Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Just LOOK White, People.

I'm white. Pale white. Blond hair, blue-eyed white. Full on Cau-Casian.

Anyone who knows me, however, and happens to know a little bit about discourse patterns, understands that beneath this Casper-like exterior, is the soul of a fiery little Latina.

That's right. I said it. I am Hispanic of the Heart.

See, it all started when my friend, Colt, and I wound up in the wrong seminar at an educational conference. We'd wandered off on the San Antonio Riverwalk to find some actual Diet Coke because, let's face it, San Antone loves their Pepsi Cola products. Me? Oh, no me gusta. But Colt, being the good little boy from Small Town America sniffed out the only Diet Coke within 20 miles -- at, no less, a Dairy Queen. Even the Riverwalk can't say no to the power of the DQ; it's that good. I told ya.

So, we're off, getting our fix, ignoring the fact that our session is most likely filling up. So where do we wind up? At this total BRAIN RESEARCH session on discourse patterns -- right up on the very front dang row. So we're both putting on that we know what the hell this dude (who is so just an old, dried-up hippie in a Polo and respectable haircut -- awesome) is talking about. We nod wisely, every so often, and jot down notes and take long pulls from our 32 ozs of delish.

I'm still only mildly paying attention when all of a sudden, the dried up hippie, starts showing all these diagrams and making us do some audience participation. So, I pinch myself, clear out the Winnie-the-Pooh Head (cotton fluff for brains), and prepare to be called upon because that's just my luck.

Then, what do ya know? The Dude totally tells me I'm Hispanic. Fo' reals, yo! Because as he's explaining discourse patterns (which is basically the way people relate stories and converse --either orally or in writing-- that only took me about 12 minutes to grasp this definition), he shows us the following examples:

People in Asian languages tend to explain things in an indirect pattern. Meaning? They appear to dance around the topic. They circle it in a spirally-shaped pattern because to address the main idea or issue immediately is considered rude. Native American patterns are similar, but I think theirs also has to do with the interconnectedness of their culture with that of the earth. It's all very mystical and cool, but I fazed out at this point. Someone on the other side of the room had on a really bad wig, and I simply had to study it for a moment and ponder whether I could get an inconspicuous picture for my friend, Courtney, who is a champion wig-spotter. I knew she'd be impressed.

Then he went back to American/British discourse patterns and how we are all about "straight to the effin' point, peeps". Literally, it's like a straight line. No variations. Totally boring. This depressed me a little, I must admit. There's nothing I hate more than the "Here's what I'm gonna tell ya... Now I'm telling ya... Let me re-cap what I just told you" sort of writing I see far too often. I thought those people were simply boring, but, no... just American. Maybe British. Jamie, if you're reading this, I'm sorry to tell you that you are only slightly less boring than the Yanks.

Just as I'm relaying this juicy realization to Colt, via 7th grade note-passing style, the Dried-up Hippie Dude grabs my attention with something I can use! How to understand the writings of my Hispanic students! What? I wasn't understanding? There's something more going on than just bad spelling and the atrocious denial of any and all punctuation marks? Apparently, HECK YES there is!

It's called discourse pattern, and obviously, me... the boring gringa with the nauseatingly dull, American pattern has been missing out. While many people think that students who deal in one of the romance languages (i.e. Spanish) are just "rambling" or "off-topic", in truth, they are just doing as culture dictates.

Por ejemplo (that's "for example" for the caucasian set):

Romance languages develop by digression; take lots of time; begin with topic, go off on tangent, contradict tangent, and conclude with main idea. They totally move in a zig-zag pattern. It's flowery, fancy, uses lots of intensifiers and reiteration; each time it gets bigger and better. It involves lots of examples that seem to not have any connection until... TA DAH... the end is there and everything is all wrapped up and making sense! Sadly, however, most crazy Americans/Brits just give up halfway through and mentally make note to never engage that person in conversation/reading ever again. Ever. Suckers! Hey, Los Estados Unidos, you're totally missing out!

This is the point where I start adding up all the pieces of my life. My cousin (who's not really my cousin, just the daughter of my mom's best friend) married a Hispanic man. I spent many summer nights at his family's house, and I LOVED IT. Loved everything about it except the menudo (the dish, not the band). It was warm and homey and everyone was in everyone's business, and at night... there were ALWAYS stories. And not stupid Americanized bedtime stories that are like 9 sentences over 20 pages. Stories that went all over the place, jumping characters and settings, weaving in Spanish with the English. It was lyrical and magical, and I could never tell them, but I always knew where they were headed and where they'd been. Thomas's Abuelita would start off, and I'd be nearly asleep before she wound up at the moral of the story. And there was ALWAYS a lesson, but there might be 4 different stories to illustrate it. It was pure awesomeness. She was a total story-weaver.

So, I'm trying to tell all this to Colt, who is nervous and embarrassed because we're on the front row of this shindig, and I'm clearly disrupting, but he's not getting it. The fact that, as a storyteller? Dude, I'm totally HISPANIC! It all made sense! My continual free-flow, devil-may-care way of relaying my point, with tons of analogies and similes and tangents isn't due to a lack of an internal editor. It's due to culture, Man!

Now, granted, my whole family is lily-white (or so they say), so is my cultural breeding simply a result of my time with the Reyna family and their sweet, little Abuelita? Multi-culturalism by osmosis? Or just an excuse for some adult-onset ADD? I prefer the first. It makes me very mysterious. Very "you think you know me, but oh, no... you're wrong". Very "don't judge a book by its cover". And I like this. It's the only time in my life that I've ever been exotic. It justifies me in all those times I've spent watching people's eyes drift away from my story. I'm not rambly. They're just boring and ignorant of my adopted culture. Freakin' racists.

I recently unveiled this revelation to two of my very good friends. Only, when I relayed this story, I was also 2 glasses of iced tea infused vodka up on them. By the way, vodka totally makes my Hispanic discourse pattern even more zig-zaggy. Tequila, too, but we didn't have tequila that night. Just vodka. Really good vodka. Court's husband made some sun-brewed vodka. How cool is that?

They didn't argue. They've known me almost half my life, and they are fully conditioned to my randomness. I mean, really, could they argue? Because if you're at this point in the post, you can't deny it either. And, I totally turned off the internal editor for this one. She's American and this is how she'd tell it.

  • There was a conference.
  • I went to a session on brain research and discourse patterns.
  • I decided I was Hispanic because my conversation is never "to the point".
  • Colt thinks he may be Hispanic, too, simply for the fact that he can follow my thought patterns.
  • We laughed.
  • The end.

Snoozefest. Internal editor is Dullsville, America.

I'm so glad I'm Hispanic instead.


  1. I kinda always thought I was black, but I guess I'm Latino too! No wonder I like you so much sista!
    I mean, me-ho.
    I mean...I have NO idea.
    What are we talking about?
    (but seriously, this was some intersting shit Deana. I mean that.)

  2. I KNOW! Even more interesting once Colt and I figured out what the crap he was talking about.