Back when I lived in Miami, I ate a lot of food. It was my first time away from my parents. It was the first time I could buy exactly what I wanted. And I ate what I wanted, whatever that meant.
Usually, it meant a lot of chocolate and fried foods. That was something we almost never had growing up. We rarely ate out. We rarely even ate pre-packaged foods.
For example, things like McDonald’s, and Taco Bell, and Chef Boyardee, and Fruit Loops; I didn’t have until I was an adult. So you can imagine, I went a little overboard when I moved out. I actually gained about 20 (much needed) pounds in just a few months.
Every Friday I would cash my paycheck and go to this seafood restaurant. The only seafood I like is fried clams. And I fucking love fried clams. So, I’d eat my big plate of fried (as I always call it). Fried clams and french fries with ketchup, which is almost a food group for me.
After a few weeks, I was more or less a regular to the restaurant. I kept getting the same, VERY unfriendly waitress. She was much older and was very rude to me. She would talk to me as though I were stupid and sometimes I would see her eyeing me suspiciously from across the restaurant.
I generally ignored this. I mean, it was probably my imagination. I had done nothing to her. I was an excellent tipper. And I tried to not be too demanding. But her dislike for me was unmistakable.
One day, after going there maybe six or seven times, the waitress came up to me. With a forced casualness she asked, “So, where are you from?”
“Here?” I answered slowly. I thought maybe she thought I was a tourist.
“No, I mean, where did you grow up?” She was looking at me with open suspicion.
“Florida.” I was really confused now.
“Where are you originally from? Where were you born?” She was getting impatient with me now. Like I was hiding something from her.
“I was born in Florida.” I can be very thick and I was still not getting it.
“Where are your parents from?” She was up in my personal space now. Grilling me.
That’s when I finally got where she was going with this. “Well, my mother was born in Florida. My father is from Ohio. Why?”
“I don’t like you coming in here. I can hardly understand you when you order. You have a very thick accent. I know you aren’t American.”
Readers, some of you know me in real life. I don’t even have a Florida accent, let alone a foreign accent. But I am very used to this type of reaction.
However, this woman was the worst. She refused to believe I was from this country. And she made several comments to me about how “dark” I am. (I hear I look like various non-white groups all the time, usually Hispanic).
Finally, I “confessed” that I was from Czechoslovakia (it just popped in my head). She triumphantly exclaimed that she knew I had been lying and went back to being rude and giving me the evil eye.
But she had made me so uncomfortable and unwelcome that I never went back to that restaurant again. I am older now and would probably report someone that treated me that way, but I was 17 and so unsure of myself.
I have been told for my entire life that I have an accent. As you all may recall, I had to learn to speak English as a child due to an accident.
In high school I was at a my boyfriend’s guardian’s party. Someone sat down and chatted with me for 10 minutes before interrupting our conversation to tell me “You speak very good English.”
To which I idiotically replied, “Thanks.”
I found out later they thought I was also a German exchange student, like my boyfriend.
And at my current job, I have customer’s asking me all the time if I am Canadian or European. This happens on an almost weekly basis. But they usually believe me when I say I am not.