I have spent a combined six years in these beautiful Hawaiian Islands. To anyone that knows me that is probably a bit odd because I avoid the sun like the plague sometimes, never go to the beach and have yet to attend even one luau. But I have some great friends here, the laid back lifestyle and year round weather are fantastic. Especially for a guy who grew up in the snowiest city in America, Syracuse, NY. That being said, it is amazing to me what happens to some people when they arrive here for the first time.
Some strange transformation takes place and within weeks of arriving suddenly the girl from Montana is preaching about conserving the ‘aina’ (Hawaiian for land). Her bedroom is plastered with Bob Marley and Sublime posters, despite never listening to either one until 3 weeks ago. Half her pictures on Facebook include an obligatory shaka. Shaka in the club, shaka at the beach, shaka at the mall, shaka in the bathroom mirror. Her Facebook in general undergoes an enormous transformation. After all, she must show everyone back home how incredible her new Hawaiian life is. There she is at the beach, snorkeling, on a booze cruise, with her new surfboard, doing yoga, watching a sunset, on a hike, eating acai or even “getting leid”. Every once in a while she will share a Buzzfeed article about the ‘20 things only people from Hawaii understand’. “OMG so true! #LuckyWeLiveHawaii”. I imagine those same people, like the rest of us, are like, “Ok, we get it.” Her friends are no longer just her girls but her “wahine” (Woman) and her “ohana” (Family). Her Abercrombie wardrobe has now been completely replaced by Roxy and Rip Curl. Minus Vegas Bombs and beer, her entire diet has become vegan, or at least vegetarian. She works as a waitress or bartender in “Waiks”, and can be found at Moose’s after her shift, maybe Kelly’s.
The guy from Oklahoma, who’s closest encounter to surfing until now was watching Johnny Utah clash with Patrick Swayze and bank robbing surf “brah’s” in Point Break, is talking about southern swells or how “glassy” it looks out there today. Watching surf videos all day in his 3 bedroom Waikiki apartment, that has 8 people living in it. His hair is currently in that in-between phase anyone must go through when going from conservative mid-west to standard issue brah mop. But for now it will remain concealed by an ABC trucker cap with ‘Hawaii’ scrawled across the front. For the first few months he over-shakas everything. Not uncommon for him to throw 4 to 6 shakas in the course of one conversation or interaction. (I can count on one hand how many shakas I have thrown in the last six months.) He works 4 shifts a week at Cheesecake Factory and spends most nights getting drunk off his tips and staggering out of Kelly O’Neil’s at 4 am, hopefully with one of those new-to-the-island girls that are overly impressed with any guy who has a surfboard rack on his living room wall and “Eddie Would Go” sticker on his truck. Before she leaves in the morning they make plans to meet up with her friends and his roommates, the white Rasta guy with dreads from Kansas and the kid with skinny abs who only wears board shorts and no shirt, at the Rebel Souljahz show that weekend. Jah bless.
Now before anyone crucifies me, as usual. Yes, I realize they are just kids for the most part. Hell, when I was their age I resembled something like Matt Dillon walking off the set of Singles. Young people are idealistic and will latch onto things they deem cool and run with them. I get that. Also, understand moving out here is a unique situation and you develop an exclusive kinship with others who have done the same. You are literally isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and you will adopt people as almost your surrogate family. But that does not make it any less funny to observe. At the same time what is it about Hawaii in particular that makes many white, mainland people try to almost adopt another culture or lifestyle as part of their own? When people from South Carolina move to New York City does everything become, pizza, bagels, excessive hand gestures and “Eh asshole, da fuck….fuhgettaboutit”? When I moved to Atlanta was I “Y’all wanna get some sweet tea and watch the Dawgs whip those Gators behinds after church?” No. Why? Because it would sound stupid. So why does it suddenly become ok for the lily white girl from East Sisterbang, Indiana to openly use a racial slur like ‘moke’ when talking about a local person? Or to even speak pidgin (an English dialect exclusive to mostly Polynesian people raised in Hawaii) to begin with? Don’t get me started on that, mainlanders trying to adopt pidgin might be the biggest slap-in-the-face joke you will ever hear. It’s the rough equivalent of the suburban white kid speaking Ebonics. It’s not natural, it will never sound cool.
Of course there is nothing wrong with embracing different cultures and lifestyles. That is actually an admirable quality. But when you start trying to make it your own, especially within only weeks or months of discovering it, it goes from embracing to embarrassing. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, and punk rock in particular was instrumental for me coming up. I view it in the same way I did with that. It seemed it was always the kid with the most spikes in his hair, an entire outfit from Hot Topic and the first to call out “posers” who was usually the biggest poser of them all. He loved Green Day and The Ramones, but was completely lost when someone mentioned Johnny Thunders. You sort of have to earn those stripes, not just put on the uniform and play the part. I guess it is harmless for the most part, but insulting for sure. Not to mention, hilarious.