Contradictory Lessons from my Biracial Upbringing

Contradictory Lessons from my Biracial Upbringing

I grapple on a daily basis with polar impulses inherited from my Egyptian father and Norwegian mother. For recurring real-life scenarios that leave me torn, I’ve developed these guidelines, and reference whatever sentiment best fits the setting.

Scenario: You are injured

Egyptian reaction: Regardless of your injury’s severity, panic- but remain collected enough to consult a doctor (likely another relative or immigrant friend). Administer a generous dose of neurotic fussing, bandages and antibiotics. Be sure relay the experience, as dramatically as possible, to all near and distant friends and relatives. Lay low for a couple of days to ensure a full recovery, bearing in mind that regardless of how you feel physically, you have sustained an injury. Upon healing, develop a “preventive” anxiety around whatever caused your injury.

Norwegian reaction: No matter how serious it is, there’s a good chance that there are plenty of resources at your direct disposal to handle the situation swiftly and, most importantly, before anyone can take notice and cause an unnecessary fuss. For example, you’ve torn a finger off in a wheat thrasher. Fortunately, the nuisance of blood drizzling from your open wound is solved by a snug work glove. You can finish out the day and nobody’s the wiser!

Scenario: Out-of-Town Relatives Visit

Egyptian reaction: Meticulously clean your house, and decorate with fresh flowers. Cook for several days prior to their arrival so you have at least part of the weekend’s meals prepared ahead of time. When your guests arrive, kiss and embrace them as if they just descended onto Ellis Island. Sympathize over the pains of travel. Between meals, visit over tea and cookies from a fancy tin container. Pass around photos from past reunions. English optional.

Norwegian reaction: Put fresh sheets in the guest bedroom and vacuum the main area. Run to the grocery store and stock up on donuts and coffee for breakfast, and take a massive roast out of the freezer to start thawing the night before their arrival. Be sure to keep main visiting areas stocked with large bags of M&Ms. Upon their arrival, greet them as you would a neighbor you haven’t seen since yesterday morning. Remember, a good host offers plenty of casual conversation, coffee/desserts and personal space.

Scenario: You have the day off

Egyptian reaction: Prepare a tray of assorted fresh fruit. Eat slowly in your pajamas while you enjoy the peaceful view of nature through your living room window. Go for a long walk if the weather is nice. More than likely you are pursuing for some higher education, so take the afternoon to study for whatever entrance exam this profession requires. Typically you would study for seven straight hours, but today is your day off! Study for five. Reminisce about your childhood.

Norwegian reaction: Wake up at the same time you would on any other day. Take your time reading the paper with your coffee and buttered toast. Realize that today is your day off, and decide to make pancakes. Butter them liberally. Invite a friend or relative over for about four hours of coffee, casual chatting and non-competitive card games. Take a 20 minute nap on the couch with your shoes on, so that once you wake up you can immediately wander into your garage in search of “projects.”

-Katya Karaz