Thursday, August 30, 2007

The "No Culture" Club

I was answering a marketing survey question about my "cultural heritage" and foods, rituals, traditions, etc. related to it. I paused and thought. I am a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant upper middle-class product of the suburbs (WASPUMPS)--I don't have a cultural heritage!

If you grew up Irish, you had whiskey and beer, St. Patty's Day and Catholic guilt. If you grew up Jewish, you had Hannukah or Chanukah and bagels and lox and Jewish mother guilt. If you were of Italian descent, you had Joe DiMaggio and Sly Stallone (Yo, Adrian!) and manicotti and rigatoni and the Mafia.

What do WASPUMPS have? They have ethnic food aisles in grocery stores now--Asian foods, Mexican foods. If they had an "ethnic" food aisle for WASPUMPS, what would be in it? Marshmallow Fluff? Cheetos? Jel-lo? Vanilla Wafers?

The word "ethnic" seems to conjure up scenes of the multi-cultural patterns of a city--fruit vendors, delicatessens, cathedrals and temples and mosques. The chatter of foreign languages, the colors of skin, the fabrics of saris and burqas, kente cloth and batik. And of course the fragrances of the food--curries and spices...

In the suburbs, we had none of those flavors or fragrances. But we did have fireflies and tadpoles and the song of crickets at night in the summer. We had Red Cross swimming lessons--our punishment for having summer vacation. Our mothers would drag us there while we were still comatose--the shock of the icy cold pool water waking us up as we learned to dog paddle and tread water.

Come winter, we would try to scrape together enough snow after the first dusting of the season to build a sorry looking snowman. Praying that the weather report calling for "possible accumulation" meant a cherished snow day off from school. Poring through the Sears catalog for ideas to add to our Christmas lists.

We had Barbies burrowing under canopy beds and G.I. Joes buried in the backyard. Popsicles and Nestlé Quik. Saturday morning cartoons and Frosted Flakes. Gilligan's Island and Star Trek and Get Smart. Slumber parties and sleeping bags, hopskotch and jump rope, yo-yos and pet rocks. Our mothers were Girl Scout leaders and baked cookies for class parties, our dads coached Little League and manned the barbeque grills.

And that's my culture. The rituals and traditions of the WASPUMPS. A shout out to all my peeps!

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