Voice: Cultures Not My Own, Part 1

I am human again. Or at least I feel human again.

After enduring several days of throbbing, pulsating, piercing, stabbing, excruciating pain due to a dead, infected tooth, not to mention the nausea/vomiting from lack of food, lack of sleep and too much pain medication, I got a wonderful root canal. I promise not to tell you about the abscess.

Instead, I’ll go back to my intended blogging schedule with a voice exercise. I’m working on a “wondering,” but it’s not yet fully cooked.

Have you ever felt a particular affinity for a geography or culture that is not your own? Why? What about it do you love or identify with?

I’m going to make this answer a two-parter, because of a comment my daughter made, thinking I was talking about boys and girls. Today, I’ll cover geographical culture. Next time, it’ll be gender culture.

I grew up in Canada and Australia, in a largely Dutch immigrant subculture, although surrounded by a whole lot of everybody in Toronto. The only other culture I’ve been attracted to is Irish. (No, that’s not why I dyed my hair red. I did that because I love Anne of Green Gables.)

The first dance I ever choreographed and performed in public was to a song in Gaelic by Clannad. I had no idea what it was about, but it was emotional and atmospheric, so I called it “Gaelic Mourning” and danced in and out of a man’s suit jacket as if it belonged to someone I had loved. It was all very deep and meaningful to my 19-year-old self who’d never been in love and hadn’t had anyone I loved die in 12 years. My image of Irish culture then was like my impression of that song: misty, romantic, yearning.

Another aspect of my attraction to Irish culture connects to my Canadianness: to a certain degree, both cultures define themselves negatively, as “not them” — “them” being the English to the Irish and the Americans to Canadians. Yes, Ireland has its own long history and literature and culture and language and food, but when you grow up right next to a big bully of a country, you can’t help that self-righteous sneer, that disdain towards the hulk you’re dependent upon.

First week of grade 10 history, the lesson was on xenophobia (fear or hatred of foreign things/people), and the prime example was the U.S. We were taught that Canada’s way with “other” cultures was to think of ourselves as a mosaic — each culture maintained its own brightness and beauty while being incorporated into a whole made beautiful by their addition. This was preferable to the American melting pot, wherein everyone was dumped into the stew and expected to come out one way, and that one way was throwing their weight around. (Gr. 10 history did not include any discussion of the assumptions of why the majority culture had all this power to decide how to treat “others” when the original inhabitants of both countries weren’t given that option. And I’ve heard much more scathing indictments about the melting pot from African Americans.) This defining ourselves against Big Brother wasn’t a vague, unspoken part of Canadian culture.

Now, as a dual citizen living in the States with her American husband and children, I’m them and not them. I say us and we when talking about American issues, but I maintain a kernel of that disdain in my Canadian heart of hearts.

I’d still love to visit Ireland, because now I also love the dark beer, but it doesn’t have the same romantic pull it did when I was in college. Does everyone have an “Irish phase”? Kind of like most girls have a “horse phase”?


Spread the word:

3 thoughts on “Voice: Cultures Not My Own, Part 1

  1. Heck, I’m still in an Irish/Scottish/Welsh phase (thank you, Prydain), but try being a blonde Finn with a German married name in the middle of Dutch subculture. Nothing like always being thought of as the other no matter how much I repeat, *I am NOT Dutch!*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *