7 Signs You’re A Second-Generation Lebanese-American

First, a lesson in terminology. In the United States, “second generation” refers to the U.S.-born children of foreign-born parents. As my parents emigrated from Lebanon to the United States where my brothers and I were born in the 1980s, we fit this label.

This article relates to second-generation Lebanese-Americans, a breed whose calling card is so unique, you could single them out within mere seconds. From being denied sleepover parties, to wielding pita sandwiches in school sack lunches, to responding to Arabic dialogue interminably in English, here are seven surefire signs you’re a Lebanese descendant born and raised in the good ole US of A.

Also, stay tuned for the second (foodie!) edition of this listicle due out next week. 




1. Before you could visit a schoolmate at her home, your parents insisted on making acquaintance with her parents, giving a whole new meaning to the “meet the parents” concept. Your best friend was hosting a slumber party at her house? Forget it. You could stay until 10 p.m., at which time your doting father would swing by and scoop you up. Try explaining that concept to your friends!








2. Your classmates could immediately sense that you were of foreign descent. How many times were you badgered with questions of your origins before you quietly mustered “Lebanon”? Worse yet, no one recognized the tiny, far-off land! I used to pretend I was Greek.



3. Thanks to the large-scale campaigns against smoking (“Just say no”), you were raised thinking puffing on cigarettes was a criminal activity best suited to gang members and social outcasts. You were taught that smoking leads to lung cancer, so when you visited Lebanon and saw your grandmother addicted to the nicotine fix, you tried to educate her on its demerits and even stashed her tray of packs out of sight. She chased you around the house, slipper in hand, and begged you to restore them to their holy place on the living room coffee table.



4. I don’t know about the rest of you Leb-Ams, but growing up, every official break from school was an invitation for my mother to bust out the Arabic books and teach us the mother language. Reading and dictation in Arabic were the banes of our existence (especially if the characters were missing the wretched accent marks), but under my mother’s painstaking tutelage, we became fluent. Today we couldn't be more grateful.





5. Your parents enforced a strict Arabic-only dialogue in the house, but with more than half of your waking hours spent at school, how could they possibly expect you to respond in the mother tongue? In public places, you wouldn't be caught dead conversing with your parents in Arabic. They likely hollered after you in Arabic, but mortified, you shot back in English. As if your olive complexion didn't betray you anyway…





6. For your parents, the ultimate social outlet was the family’s house of worship. Growing up as Maronite Catholics, my brothers and I were tucked in the car every Sunday morning to make the 40-minute drive to the local Maronite church, where other Lebanese-Americans assembled to attend mass and, equally sacred, chitchat with friends. Coffee and donuts lent themselves to hour-long conversations about trivial adult nonsense, and you had to implore your parents to take you home and get on with what was supposed to be a lazy Sunday.



7. You were inclined to join your church’s youth or young adult group not so much for the social perks it bestowed (virtually nil), but to list it under the Extra-Curricular Activities field on your college applications. You attended retreats, movie outings, Bible discussions with the parish priest, cultural festivals and even played Santa to all the young’uns who ambled to sit on your knee as you distributed candy canes and meghleh.





Comments

  1. I am sure you have no regrets on how your parents instilled that sense of Lebanese pride in you and heritage also ensuring that you learned Arabic. Wonderful!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, l'Nubiya! I hope I can raise my future kids in a similar fashion, instilling in them appreciation of language and heritage. But the "suspended in-between" position is a burdensome one, so it's all about striking a fine balance between the culture of your origins and the culture of the land you inhabit.

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