College freshman orientation is a study in template. You see, everyone is trying to get to know everyone else, and so everyone gets asked the same questions again and again: what's your name? where are you from? and sometimes what's your major?
I often got stuck on the where are you from? first. Exchanges went like this:
Stranger: Where are you from?
Me: Here in Columbus.
Stranger: Oh, OK. What about before that?
Me: Well, I was born in Utah.
Stranger: ...And before that?
I assume that they were getting at: why are you a tall dark guy with a long black beard and long black hair and eyes that don't quite look like mine? There's just not an easy, polite, plug-in question for that. Poor freshmen. Their curiosity is admirable: I'd much rather be asked questions than denied jobs or mugged in an alleyway--perhaps questions are part of what make America great. And yet, I was always a little annoyed as well as amused to be asked about my pre-birth origins.
I also got tired of being told "you look very...ethnic" but probably only because I sort of wished there were a country called Ethnica I could claim as my ancestral homeland, thus fulfilling the asker's passing curiosity. Instead, I would have to go into an elaborate story about where my great-grandparents were born, and where their children moved, and which unions I was a product of.
Eventually, I came up with a one-word answer to questions probing at my mysterious origins. Caucajewmexdian. Short for Caucasian-Jewish-Mexican-Indian. It's not really the most helpful label, but it is amusing, which among my fellow Caucajewmexdians counts for a lot.
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