We had a new family that just moved in to the neighborhood. I thought RM and I should take a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies to our new neighbors and introduce ourselves. We rang our neighbors doorbell and stood at their front entrance until the door was opened.
An attractive blonde woman who looked to be in her mid to late thirties answered the door. I hurried and introduced ourselves so she wouldn't think we were solicitors. I told her that we brought some homemade goodies to welcome her and her family to the neighborhood.
She looked pleasantly surprised and introduced herself as Jane and said, "Wow, that is so nice of you to welcome us! Our family moves a lot so it's very rare when neighbors give us a nice welcome."
RM replied, "Well we know how it's like to move a lot."
At that point, Jane called her husband over to the front door so we could meet him. She said, "Jim, come meet our new neighbors, they brought us some goodies to welcome us to the neighborhood."
As Jim shook our hands his wife said, "I'm sorry I forgot your names already. This time when you say your name, can you say it very slooowly. I have such a hard time pronouncing ethnic names."
I caught a slight smirk on RM's face and I said, "Okaaay." And then I gave them our very American/English names.
Jim and Jane looked surprised and Jim said, "Those are American names."
RM quipped, "We decided to change our names to American, rather than have people call me (RM pointed to himself) Uga Uga and (he pointed to me) her Buka Buka."
Jim and Jane didn't realize that RM was just being facetious. I decided not to enlighten them.
They told us how they know a lot of people from the South Pacific Islands and asked us if we were homesick for the tropical islands. We were too dumbfound to answer. I was amazed that they looked at the color of our skin and just assumed we were born outside the U.S.
And then the clincher - Jane took both of my hands and as she held them, she said, "I just love your accent. I think it's so great that you came to America and learned the English language."
Here's a quick background on me and RM: I was born and raised in the good 'ol USA and the farthest place I've traveled is Hawaii.
RM was born outside the U.S., but his first language is English. His family spent many vacations here in the States and then the U.S. became his permanent home in his early teens. He works at one of the top Fortune 500 companies and has absolutely NO accent, he sounds very American and is one of the most patriotic person I know.
After Jane made the ignorant remark, RM decided to have some fun with them. "Yes, it was hard to sit still as we learned the English language from our tutor. Especially since I'm used to swinging from tree to tree in the jungles and having my pet monkey swing alongside me." "And then after I got tired swinging in the trees, I'd ride on our family's elephant to the nearest watering hole, and then swim amongst the alligators and hippos."
Jim had this faraway look and said, "Man, I would have done anything to have a childhood like that.
I didn't know if I wanted to laugh at this man's stupidity or give RM a high five for his outrageous storytelling.
Jane said, "I'm being so rude having you both stand outside, you should come in and take a seat. I'll get some lemonade so we can sip them with this tropical homemade treat (they were chocolate chip cookies) that you brought ." She takes the plate that was covered in foil and brought them close to her nose and said, "I just love coconut treats, it smells like Hawaii."
I don't know about you, but Hawaii doesn't come to mind when I smell chocolate chip cookies. And I did not put coconut in the cookies.
"Actually we have to go, we're running late." I reply. "We're having dinner at my husband's Aunt's house."
Jim shook his head and said, "I am so jealous that you're going to a luau."
Hmm....I never mentioned that dinner was a luau, probably because... it wasn't!
As we said our goodbyes and walked out of their house, Jane was still waving at us and then yelled out, "We have to go out to dinner some time and introduce you to our other friends. My best friend is Oriental and she's married to a colored man- I just know you'll love them!"
It took every ounce of will power not to give her the middle finger.
********* Note: I made up this story, we don't have neighbors that are this ignorant- at least none that I know of. Some of these conversations and ignorant questions actually took place over the years with various people and I combined them into this story.
However, RM did tell the story about growing up in the jungle after his coworker kept making ignorant assumptions about RM's upbringing...his coworker believed him.
One of the questions that we are often asked, is where RM and I are from.
My answer is always "Northern California" and RM's usual response is "Planet Earth".
We know that what people are really asking is what country we're from, never mind that we have no trace of a foreign accent, because the question is almost always followed with, "I mean, where are you originally from?"
Sometimes I correct people's false assumptions and tell them I was born in the U.S. and then there are times when I'm bored- and I tell them about the time I grew up in the jungle....