In my adolescence, I had a friend name Orville. Orville is probably the biggest guy I've ever known. I have plenty of tall friends, but I'm sure strangers were especially amused at our massive size difference when I hung out next to Orville. For real, it would take four of me to dress up as him for Halloween. (Note: That costume would require blackface, so me and my three Kevin clones will not be doing that. Not even the racist clone.)

Orville ran with a large crew of guys, many of whom I met over the years. Each time I'd meet his boys, he'd introduce me to them as his "cousin". After meeting several "cousins", I finally asked Orville how he could possibly have that many cousins. He explained that the they weren't actually his cousins, that's just how he refers to his friends that are as close as family. And that's how I learned that in some circles you could have a "cousin" and not share a grandparent.

A couple of years ago, I caught up with Orville at a party and he had brought a friend I had never met before. Orville introduced his pal to me as "Cousinz", and I took note of the fact that the term had a "z" added to it since I had last seen him. Later, I asked Orville's friend his name. "Cousins," he said. "Okay..." I said before asking, "Wait, that's your real name?" "Yeah, my last name is Cousins," Cousins said.

I looked stupid for questioning his name, but I had initially thought Orville was referring to Cousins as a cousin in a generic sense. I decided to cut myself some slack given the context, however, and continued the conversation anyway. "So how do you know Orville?" I asked. "He's my cousin," Cousins told me. "Right, but how did you meet him?" "I dunno, I've always known him, he's my cousin."

Uh, okay, I thought, believing he had cleared nothing up. But it turned out he was actually trying to clear things up. As I later learned, Cousins wasn't just Orville's cousin in the friend sense, he was his legitimate first cousin. In other words, Orville's mom is Cousins' aunt. So after a lot of confusion, I learned that Orville's cousin-like friend is actually named Cousins and actually his cousin. Got it? Because I barely do.

It's a good thing I think race is just a social construct or I would feel so, so, so white after all that.

1 comment:

Amber said...

love this!