“Where are you from?”
It’s the number one question I get asked.
I don’t mind the question, but it can get tiring when people don’t want to believe me. They want me to say I’m from some country they’re familiar with.
Some people think right off the bat that they know where I’m from and make sure to tell me.
For example, I’ll be in a conversation and someone will say, “Oh that’s right you’re Palestinian aren’t you?”
It’s funny to me because the assumptions are never right.
I’ve had people think I’m Egyptian or Pakistani or some hybrid of the two.
There have even been taxi rides in which the cab driver talks to me in Urdu and when I don’t respond the driver gets upset. “So your parents never taught you the language eh?”
“I’m sorry I’m not from Pakistan if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m American.”
Silence follows and I can tell the driver is trying to figure out if I’m a convert to Islam or pretending not to be Pakistani.
Then there are the times when people say, “Where is your father from?”
Because that automatically makes me Lebanese even though I’ve only been to Lebanon 2 or 3 times in my life.
For me, my identity is always shifting in some form, but it mostly holds on to the American side of me.
I was born and raised here in the United States, my mother was born and raised here and so were her parents.
In fact, that’s all I ever knew until we moved overseas when I was 11. We finally had the opportunity to stop by Beirut and meet my dad’s family.
I had never met the Lebanese side and it was quite the culture shock! It was a big and noisy family. When they talked at a normal level it sounded like they were shouting and fighting. I wasn’t used to that at all. But it was wonderful to meet my father’s family and learn more about where he came from.
I don’t know if I ever fit in with my Lebanese side. The Arabic dialect I grew up learning was in the Gulf accent, because those were the Arabs I was around in the United States. So I spoke like a Saudi kid and my Lebanese realtives would laugh because it was so strange to them.
We only lived in the Middle East for about five and a half years before returning back to the United States, and I have to say, this is my home and where I feel most comfortable and in my element.
If I were to break down my ethnic heritage it would look something like this 1/8 Danish 1/8 English 1/4 Swedish and 1/2 Lebanese (although it’s debated that it’s 1/8 Lebanese 1/8 Palestinian and 1/4 Shami and so many other formulas!).
As you can see it can be a little complicated when people want to know where I’m from.
Ultimately though? I’m just another American girl.