I got to talking to a coworker the other day, a teacher that I don't often see because he works at different locations and on different days. We were rapping about the usual jabber, and it came up that I am a part-timer, and not going to school. The question of my visa was raised, at which point I mentioned that I'm half-Japanese, which removes some of the visa hoops that other folks have to jump through.
"No way!" said my co-worker. "You don't look it at all! You're NOT Japanese."
Yeah, well. I am.
"But you have such big eyes!"
"And your English is so good! Your intonation is so natural."
DUDE, I am a native English speaker.
On the flight over to PDX, I did the unsteady tiptoe to the back of the plane to go to the toilet. The galley was stuffed with half a dozen guys shooting the shit, (alchoholic) beverages in hand. Waiting for the w.c. to become free, I stood next to a middle-aged geezer (MAG for short) of the type that you might find in Venice, CA, or Eugene, OR: shoulder length grey hair, overbaked skin, cargo shorts, bullshit life philosophy studded with gems like "It is what it is".
Trying to inhabit as little space as possible (a skill that I've perfected living in Japan), I squeezed myself into a corner, eyes fixed on the red-lit "occupied" sign. MAG, seeing me there, began performing a series of tipsy antics that he dubbed "stretching". At first, I tried to be a good sport, joining in for a simple spine stretch that I needed anyway after six hours stuffed into an overbooked flight next to an arm-rest hogging seatmate. MAG contorted himself into a jerky, rabid downward dog, arms and legs akimbo, face red and shirt flapping. He righted himself, sloshing coffee, and went in to woo me.
"Are you Israeli?"
Nope, I'm not.
"You're not American."
Yes, actually, I am.
"No way. You're not American. What could you be?"
DUDE, I was born in San Antonio. (I seem to have a propensity for using DUDE with these geniuses, these men among men.)
"But you don't look American. And Mexican doesn't quite fit either."
I didn't have the patience to argue with him. What do you say to people who insist on telling you, in their infinite wisdom, what you are not? I am what I am. And it is what it is.