I was talking to my buddy Alessandro again today. He’s feeling antsy and wants to get on the move again. He is always such a world traveler, more than myself. He talks about how I am living the “Pure American Comedy,” a life that he finds so hilarious, somehow directly related to the fact that all my Facebook pictures feature me eating and yet I am not fat.
I tell Alessandro that I have always found Italy to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Why would he ever want to leave? I mention to him that I am part Italian and he goes nuts.
“YOU’RE ITALIAN???” he exclaims. Apparently the idea of an Italian-American that can eat without getting fat is a revelation to him.
“I’m part Italian,” I tell him. “I’m 1/4 Italian and 1/2 Portuguese. My mother is 1/2 Italian.”
He talks to me online but I can feel him smile through the Internet. “Oh, so you are a cake,” he says to me. “1/4 this, 1/2 that…you are a cake!”
As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, Alessandro’s English is very creative. In this particular situation, “cake” is Alessandro’s beautiful and poetic substitute for the more complex word, “multicultural”.
I’ve never been particularly fond of the fact that I am a little bit of this and a little bit of that. In the States, so many people are a mix of something that it’s no longer interesting or unique to have multiple nationalities and cultures within your single background. The exciting thing is being 100% something. Being able to lay claim to a certain heritage. It has always made me paranoid to fill out college applications and job forms. On paper, I am white. But “white” sounds so bland, so forgotten. I am Portuguese and Italian and Luxembourger. I like to distinguish between them when, on an application, my nationalities are like shades of light- they all mix together until they are white, the ultimate color combination, the ultimate lack of color at all. But I want to take pride in where I am from. I want to see myself as colorful, a beautiful product of intercultural relationships that have brought me to the collage that I am today.
So often I tell people that I am Portuguese, leaving out half of my heritage. It’s funny how the opposite works- by negating some of my history, I appear more connected to the one culture I do mention. But Alessandro doesn’t see it this way at all. He loves that I am different countries rolled into one. It is his own background that is unappealing and drab.
“I’m boring,” Alessandro sighs. “I’m 100% Sicilian.”
He pauses, reflecting.
“But you,” he says, “You are 100% cake.”