Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Being interracial in the wine country

As I've said a few times before, I'm white and my husband is not. He's Mexican. And lovely at that. His features are very distinct if you're used to looking at people directly from Latin American vs. people who are the 2nd or 3rd generation here. He's got a little bit of a warrior inside of him.

I tend to think that people who are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. generation in a Mexican family (or any Latin family) tend to get diluted somehow. This must start with someone throwing in some white genes or someone making babies with a very causasian-looking Mexican person (don't always think that the blondy sitting next to you is white -- he/she could very well be from Mexico). However it happens, there is a definite difference between generational features. My husband is 1st generation to be born in the US in his family. So he's still sporting the warrior look. And I like it.

I've been with him for almost 12 years now, so I'm pretty used to how he looks. You put us together, and we're complete opposites. He's brown (more so in the summer), and I tend to keep my pale whiteness throughout the year. Me and the sun usually don't meet each other too much now that I work in an office building. Since I'm so used to how we must look together, I hardly think about what others are seeing. It's just me and my hubby, not some interracial couple trying to start troubles with other people. Other people in the wine country, that is.

I have now crossed the wine country off my list of possible weekend getaways.

We arrived at our B&B at night, so the only people we saw were those in the inn itself. No problems there; we were treated with kindness. No weird looks or rudeness. Then we went to a nearby restaurant (one of the two) for dinner. That wasn't bad either, but that's when I noticed all the white people. And that's it. Just the white folks. Unless you counted the guys in the back.

The next day we went to River Rock (see entry below), and while we were surrounded by wrinkly Asian people, and neither one of us are Asian, we felt okay there. Just like any other casino crowd -- the rainbow of colors and ages were displayed proudly.

As we drove to the wineries in Healdsburg, we started to see more and more Mexican workers. Not Mexican people out and about on a lovely Saturday having a good time, but either working or trying to get somewhere or something. They certainly weren't wine tasting. The first winery we went to was fine as far as my husband being the only brown guy drinking wine in the vicinity, and we were actually treated very nicely by the jolly and knowledgeable man behind the counter than kept feeding us wine. We liked him, the experience and the wine so much that we bought a bottle.

We really didn't know where else to go since we're not wine drinkers enough to know who to like (although I am partial to Robert Mondavi thanks to my close pal), so my husband declared he was going to follow a couple that just left in a limo. I had overheard the guy saying their next stop was the general store, but I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on (blame that on the wine). As he was pulling into the parking area, I told him this was a general store, not a winery. We got out anyway in search of snacks, but this general store, being in the wine country, was one of those "gourmet" general stores that features twigs and nuts and organic wheat chips and nothing like turkey jerky or cheetos.

When we walked out of the store, I was looking straight ahead, which just so happened to face a table full of Mexican guys who I'm pretty sure either worked in the fields or worked in a restaurant. Stereotypes aside, this is usually the case. Suddenly my head was hit with death rays of hate from the table of guys, and I had to quickly look away to save my sight. The death rays could have been meant for me, for my husband or for us. For some reason, some people just don't like seeing the brown and the sugar mixing. And -- guess what? It goes both ways.

So we high-tailed it to our car, got in and took off. We decided to just go wherever looked interesting, which happened to be Raymond Burr's winery. Didn't know he had one, huh? I certainly didn't. I also didn't know he had a male campanion of 35 years (no mention of how seriously they were in the relationship area). When we walked up to the tasting room, we were cast into a sea of white. Again, my husband was sticking out in the crowd (as he often does sometimes). While I noticed everyone was white, I didn't stop to think how this was making my husband feel. It's not that I don't realize what's going on, but that I don't see a problem with it.

When we went outside to enjoy our wine (basically the lady inside told us to get out because the room was too small), my husband said, "I feel out of place here."

"Here? Just here?" I asked him, stupidly amazed.

"Not just here, but here," and he made a motion to show he meant the wine country in general.

I was sad. It's just sad that someone has to feel like that, especially someone I love.

"Well, next time, you can take me some place where I'll feel out of place," I told him. "I'll scratch the wine country off our list of places to go."

