Monday, December 05, 2005

My Trip to the Deli and Xenophobia

White running a few errands today, bundled up and sniffly, I walked past a deli and got a sudden hankering for a real-deal deli sammich. I went in and looked around at the people staring at me. The Mamma (I could tell she was the Mamma because she wore a flowered dress and an apron--just like on TV) asked me, "Whaddya want?" I told her, in between sniffles, I wanted a sammich. She leaned on the deli case and extolled the virtues of the various meat logs on display. Despite some strong-arming on her part towards buffalo spicy turkey and jalapeno Jack cheese, I settled on an ordinary turkey and Provolone on Rye, and yes, put everything on it.

Mamma popped her son, who was minding his own business of sammich-eating at a table, upside the head to go and make my sammich already. Gave him a weak smile and wandered off to the corner. No choice but to eavesdrop on the heavyset lady holding court in the center of the deli.

She's talking about how you can't tell what type a person is just by looking at them anymore. Using herself as an example, she asks no one in particular to guess her heritage. I say nothing, but think: Irish. She's got that look about her. Since no one guesses, she reveals that she is of Norweigan and Italian descent, with a little French-Canadian and Irish (ha!) thrown in.

A young guy peeps, "I'm Turkish and Ecuadorian!" And people murmur about that not being surprising, since there's a lot of Turks in the neighborhood. The guy quickly points out Turks aren't that kind of Arab. The guy making my sammich can't believe his friend is part Turkish--so is he, only Turkish/Italian. His Mamma, who I wager is the Italian part of this equation, speaks halting Spanish to a young woman who's come in with her three little kids, looking for a job.

The young guy tells the heavyset woman he thought she was Jewish, on account of her big nose. She looks sidelong at me, decides the coast is clear, and asserts to the guy with a pointed finger that there's no Jews in her family tree.

I wince, but decline comment. This isn't Williamsburg, after all, this is Bay Ridge. We Heebs make up a very small portion of the populace. There are still plenty of Italians in Tony Manero's old stomping ground, but times changed and lots of Arab people moved in. I've seen so many women walking around in full Burkha that it doesn't faze me anymore. They usually give ME the hairy eyeball, as if I'm the weird one walking down a Brooklyn Avenue.

Now, I will admit to being rather xenophobic, but galdarnit, I'm trying. The fat lady at the deli is calling herself, and everyone else in the deli but me, a "mutt". I grab my sammich and take my Irish-French-Jewish-Native American-Scottish self out of there.

Isn't that what it means to be American? What are the ingredients in your family melting pot? Do you look like you oughta?

5 Comments:

Blogger Linny said...

I "oughta" look 5'8" with legs that go on for days - no months!- to match my hourglass figure....but I'm kinda happy that I DO look like the middle-eastern European mutt, complete with curves and curls, that I am!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Trouble said...

You couldn't be more gorgeous, Linny, that's for damn sure!

3:42 PM  
Blogger Leave It To Cleavage said...

Linny I agree with Trouble and then would say the same about her.

I don't know if I look like I oughta. Everyone asks me if I'm Italian. But I'm Greek-Russian-Romanian-Irish-Jewish-Polish. Ok, we're unsure about the Irish-Polish, my mom is adopted and that is the desent of the man that was on her birth certificate (her biological mom was unsure of which of the two men that she was involved in was actually the father, and Irish-Polish is what she went with).

3:40 AM  
Blogger LisaBinDaCity said...

No one EVER thinks my ethnic heritage is what it is. I use that to great advantage cause people say things in front of me they shouldn't. Much like your heavyset lady. Interesting yes? You get to see people's true colors.

And welcome to New York, one of the world's greatest melting pots.

5:25 AM  
Blogger threetoedsloth said...

Hey, terrific blog you've got here. It's really interesting how this ethnic background issue comes up in slightly different ways all around Brooklyn and Queens. Though the other night, I was buying a winter hat in some store near Union Square, and the lady took a look at my debit card and asked, "Jewish?" I said "Half." She leaned down and said quietly, "The good half!"

And thanks for defending me in my times of strife today! I really needed to hear something that wasn't an insult!

6:13 PM  

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