Day 21: The Whitest People in the World

February 4th, 2016

Jonny 1997 

I‘m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. The theme for me is “personal, not pretty.” See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

Apparently I married the whitest guy in the world. Jon is adopted, so he doesn’t know his ethnic heritage. Or, he didn’t, until yesterday, when he got the results back from his 23andMe DNA test.

He is 100% European. And not just European, but northwestern European. Like, WASP central.

To put this in perspective, our neighbor, who has also done the DNA test, and who is very white, visually, and born and raised in white-white-white Utah, has a small percentage of African and Native American mixed in there. But not my husband. He is white white and only white.

I’m pretty white too. I haven’t done the DNA test, but I have family trees reaching back pretty far on both sides. Paternally, we’re talking Scotland and France via Canada. Maternally, it’s Mayflower-era England.

It’s sort of embarrassing. Even more embarrassing, neither of us speaks a foreign language. We are desperate for childcare on Tuesdays, and we found a woman who recently arrived here from Argentina who can do it. The only caveat is that she doesn’t speak a lick of English. At first, I was excited about the idea of exposing my daughters to a second language. (I mean, technically they don’t speak any language, yet, but.) 

As the day came closer, though, I started to panic. I’m a control freak. How would I communicate to her that I want her to use the hemp seeds not the chia seeds in their polenta?  How would I tell her that Phoebe uses a binkie and sometimes you can get Eliza to take one, but other times you have to give her a bottle of juice at naptime (shhhh) or, depending on her mood, a book—or just let her fuss it out?

I thought about writing a small pamphlet and translating it online. But then I realized I don’t even know what dialect of Argentinian Spanish she speaks.

Initially, we thought we’d be able to impart directions via her sister, the woman we were making arrangements with. But it turned out that Nellie didn’t really speak English either. I realized that after I spent ten minutes on the phone with her, hung up, and still had no idea if or when she was coming the following Tuesday.

Ultimately, we chickened out. Neither of us was feeling great about the idea of not being able to talk to our nanny. And we both feel like assholes for being so white that one of our biggest problems is that we can’t speak Spanish to a nanny.

The story doesn’t end here. Nellie apparently speaks so little English that she didn’t understand the message Jon left saying “Thanks anyway, but we’re not going to need your sister after all.” Yesterday—the day I guess they were planning on coming—I started getting frantic calls from Nellie asking how to find our house.

Because I am a huge craven jerk, and because Jon is a fearless non-people-pleaser, I made him call Nellie and fire her again. 

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