One after another, white people arrived and left. I think there was one non-white person at some point who wasn't my husband, but I don't honestly remember. And I kept thinking after that point, where are all the non-whites? Do they not go to the wine country to get free wine from wineries? It was just odd.

So we left and went to Healdsburg, which is nice and all money, but at least there was a mix of people. I saw one black person who was smartly dressed in a unitard and blazer. A few Asians. Mostly older white people who probably own all the wineries we just drove by.

And I still wasn't really thinking of us as an "us" and that "us" may be a problem for some people. I was really just thinking about my husband and how everyone's thinking how nice the migrant worker got out for the day. Not that the migrant worker was out for the day with whitey (aka me).

When we left the next day, we stopped in a small town about 15 minutes from Geyersville in search of gas and breakfast. We ended up going to the local Safeway to have Starbucks and a treat to tie us over until we got home. That Safeway was the stepford Safeway. Needless to say, we didn't fit in again as everyone there was pretty much white and had a kid. I mean, everyone had a small child with them -- seriously. Then there was us, young with no kid and looking like no other couple in the store.

Well, there was a weird man behind us in line that talked like a cartoon character and had no neck. He really should see about getting into the voice over business because he sounds like a cartoon so naturally.

I noticed all the whites with kids, especially this one lady we were sitting next to who freaked out because her kid licked the table. I heard "IF YOU DO THAT AGAIN, YOU'RE GOING IN THE STROLLER!!!!" I couldn't help but look. The kid gave her that "oh yeah, like I'm going to listen to you, you crazy lady" look and licked the table. She stood up, rushed to him, grabbed him and tried to jam him into the stroller. I liken this to trying to put a cat who full well knows the meaning of a cat carrier (vet) -- they're all legs and hair and claws. Her husband showed up declaring that kitty litter was on sale (ironic!). He paused and watched her trying to stuff their child into the stroller, and was trying to calm someone down (her, the kid, perhaps us), when she announced she was taking him OUTSIDE, NOW. She grabbed the poor little one and took him outside.

Talk about a broomstick jammed up someone's butt. This lady was high-strung. I hope living in the wine country doesn't do this to everyone.

And, I might mention, that all the while she was trying to jam and stuff her kid into the stroller, her other kid (she had 4 of them, I think) was jamming her finger up her nose. Now why is that okay?

I wasn't even sure the nose picker was hers because it would seem like she'd freak out over that since she doesn't believe in table germs. I thought it was just some girl that followed their daughter, who was with the dad exploring kitty litter options. I started to say something to my husband about how their daughter was picking her nose, when I thought, oh, she's not their daughter, she can't be. Then I realized she was theirs when they all lumped together, so I told my husband then. We had a good laugh.

Oh, but I digress. My husband had to use the bathroom, so we walked over to one of the employees. This is how that went.

My husband: "Excuse me, but do you have a restroom in here?

Safeway guy: "Yes."


My husband and I are looking at him like, okay.....

Safeway guy: "It over in the corner by the meat department." Safeway guy waves his hand in the direction of the corner.

I told my husband I thought he wasn't going to say anything else. My husband thought so to.

We walked over to the corner, and while my husband was doing his business, I got harassed by the fish counter lady for a bit because I was window shopping.

When he came out, this lady in one of those "I'm too large to walk anymore so I have to use a go cart and I rule the road" ladies came out of the bathroom. I can't remember who, but someone at that exact same time gave us a weird, dirty look.

"Man! What was that for!" I said.

"Oh, we've been getting them. You were getting them from the Mexican people, and I was getting them from the white people."

"What Mexican people? I didn't see any Mexican people," I said. Honestly, not a one.

"Oh, they walked by us. They're gone now. They were giving you dirty looks."

"Oh, nice."

"But you know what's funny?" he asked.


"When I was in the bathroom, I noticed someone wrote on the bathroom door: White people are stupid."

"Well, they have a point," I told him.

That pretty much sums up our wine country weekend as an interracial couple. Home never felt so good.

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