Friends have begged me to change my type, and sample the warm, nurturing, emotionally-available women whose ancestors hail from Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or African countries. But, sadly, the heart wants what the heart wants. And my heart wants a WASP.
As you can see by the hard vowel at the end of my name, I’m a bit ethnic. I’m a second generation Italian who grew up in a houseful of yellers. I was raised to argue about everything big or small, loudly and with passion, but not to take any argument personally and never hold a grudge. As a result, I like a good fight. I find it invigorating and healthy to spew out negative emotions as you feel them. It gets them out of your system and let’s you move on with your life. Plus, it usually results in excellent makeup sex.
But WASPs don’t operate this way. Nothing is done aloud. It’s all subtext.
My girlfriend is as WASPy as they come. She’s a direct descendent of Miles Standish, the captain of the Mayflower, and she was raised not far from Plymouth Rock. For the first year of our relationship, she would leave every time I yelled. The first time she left was when I yelled at my cable box for misbehaving. As I was scolding it vigorously and threatening to pour a pot of scalding water on it, I heard the door slam.
She later explained that she did not know how to cope with yelling. She was raised in a quietly angry family who only argued via exchanges of slightly raised eyebrows and pointed silences. She didn’t speak to a family member for years after a devastating volley of eye rolls over what any untrained observer would have considered a pleasant Christmas dinner.
I experienced a taste of this violent silence on a recent visit to her family in New England. To break the weird, mannered quiet of a family lunch, I blathered on about a topic of which I know nothing about—the North Atlantic fishing industry—and made what I thought were a few clever jokes at the expense of local crustaceans.
Suddenly, my girlfriend and her sister stormed out of the room in different directions. I found my girlfriend sitting in the car, steaming up the windows with fury and vowing never to return to Maine.
“What just happened?” I asked.
“Didn’t you see that look my sister gave me when you told your little lobster joke?” she asked, genuinely stunned that I had not recognized what touched off this passive brawl. “She clearly thought that you were telling her that she has an eating disorder. We’re not welcome here anymore.”
“You got all that from a look?” I asked, thinking of a recent screaming match I had with my brother a few weeks before. The next day, we were on the phone laughing and planning a family vacation together.
“We’re WASPs,” she shrugged. “We don’t announce it before we sting.”