Thursday, May 14, 2009

There are Aliens... and then there are aliens....

And then there are aliens like me.

I almost don't consider myself one. Really. You couldn't tell from my writing. Besides, I've been well trained... I mean, educated in the ways of American pop culture by my husband and my kids. I get most references, even some pretty obscure ones. If I didn't tell you about my Russian background, you wouldn't know just from reading my writing.

But then something happens. And I really, really feel that I am truly an immigrant.

Now don't get me wrong. I dont' feel alienated. I don't feel like an outsider. In fact, I never felt more the sense of homecoming than that one day when my plane was slowly descending towards Texas and I was following the flight plan on the onboard GPS. And I was flying back from Paris, from visiting my brothers, and from attending one of my nieces' wedding.

Yup. I'm certainly home. I chose to be home here, and there's not one day I'm not amazed at just how home I feel. But that's a post for another day.

What brought on the post about aliens?

The prom tradition.

Yes. That.

It's that season, and my oldest child is a senior in High School.

It's not the social dance gathering part of the event.

I grew up in Paris in the Russian emigre community, and we had our share of formal annual events with their formal and old-fashioned dances. In formal dresses. With a display of formal, old-fashioned manners.

It's not that.

It's the school event part of it, and the whole mystique of it, the buildup, the talk, the memories everyone seems to share.

The kids were cute. Sweet. They went to the prom as a group, they stayed together, and I was happy about that. After all, each of them is headed for a different college and has college and career plans.

But still. Some part of me just doesn't get it. Some part of me is standing on the sidelines and watching it happening, and is bemused. The other kids' mothers are so excited, so thrilled that their own children are going through this... rite of passage.

Ah yes, that's it. I'm not a member of this tribe. I've been adopted, but I was too old to undergo certain rites of passage.

Like the prom.

So even though this vibrant, friendly, warm, American tribe has adopted me (and I, it), I am still the "adopted outsider" for having missed the rites of passage that would have made me an insider through and through.

My kids don't have that problem. I also think they get a perverse enjoyment out of their alien mother's occasional confusion.



Jen Childers said...

I am really glad you found a home here.
My prom was 1981. I was a loner so I din't schmooze much with the others.
My son doesnt want to go. If all they play is rap, I cant blame him. its a dance, have dance music.
maybe i'll host a non prom party for those who don't go.
I remember it being fun, but so many just wanted to go that they didnt care who they went with.
enjoyed your post. HOpe your daughter has a great time.

Skhye said...

I hated all the highschool activities. I was an outsider by choice. And I don't feel one bit shortchanged from missing out! Etic observations are always the clearest and most scientific to those of us feeling outside the group. ;) For the record, I feel like an alien everywhere. LOL The moms I tend to end up hanging out with are from other countries. Go figure. LOL

SFWriterMasha said...

Thank you, Jen.

It's hard to say whether she had a good time: events never quite live up to her expectations. Ah, those angsty teen artists!

Skhye, I know exactly what you mean. But believe me, the ethnic outsider adds yet another layer to the outsider in her own group thing. I was that, too. Always observing. Didn't always like it as a teen, but I'm so glad for it now. Such good practice for a writer!

Michele Hart said...

Oh, Masha, I know how you feel. I missed my prom and all its anticipation too. I know the man of my dreams will one day make it up to me.

Plan an over-glamourous night out to a fancy restaurant with your husband. Take a limo, wear your fanciest dress. Make him wear a tux. And pretend. Let everyone wonder what the fancy occasion's about. If they ask, tell them it's prom night.

Love to you, muse sister!

Mary Ricksen said...

You are only an outsider if you decide to be one.
You've been here long enough to be one of the gang so jump in.
I never got to go to prom, I graduated in Canada and they had 13 grades instead of 12. Poor me.

Hywela Lyn said...

What an interesting idea for a blogpost. You're so right Masha - know one would ever tell you're an 'alien' from the way you write! I'm so happy you feel so at home where you are. That's the most important thing, and you've obviously 'taken root' in Texas.

I'm an 'alien' too, living in England although my heart's in Wales, and if it's any consolation, we don't have proms at all over here in the UK (well certainly not when I was a teenager anyway) and I always wished we did whan I watched films on TV!

SFWriterMasha said...

That's a sweet idea. I have plans, actually... I'm just waiting for an occasion. Anything will do, really. Daughter graduating from college. Appearing on the NYT bestseller list. You know, any little thing...

Actually, we try to have our date night every year on our anniversary. We do make it romantic. The kids get into it, to. Shoo us right out the door.

Thank you, I do tend to jump right in these days. Maybe you should follow Michele's advice too, and have your own private "prom night."
And I have found my own place, finally.

What we fiction writers need, and romance writers in particular, are formal balls at the conferences. With available dance partners, of course. You know, research...

Kathye Quick said...

proms -Ick. I had twins. One son went; one didn't. I felt like Solomon.

I can relate here.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Marsha,
Nice article. Here in Australia we don't have proms, but the teens (18year olds)do make their "debut". Different name, but sounds like the same deal. Gorgeous formal dresses (aways white), the boys in a tux. I didn't make my debut, but my 3 sons have partnered girls on occasions, so I have attened a few times. Loved it, even though I was envious.

P.L. Parker said...

I would rather have missed my prom. My dad had this thing that his daughters had to go with the first guy that asked them - the first guy that asked me most of the time was my dad's friend's kid - blech! So I went with him or stayed home. How really fun was that?

P. L. Parker

SFWriterMasha said...


My kids aren't twins, but sometimes they seem to do the opposite of each other on purpose. I know what you mean!


A "debut," how romantic! There are things you're so old-fashioned about, down under! I really, really wish I could just hop on a plane and visit.


I know, Dads get weird about some things. I have tried to intervene in the arguments between my husband and our oldest, but that seems to backfire on me. Anyway, he'd rather his daughters DIDN'T have a "date" and went with a bunch of friends instead.

elaine cantrell said...

I'm not sure you're missing as much as you think. Years ago when I was in high school I was dating a boy who lived in another town, and no one could come to the prom except people who went to my school. I went with a girl friend and had a so-so time. I'm glad you've found your place in the world here in the US.