By: Marc Warzecha
In case you don't already know me, this is what I pretty much look like:
That's from my last round of headshots, which are supposed to look natural and be a honest representation of yourself. And yes, I often hang out in front of LA's one newsstand and lean against a parking meter.
Point is, I look like a white guy. Just a normal, regular, midwest white guy.
But I'm not.
I'm an Armenian.
Forreals. See, my Mom is 100% Armenian, which makes me 50% Armenian. But since I've got my Dad's Polish looks and last name, no one ever suspects it. (Although the big-ass nose oughta be a clue.) I am an Undercover Armenian. And growing up in Michigan, it wasn't much of an issue.
No one knows what Armenian is in Michigan, as there are virtually none of us there. If fact, my family used to joke about being "Romanian" since that's what Michiganders always thought we were saying. (This was similar to the old joke we'd have at Second City - Detroit. When we told people our place of employment they'd often say, "Circuit City?" With that kind of market penetration it's a hard to imagine why SC-Detroit closed. Twice.) So it would go like this:
"What nationality are you?"
"What is that?"
I never figured out how to answer the "what is that?" part. What is that? If you happen to be Italian, and someone said to you, "what is that?", how would you answer?
Familiarity with Armenians, however, is the least of my problems in Southwest California. You fuckers out here know exactly what Armenian is...and you hate us. I know this because I am an Undercover Armenian.
You say stuff like, "I just moved into a new building. It looked really nice at first, but as soon as I moved in I found out its full of Armenians."
And the people around you say, "Oh that's sucks, man. Sorry to hear that."
I know that you say these things because I'm standing right next to you. You're saying them to me. And this sort of thing happens often.
And I know, I know, we bring a lot of it upon ourselves. Armenians are an insulated, tribal group that are distrustful of outsiders. We even have a word, Odar, which Armenians will tell you means "non-Armenian." But if we're gonna keep it real, it kinda means "evil outsider."
But look, you can't survive as a people for thousands of years (Armenians are one of the few peoples mentioned in the Old Testament that are still around) in lands that are not your own without a strong tribal instinct. That, plus that little matter of 1.5 million killed in the Armenian genocide add up to some well-earned insulation.
Anyway, its weird to become a minority at 30 years old. Its weird to hear racist comments from people you've known for 15 years. It's weird to be an Undercover Armenian.