A to Z 2014

A to Z 2014
A to Z 2014

Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for Xenomania

The definition of xenomania is "an enthusiasm for foreign customs and cultures".   I believe it to be a hereditary condition that was passed on to me by my father.  He was a hobo at heart, and managed to live a nomadic lifestyle by serving his country in the Coast Guard.

All my life I have exhibited symptoms of xenomania unaware there even was such a thing.  Although I've never actually lived outside the U.S. or its territories, I have had ample opportunity to meet folks from different ethnic backgrounds and for reasons I didn't understand (until now) I felt a real affinity for cultures different from my boring middleclass, caucasion, Protestant background.

Recently I was cleaning out closets and bumped in to a childhood scrapbook that my mom had kept for me.  I found a class photo from when were living in Waipahu, Hawaii and although I don't remember being any different from the rest of my second-grade classmates I had to laugh when I handed the portrait to my Better Half and asked if he could pick me out.  You couldn't miss me, not so much because I resemble my seven year old self but because I was the only haole (white) kid in the whole class.  I vividly remember being befriended by a pair of Philippino twins, Edna and Ethel, and spending as much time as possible at their house.  They had lots of siblings, both older and younger and I loved being part of their chaotic brood.  My family was the average American one with two kids and a mom who ran a pretty tight ship with dinner at 6:00 p.m. and betime at 8:30.   Edna and Ethel's way of life was a lot more relaxed, with no specific eating time and everyone just grabbing whatever was on the stove.  There weren't enough bedrooms for everyone so you just crawled in to the nearest available opening on a bed that might already hold three other kids .  We'd wake up in the morning and eat left over cold rice with milk and sugar and dash outside barefoot.  It was awesome, I never wanted to go home.

Eventually we moved to California and instead of Philippino, Japanese, and Polynesian friends I now went to school with a lot of Hispanics.  Anita DeSoto and I became best friends and again I was drawn to a lifestyle different from my own.    Anita's grandfather lived with the family which I thought was very cool and she had two younger sisters.  Her mom always had home made tortillas on-hand and there would be a big pot of frijoles cooking on the stove.  Anita had tons of aunties, uncles, and cousins who kindly assimilated me in to their family and made me feel like one of them.  The DeSotos were staunch Catholics and Anita's mom made sure we were up in time for mass on Sunday mornings.  Much to my parents consternation I no longer wanted to attend the Lutheran church I had been babtized in, I now embraced a religion where mysterious nuns dressed in black and white habits, lived in a monastery on the church grounds and mass was said in Latin.

The next move took me to a place where the Chamorran natives were of Spanish decent.  Guam was a melting pot of many different cultures and I embraced all of them.   Again, my pale skin and blonde hair distinctly stood out from the mostly brown-skinned Micronesians but I soon fell in love with the people and their happy-go-lucky lifestyle.  It was common for large extended families to trade off kids who would go to "stay" with different aunts or uncles or older brothers or sisters.  They would hold large parties for every occassion from christenings to funerals.  Vast tables of food would be set-up outside and when driving down a back road lined with cars my friends and I would often stop and join the party even if we didn't know whose house it was or what they were celebrating.  I would gladly have lived forever on that idyllic island paradise.

Our last move was to my birthplace, South Haven, Michigan, and for the first time my xenomania waned.  Although now I was living someplace where I had actual blood relatives and everyone looked like me, I had never felt more like an alien in my entire life.  Life is strange isn't it?   



  1. So wonderful to read, most enjoyable. Well you got over the X letter well done.


  2. Thank Yvonne, I think it is your encouragement that has kept me going in this challenge:)