Reconstructed Identity

Nathaniel Bowler

I knew my wife was not from the United States the moment I met her. It wasn’t her dark hair or black eyes that told me, but her voice. The accent that colored the simple phrase ‘nice to meet you’ was what gave her away. I couldn’t place the accent, but the inflections behind the vowel sounds made it immediately apparent that she had been born elsewhere.

Did it matter? I don’t believe her foreignness ultimately impacted the fact that we were married a year and a half later, but it was there, and I confess that it was exciting.

Fifteen years later, it’s still there, and it’s still exciting, something to think about and talk about, especially now that we have children. Being married to an immigrant means inheriting that person’s vast background. My wife has lived in the United States now longer than she did in her native country. The accent has faded, but not entirely. The roots are still deep, and they always will be. That’s important for someone like me, a white American male, whose kind tends to get caught up in our American-ness—not surprising considering how we are force-fed notions of our own awesomeness from birth. Marrying an immigrant has meant having many ideas of my own identity shattered and then rebuilt, a process that is thankfully ongoing.