My camp counselor position this past summer hosting Italian high school students was a major step forward for me both emotionally, socially, and professionally.
It was also a major step for me in realizing that perhaps being an “American” has little to do with what is the stereotype – namely a tall, blonde hair, blue eyed, chiseled, beach body male.
Here I was one of 3 camp counselors to these 100 some high school students and their teachers/chaperones – the only male in the entire team in the US.
One I called “BlondeOne”; the 21 year old blonde hair, blue eyed, soccer player was what you’d called your “typical” American – born and raised in the US with her family having been here since her grandparents’ days. The other “BrownEye” is an immigrant from Venezuela and only has started speaking English 5 years prior to when I met her. She could have been mistaken for a white American.
Me? First generation American of Chinese descent; both parents immigrated here from war zones and are from lower middle class families.
And you know what, the Italians didn’t give a f*ck.
What clued me in was actually towards the end, in the last days of camp. The students were mainly white, with only a couple of exceptions, so being Chinese had me stick out. But they didn’t give a damn, especially the group that I was with.
It also didn’t hurt at all when I noticed that some of the older girls giving me goo-goo eyes.
Being a professional of course – and remembering that many of them are still underage, I simply smiled and continued on with my business.
These kids – and their teachers for the most part treated me like I was an American. Now do I think there were questions and answers about how “American” I was, sure of course. Had there been a tall, blonde-hair, blue eyed, beach bodied, white male in the camp counselor corps then I’m sure the story would have been different.
But alas, there wasn’t a tall, white, blonde-hair, blue eyed male in that greeted those high school students.
It was me; a gung-ho, 27 year old, black haired, brown-eyed martial arts Chinese guy who could kick ass anywhere, anytime.
Perhaps this past camp counselor position was a bubble in some respects. I sure these kids have seen an Asian guy before – but perhaps not in such a high position of authority.
Anyway, just an interesting observation that I thought I’d share.