I hate the question, "Where are you from," because, if I'm being truthful, I have to answer, "New Jersey."
It is the summer of 2003. My husband, who is not yet my husband, and I are trekking across Europe. For one luxurious week, we're staying at a bed and breakfast in Pointassieve, just outside of Florence. The owner of the beautifully restored 15th century farmhouse is a talented chef and tonight, our first evening here, we're sitting around the table drinking wine and eating an appetizer of melon wrapped in prosciutto with a group of rowdy Australians "on holiday". The inevitable question is passed to us: "Whare are you from?" "The United States," I say, as if this isn't perfectly obvious. "Yes, but where in the US?" ask the rowdy Australians. "Just outside of New York City," I add, but I'm not off the hook. Australians love to travel. They want details. "New Jersey," I admit, feeling the heat rise to my cheeks. My confession is met with much teasing and laughter. My suspicion is confirmed. Everyone does look down upon NJ. Even in Australia.
People think it's okay to tease you about place in a way that they would never joke about race or ethnicity, because they aren't teasing YOU, per se. But they are. It's where you're from. It's part of who you are.
I used to console myself with the thought that I was conceived in New York. Oh I might live in NJ, but my place of origin, my formative months in the womb, were spent in NYC. A couple weeks ago, my mother diabused me of this notion. In a rare online moment, she read my blog about our parallel moves from the city to the suburbs. Apparently I got one critical fact wrong: my mother had moved from New York not because she was about to have a baby, but for my father's work. In other words, she got pregnant with me AFTER they moved.Continued on the next page