(November 18, 2013: Captain’s log. This is by far the most controversial piece I ever posted. Ironically, I meant to analyze my acculturated reactions and make clear that I wanted to broaden my understanding of “One Of Us.” Hence the title above. However, an extremely large minority of the readers took me to mean that I endorsed my learned class prejudices.
I do not.
And, misguidedly, I had posted the first picture of my children here, thinking that everyone would understand the gesture of extending family as it was intended.
They did not.
So I leave the post up, with trepidation, hoping that with this introduction any new readers will approach with an open mind, and believe that I do everything I can to admit to and move beyond that part of my privilege which may cause harm. Thank you in advance.)
As I have explained, the Four Seasons Maui is very beautiful. As I have also explained, my little family and I had a wonderful time there. As I have not yet explained, however, the visit set me to thinking about resorts, communities, and how you react when other people seem not to be your sort.
In Hawaii, as in other places of family leisure, High WASPs show themselves fairly openly. They don’t worry about tank tops fitting. Or manicures.
They do still like to match.
They consume more alcohol than usual, and, given the libatious* culture, I’m already talking high volume. Then, at night, sisters lay their heads upon their brothers’ shoulders, and mothers and significant others walk behind, weaving, happily.
But what we don’t tend to do is swan about draped in artifacts of wealth. We tend towards the shabby. Or the slightly costumed, with historic or comic references. For example, fading red pants with lobsters. Or Lilly Pulitzer and her ilk, worn only near water or for holiday parties. Alternatively, we go native, like India Hicks, Tory Burch, and Gwyneth Paltrow. You see, we want to portray that we might in fact live where we vacation. Our motto being, “Oh this old thing?” in both residence and attire.
I will say this only once, and attempt to say it with all due respect and only because I wouldn’t want to mislead you. In December 2011, many of the people with whom we shared the Four Seasons Maui were Other. Glossier, more cosseted, and plumped out by artificial substances of all varieties.
It’s very, very tricky, to feel that people are Other, when you come from the original dominant class. Even when falling like Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, we High WASPs clutch tatters of Very Good-Looking Toile de Juoy in our tended hands. Those we now see as Other, we once called Not Our Kind, Dear. With no respect, only disdain. And that disdain was used for the longest time as part of a sophisticated arsenal to keep Others out.
So if I think, “That family over there is Other, they do not comport themselves as we do,” I observe myself, making sure that I don’t lump any cues of accent, skin color, and hair color, or any visible signs of religious identity, in with the behavior that drives me nuts.
You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are. Goes without saying, but always worth saying anyway. I started this blog in large part to deconstruct my upbringing.
And in the spirit of Old Dogs: New Tricks Edition, I did try to set aside the culture, a bit. For fun. One day, I wore this bikini, this sarong, and these earrings to the pool. I felt almost as though I’d sported a pierced navel and left off the bathing suit altogether. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Never mind then. Believe it or not, the earrings were more difficult to wear poolside than the sequined bikini top.
Cue music, always a good trick when narrative needs a non-linear intervention. Perhaps, we think, Annie was right. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. Even a blurry one. For our last night, dinner at Spago’s, I channeled Mad Men. The square-heeled white patent shoes I swear someone lifted from my mother’s closet, c. 1966.I felt comfortable in fancy-ish pearls, all part of my costume.
But that little shin injury you might be able to make out was not part of the intended effect.
The kids and I had woken up early that morning. Really early, 3am sort of morning. My daughter was still annoyed with me for having refused to drive the road to Hana. The hotel gave us zucchini bread, hot tea and coffee, and blankets. We drove to the top of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala. As did many other tourists – from Japan, places unknown, and Minnesota.
We were really, really cold. Even the little boy from Minnesota kept asking, “Can we go home yet?” I barked my shin on a rock, trying to return in the dark to a warm car. My kids laughed at the ensuing curses. I need to tell you again just how cold we were, and for how long.
The sun rose. Fog rolled across the crater.
Did you know that the sun does in fact have rays in situations like this? I did not. We warmed up.
The sun on my kids’ faces. We weren’t trying to look like Mary in my grandmama’s Nativity Scene, or, as my son said – in a rush of language given only to the young – Bedouin mendicants. It’s just so much better to create a sense of family by having weird adventures than worrying about who talks too loudly at the swimming pool.
*Which may or may not be a word.
Shopping Tory Burch and Alexis Bittar in 2015