I Belong

 I write on another blog. It’s called Door County Mom. I’ve been going to Door County since before my son was born; that would be around 2006-2007. My ex and I bought a cottage in Gills Rock.

From day one I was told that we were not liked in Door County because we were part-time residents.

To shorten this story, I will share the truth. I've been asked to leave Door County more than once; I have been treated both as a resident and as an outsider. Those who know me — my neighbors — have opened their arms to me and my son, have welcomed us into their homes, have stopped by to say hello, have cheered us on, have prayed for us. Those that do not know me have called the sheriff on me (I still get butterflies in my stomach when a sheriff pulls up to my property in Door County), have told me I am not welcome (during the pandemic) and that I should sell my property. During the pandemic I was recently told by a resident and her husband that I was selfish, unwelcome, and reckless because I write about Door County. Because I continued to write and post beautiful photos of Door County on social media.

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I grew up in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I attended a Polish Catholic grade school. My of my friends had last names that ended with “ski”. Majewski, Wisniewski, Kaminsky, etc.

My last name at the time ended in ian. I was one half Polish and one half Armenian. I came to a school filled with light-skinned children, blonde hair, blue eyes and families who's mother and father both attended church. I was not like that. I was dark skinned, dark haired and my mother and I went to church on Sunday, but my father was a member of the Armenian Church — a Christian Orthodox church. I was embarrassed that my father did not attend Catholic Church. And my dark skin was amplified in the summer, whereby my mother too tried to keep me out of the sun lest I become too dark.

I was not blonde. I did not have a Polish last name. My dad did not attend church.

I stood out. And not in a good way according to my peers.

* * * *

In college and after, ethnic-looking girls were not in favor with the boys. It was rare to find a boy willing to date an olive, darker-skinned woman — usually only the Persians, Greeks and any other Middle Eastern guy showed interest in me, and I dated a few, but never any that held my interest. My long, dark, full-head of hair was beautiful, but it was not the norm. Most young women my age had thin hair with no curls, light to blonde, and they were much much prettier than me with their light skin.

* * * 

Because my parents each came from a different culture, I never fit in. With the Armenians, I did not look like them because my skin was too light. I was one of two kids who had a white mother. My mother did all the cooking and we never ate the Armenian food that my father so loved. My mother was not accepted by my father's mother, an Armenian immigrant. She adored me, but not my mom, and not my half brother and sister who had no Armenian blood in them at all. I was instructed by my Armenian grandmother to never kiss my brother, as he was not really my brother. I was told my sister was not really my sister. I was afraid to tell my mother these things. When I would return from my grandmother’s home, my mother would grill me. What did grandma say? Where was daddy? Did they argue? They did, but when they argued, it was always in Armenian, a language I never understood. 

My Polish grandmother had passed by the time I was born. My polish grandfather drank so much that by the time I was born his brain was not clear. He muttered inaudbily and often yelled at us kids. We loved to tease him from his window, make him come out and chase us. Thrilled and delighted when we provoked the sleeping giant. My parents built an addition onto the home to accommodate my grandfather, who my mother took care of.

So I never fit in with the Polish kids, and I never fit in with the Armenians. 

In college, I was too ethnic for the boys I had met. I survived without a boyfriend most of my life.

* * * *

Sometimes I look at myself with compassion. When I was younger, my eyes were incredibly beautiful! Hazel-colored which, to this day, I love! Looking back at photos of myself, I see the beauty I possessed. I saw the beauty in my aged Armenian grandmother's face, and I see myself in her.

But men really do not see it. Men in this country are not attracted to ethnic women. And now that I have aged, my Polish features have become more prominent. I don’t look Armenian. I don’t look Polish.

* * * *

I found a home away from home in Door County and yet realize that this place too is an unwelcoming bastion of northern Europeans who are also blonde-haired, blue-eyed. I’m a new resident, less than 20 years, and I have not been fully accepted there either.

* * * *

I try to tell myself I belong. That is a foreign concept. I don’t understand it quite fully. As I age, I will believe that I belong. It’s sad that it’s taken an entire lifetime to realize this.