family, paul evans
The importance of family is central to my culture. My parents have sacrificed many things in order to give my brother and me better lives than they had when they were growing up. Since I was a child I have always been taught that no matter what the circumstances, family should always come first.
Getting together with my family every Sunday for a spaghetti dinner has become engrained in me. It is such a tradition for my family that, even though I am four and half hours away at school, my family still gives me a hard time for not being there week-after-week. I feel bad that I cannot be there, exchanging stories over the loud conversations between my uncles and cousins. As a means to cope with this piece of my culture that I am missing, I make the spaghetti dinner for my roommates as often as I can find the time to do so. I have shared this part of my culture with my close friends, and they partake in this facet of my culture with me. They love the family recipe, and it is nice for all of us to sit down together and enjoy time with one another.
When I share my goals of family and career with people they sometimes roll their eyes and say, “Ugh that is so traditional and old school.” I completely understand their point, but my culture is specific to my family and me. I do not expect, nor do I ignorantly believe everyone has a similar culture to mine.
An important part of my culture is spending Sunday with my family, a tradition that I cherish. When I lived at home with my parents they always made a huge dinner on Sunday afternoons, which usually consisted of soul food, several dishes common in the African-American culture. Some of these dishes include but are not limited to baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken, chitlins (pig intestines), dressing (some people refer to this as stuffing), and cranberry sauce. Sunday dinners were not just about eating good food it was also about bringing family together. Although my immediate family is very small, consisting of only five of us, Sundays were the only times that we actually sat down and ate at the same time.
An aspect of my culture that I have difficulty discussing in public is that I am a Pro-Life advocate, despite considering myself socially liberal in all other areas. I was raised in a family that carries this value, but also there are a couple of very special individuals in my life who I would have never met if their young mothers had not made the decisions to go through with their pregnancy. I find it difficult to discuss this in public, especially in Madison, as I’m greatly outnumbered in my belief. I respect those who don’t share my belief, but I also know that this subject is very controversial, and I would rather not engage in a heated debate that only results in frustration on both sides.
I would have to say that partnership status is the facet of my culture that is the most difficult for me to share with those closest to me. As I was growing up, my brothers and sisters always had a girlfriend or boyfriend during their teenage years and beyond, so I learned that this was the norm for a person that age. I, on the other hand, have not had any serious relationships, so I feel as though my parents and siblings judge me and look at me as breaking the norms. Although I’m not exactly sure if they actually feel this way, I don’t like to bring it up because it seems as if they, especially my mom, are worried that I’m never going to find a significant other. This bothers me because I’m perfectly content with where I am in my life; I’d rather focus on my coursework now and spend time with my friends rather than spend it searching for my future husband.
My grandpa plays a traditional role in the family. He is the patriarch. To my family, this means that at Sunday dinners, he sits at the head of the table. At the end of the meal, until the recent passing of my grandma, he was not expected to help with dishes. In fact, none of the men were. The women and girls pitched in to clean up after the meal. It was something that I never even questioned until I brought a friend to dinner one Sunday who was confused as to why the boys got to go play and we had to finish cleaning first. Now that my grandpa is a widower, he takes a more proactive role. He prepares and cleans up after the meal. This has illustrated to me that, while these cultural practices can become second nature to an individual, they are not static. Situations can change the way people behave, and even change their culture.
I have a family member by marriage who is African American and I hang out with her family a lot. It is not unusual for her family to leave their children with “Babysitter.” Babysitter is the grandmother, but she always has at least one child at her home. The family leaves the children sometimes for work reasons, but most of the time it’s because the parents go out and party. I have difficulty accepting this behavior because in the culture I have grown up with, my parents did not leave me two to three times a week to go out to the bars or clubs. If my parents needed a night out together they usually felt bad and came home at a decent time. But my relatives leave the children with Babysitter through the next day and even for two consecutive nights. This is particularly difficult for me because I have been raised to believe it is the parent’s role to sacrifice for their children, not the other way around. For my relative’s family, it is culturally acceptable to depend on one another for childcare so they can preserve their social life and freedom in a sense. Their culture is different from my own, but it is a culture that makes them happy and gets them through life, and that is what’s important for them.
Some of my family members have very narrow views on race and sexual orientation. I often find myself avoiding these topics because I know my views differ greatly. I have tried in the past to suggest that there may be other, less judgmental ways of approaching things such as race or sexual orientation but I am usually mocked or ridiculed for this. I know I will be in close proximity to my relatives for the rest of my life so I have resorted to not commenting on these subjects in order to avoid fights at family gatherings. I do not like compromising my own values just to avoid confrontation but in some cases it has gotten to the point where I cannot speak about race or sexual orientation without being called a “Madison Liberal.”
When I visit my dad’s side of the family its tradition, so to speak that when family is visiting from out of town to make dinner and I mean dinner as in like a grand feast. We once visited my great aunts house and we had to eat like 2 full plates of food because it is considered rude to not do so, which my step mom did. My great aunt was offended. Then we went to see my dad’s cousin and did the same thing. Then by that time my stomach was pushing its limit and we ended up back at my auntie’s house where we were staying and had to eat the dinner she made. Did I? Yes, I also faked it a little by pushing food around.