american, by definition

  1. When you stare at the blank line underneath the question, “what is your favorite food?” and decide to write pizza, because even though you don’t love it as much as *biryani, you still like it. And my classmates know what it is. I won’t have to explain why I love it so much and how I can eat it day after day or the fact that I like mine with potatoes when others don’t and why potatoes and no potatoes is a major debate that actually exists. 

*Biryani- a (very delicious) rice dish with spices, meat, and sometimes (it should be always) potatoes. 

  1. When your teacher asks you a riddle and the answer is waves, and you know it is, but you pronounce words starting with the letter w with a v sound and it comes out as vaves making her think you said vase. I said waves but your w’s are w’s while mine are v’s and I can’t really tell you why because  I don’t really understand and if even I did you probably wouldn’t understand. 
  1. When someone stares at you for a second too long because you just told them that you’ve never played the game Life. But they’ve never played *ludo either, not during the middle of nights when they could just as easily have been watching movies like everyone else. It’s not a part of their childhood like it is of mine, a game that helps me remember those little moments that I would otherwise forget.

*Ludo- a board game to play with 2-4 people where each person rolls 2 dice and moves their ‘token’ according to the numbers they get. If other players’ tokens land on the same spot as your token you have to move back to the beginning (caution: may lead to tears and feelings of frustration). 

  1. When, in 3rd grade,  your aunt asks if you want her to put on *henna, but you say no I don’t feel like it. You watch your sister air drying the henna on her hand and just wish that you could be a little more like her. But I’m not, not when I constantly pull down my sleeves to hide what is on my hand, because I don’t want to answer any more questions that begin with what or why. 

*Henna- a temporary dye, made from a plant, that is put on through a cone to create designs on someone’s hand. Looks sort of like a tattoo.

  1. When you read an article in english class about asian parents and the rules they have for their children and some of your classmates start saying things like ‘that’s sort of mean.’ No, it’s not, I would know, because my parents do some of the same things. Yes, they push me to get A’s and B’s and C’s are better if they are also B’s but sometimes C’s can be C’s. 
  1. When quarantine hits and people spend their days laying in bed, scrolling away on TikTok. Slowly through all the scrolling 2020 becomes 2021 and your for you page fills with videos of people saying things like *‘the desi urge to’ and ‘things every Asian has in their house.’ You like one after another because I know what they mean by having a basket full or oranges on the counter a day after your Dad hears you say that they taste nice. Or the urge to drink chai even though you don’t like it very much because it’s just so very desi. 

*Desi urge- an urge to do something just because a person has a South Asian culture. 

*Chai- tea that you make by boiling black tea and milk together and later on adding sugar. 

  1. When, in 6th grade, you walk up to your locker and immediately tell the girl next to you not to ask what is on your hand but she gives one glance at your hand and simply says ‘its henna.’ I stand there in shock while she compliments on how pretty it looks and then she just walks away like what she said wasn’t really important because it really shouldn’t be because past teachers( especially females) have complimented my henna before but she isn’t a teacher, she’s a girl. Just like me. 
  1. When you meet a girl in your freshman year gym class who knows why your mom gives you herbal tea when you are sick and instead of asking, why? like most people would she nods her head and says how it tastes so good and how her mom gives it to her too. She asks if you like mangos and when you say no, she instantly says what? Because that’s totally a felony where you come from. She reacted just like *Ami & Baba when I told them I don’t like mangos. She doesn’t think that drinking herbal tea once in a while makes me kind of weird. 

*Ami & Baba- Mom & Dad

  1. When you’re put in a group of people in English class to come up with songs and one of the girls comments on how most of the songs she listens to are in Russian while another says most of the one’s she listens to are in Chinese so it’s sort of hard to come up with songs to do the assignment. Exactly, if I’m asked what songs I listen to people won’t care why listening to bollywood songs immediately makes someone want to dance or sing at the top of their lungs. But I didn’t know that Russian and Chinese people also have to think long and hard about what their favorite (english) song is. 

10. When you come home from school to tell your sister you are working on a personal narrative in creative writing and ask her what moments make her think that she isn’t ‘american american’ but …. she is American, by definition. Still she lists things that you think of too and maybe so do other people.

By Maha Adnan

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