Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Neighborhood; Little Israel, Spanish-speaking gangstas & Crazies, Part II

I need to clarify my title for the last couple entries. The neighborhood that I currently live in borders the projects and the more affluent community, which consists of many yuppies and Jewish families. There are, of course, many mixed asian-white couples in our hood, as there are in most Manhattan neighborhoods. The other day, I told Alex (as I watched the fifth asian-white couple in a three block radius), 'I wish we weren't such a trend,' to which Alex replied, 'I think the trend's here to stay.'

Growing up in the Bay Area, I wasn't immune to mixed families. In my high school alone, there were more and more half-this-and-half-that people than I could count. I loved it! It gave me hope that race would no longer be an issue in, say, a couple generations from now when color lines blur. However, any time I step outside my safe bubble of ethnodiversity, I was slapped in the face with the realization that most people stick to their own.

You would think that in a city with almost every ethnic group represented in its borders, that people would mix and mingle, creating more and more mixed children, more and more interesting communities with two or three cultures in one household, but I've found that many people, even in a place as big and bold as Manhattan, are more comfortable sticking to their own.

At the playground across the street, I have an identity crisis almost everyday. I know I go there for Adele, but I still feel out of place. Do I sit with the (often hispanic or black) nannies and their red-haired chargees or the yuppies (often much more established and older)? While I contemplate this, I begin to wonder if there are others who feel as estranged as I feel.

And there are.... A woman smiles at me. I can't figure out if she's the nanny or the mother. She looks very young and her child has blond hair while she has darker coloring. I'm sure this is the same thought pattern that is racing through her head about me. I sit down next to her, Adele climbing all over the bench and reaching for the baby's toy. Of course, this breaks the ice and we start talking. Turns out, Janice is a young mother like me who also feels out of place. 'Everyone thinks I'm the nanny.' I don't say that I wondered that too. Instead, I nod. She continues, 'Everyone here is either a haitian nanny or an older white lady. I just don't fit in.' I feel like clapping and shouting 'Hallelujah', but instead I demurely state, 'I get what you're saying.'

A few days after I meet Janice, I return to the park with Alex and Adele, happy to enjoy the park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Mid-swing, I look over at Alex and ask, 'Something's different about the park today....What is it?' Alex laughs and simply answers, 'All the white people are here.' Sure enough, I look around and I see WASP families, all perfectly manicured with paisley hats and polos, walking Brooks Brothers advertisements and I don't recognize any of the faces. I make eye contact with Alex and mouth, 'Why the sudden flood?' He mouths back, 'Nannies are off on Saturday. Parents take their kids to the park to feel less guilty about leaving them home during the week.' I gotta hand it to Alex. He says what he thinks, with no hesitation and not so much as a facial twitch.

This brings me back to my first day in Manhattan. I was embezzled out of an apartment (which I will blog about later, I promise) and found myself crying in Central Park. The only distinct memory I have from that day that didn't have to do with testifying against a nasty, heroin addicted crook is noticing all the nannies in the playgrounds. Nannies outnumbered parents 10;1 and it made me sad. I made a promise to myself, that even if I were to make it big, get rich, and have more disposable income than I know what to do with, I will not fall into the super cliche of having a black/hispanic nanny taking care of my mixed child. If anything, I want a young, white manny, preferably one who likes Chaucer, to flip the stereotype slightly on its head as he strolls my little Adele around.

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