Embrace Your Culture

Jacob - Elgin, Illinois
Entered on October 22, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

At 17 years old I don’t really have any life structuring beliefs or philosophical concepts to share with the world; I am, however, extremely Polish. I can safely say that being ethnic makes life quite interesting and, at times, embarrassing.

From the day I was born, I fell victim to the uniqueness of being Polish. I came into the world with huge ears that stuck out into the far reaches of the universe, so the ingenuity of my foreign father sprang loose. With bandages and duct tape he managed to tape my ears to the sides of my head. Although it sounds pretty terrible, my currently normal ears haven’t complained yet. So, who needs surgery when you have tape and a Polish father? In fact, who needs any type of professional help when you have a Polish father? My dad can fix essentially anything, including babies.

Another one of the more interesting components of Polish life is the food. While Polish food plays a major role in the Polish lifestyle, actually liking it is an acquired skill that takes time to develop — a lot of time.

By the time I was three, I was accustomed to the poison my mother fed me in various forms of Polish meals. Since my father doesn’t believe that children have properly functioning taste buds, I had to eat every scrap of my “death dinners.” That meant dinner consisted of two hours of crying and trying not to gag. Within those two hours I was expected to eat an entire gallon of boiling hot soup, a sack of potatoes, every type of meat known to man, and 60 vegetables. Nine months later, when my stomach was just about finished digesting the meal, some plump relative would scold me for looking malnourished. Evidently only a 500-pound three-year old meets Polish standards.

Technology standards are also skewed in the Polish household, and by skewed I mean nonexistent. For example, although my family has a perfectly good dishwasher begging to be used, no one actually knows how to use it; I am the dishwasher. Polish parents also don’t realize that cell phone connections have greatly improved over the last decade, so if you see a woman screaming at the top of her lungs into her cell phone at the grocery store, tell my mom that I say hello.

If you do actually run into my mother somewhere, it’s likely you’ll be invited over for dinner, so consider yourself warned.

The Polish are actually a super race of hospitality gods. The second you step through the doorway various types of meat and cabbage are instantly hurled at you, and by the time you leave you’re 30 pounds heavier. The phrase “No, thank you” in English actually translates into Polish as “Yes, please feed me!” Polite declines are futile. At one point in the sixth grade a friend told everyone at school my parents made him eat cat food. It was actually stuffed cabbage, but I can see where he got confused.

I’m 17 now and I’ve learned to love everything about being Polish. I can hear my mom screaming on her cell phone in her car three blocks away, and my friends still think she’s the cutest little lady in the world. I can now eat just about anything that’s put on my plate, and I can wash 5,000 dishes in five minutes. I look back at pictures of infant me with my head duct taped and just laugh; my ears are beautiful.

Embrace your culture; it’s who you are.