal. I found a job here I liked, so I moved.”

For a fleeting moment I thought about picking a US state that sounds bland. Wisconsin. Nebraska. Idaho. I figure no one will ask follow-up questions on a state that sounds like there’s nothing in it. Then I feel bad because what if those states are awesome and I’m just sitting there judging them because they don’t have the enthusiastic marketing team that California and New York do?

Anyways, here’s to me being Canadian, born and bred, and please don’t ask me to speak to you in French.

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A Perfectly Nonchalant Conversation

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Year: 2003

I plunked myself down in my usual front-row seat. I was well into my first semester at Dawson College, a CEGEP located in downtown Montreal. It was, thankfully, a 180-degree difference from high school and I had contentedly fit into it like a hand into a glove. (Well a glove that fit, anyways).

I was early; there were only two or three people milling about in the room. I pulled out my notebook and attempted to kill time my usual way: Spacing out while peppering the margins with doodles. It wasn’t long before the sound of my name broke into my reverie.

I quickly turned around to face a girl several rows behind me, “Yeah?”

She wasted no time, “You’re Lebanese, aren’t you?”

“Yep!”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Seventeen?” she said with genuine inquisitiveness, “Aren’t you supposed to be married by now?”

Um what?

Despite my initial incredulity, she remained earnest. This was an honest question. Perhaps it was odd that my teenage Lebanese self wasn’t sporting a wedding ring already.

When I found my voice again I retorted, “Um, no. Why would you say that?!”

“I just meant–well my Lebanese friends are all saying that they’re gonna get married soon, so that’s why I asked.” (I don’t know how relevant this is, but as far as I could tell, the girl was a typical-looking Caucasian blonde).

“Oh…well, no I’m not about to get married anytime soon.”

By this time, the class was filling up and the instructor was calling us to attention, so that was the end of that bit of oddness.

It was my first experience with how Lebanese girls are seen from a foreigner’s perspective. Apparently my teenage brethren were known for wanting to get hitched in 21st Century North America.

Who would’ve thought?