A Letter, To the Gadje I Used To Be

August 6, 2012

Gadje, listen to me. That means you are an outsider, and you are still an outsider, but not as much of one as you might have believed.

Yes, we are German, we are Swedish, we are Finnish, we are Irish, we are Scottish, we’re probably also Dutch and French. It’s hard to say with families like ours. But there is one thing we are that is different from what we thought we were – we’re Rromani. We’re of the traveling people, outcasts from India who were mistaken for Egyptians. Our family, though, is so divorced from this history that no one knows. You only figure out through circumstantial evidence and a penchant for curiosity in following last names. It’s hard, though, to find out when we became Gadje. It’s hard, though, to find out where our name comes from or how we got it.

It’s hard because of the shame and the fear wrapped up in being Rromani and how it’s penetrated the world around us. One thing is certain, though, we are not a gypsy. That is their insulting term for us, and we don’t use it. We’re rrom. We’re better than that.

I am an outsider. I’m a geek, I’m a nerd, I’ve got an atypical neurology. I’m heavily invested in the people I’m close to (and the more I like you and respect you, the more I love you, the more aware and focused on you I get – I’m creepy, in other words, but I try to be respectful). I don’t like many people. I’m smarter than most people. I’m poor. I’m reasonably well educated. I know how to fight with swords and axes, but have never fired a gun. I’ve lived in gang violence but I’ve never been part of a gang. Socially, I’m white. I grew up in mixed race neighborhoods. Physically, I’m part Rromani.

These are all little things, sometimes big things, that push me out of social groups. My entire life has been swinging from one system of ostracism to another, always finding out what little ways I don’t fit in. I’m ugly, I’m too smart, I’m not smart enough, I can’t run, I can’t play, I can’t speak clearly, I’m creepy, I’m weird, no one likes me. My childhood was built out of being  rejected by the white kids at school for being too poor and being rejected by the Hispanic kids for being too white. I occasionally got along with the few African American kids that went to my school, but most of the time I was off by myself reading and avoiding getting bullied. That frame of reference, that understanding of the world, would be true for me until I became an adult. I always knew what the problem was, though, and I always wanted a means of fitting in. I used to tell stories, to create weird and fantastic alternate lives for myself where I was interesting and charismatic and people liked me. Sometimes, they’d believe me. Telling stories and believing them led me through a lot of things, including religion. I could always feel it, I could always bask in the glory of my own stories, so I thought they must be true.

So when I figured out that, somewhere along the lines, my family had been Rrom, I was excited. I was suddenly an interesting teenager. I was a gypsy! That’s so cool! Right?

I don’t tell people anymore, if I can avoid it. Unless I’m in safe space where I’m not going to get mobbed by people asking me things, I don’t talk about it. I’m white, I don’t have to explain that. My family’s white. Our culture is white. We’ve never been anything else. My family, at some point, was Rromani, and I think that’s interesting but not in the same way others do. It’s interesting because there’s a mystery in my family that someday I might figure out. But likely I won’t. It’s interesting because growing up I always thought of the Rrom as being an Other, as being a people that no one interacts with anymore. A caricature that was never, truly, real. It’s interesting because my family’s history has a rich story hidden behind it somewhere that is more than just farms and immigration.

It is not, however, a vast and untapped wealth of wisdom and cultural awareness. It isn’t interesting because I can’t speak any of the  language. I know few of the traditions. I can’t even identify much about my family other than it was probably in Finland where the tribe I’m from commingled with the locals. It’s not interesting because now I’m hyper-aware of the use of “gypsy” all over the place, and how there isn’t a suitable avenue to pursue a character created by my ancestors to caricature themselves for protection. It’s not interesting because racism breeds racism in people who aren’t racist. It’s not interesting because I’m not actually Rromani, I’m just related to them.

It’s not interesting because I wish I could answer those questions to myself, then it would be a lot easier to answer other people’s questions.

It’s not interesting because having a family history is, in many ways, a privilege. Coming from families that could be recorded. Even now, my family is largely invisible. It’s not interesting because there is no story to tell.

It’s not interesting because I am not just a story, or a collection of stories, like I always wanted to be.

It’s not interesting because, underneath all of this, I’m a person and not just a Rromani. People can forget that.

People forget that I still have feelings, and I still think of them when we’re apart, and that I remember what they say and do. People forget that I am not just an interesting conversation piece because of my odd heritage, but that I’ve got a personality outside of those quirks.

It is what it is. No more, no less. I wish I could speak the language, knew the traditions, knew the customs, knew my family. But would it make it any different?

No, I’d still be a gadje. I’m related, but not one of the tribe.

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20 Responses to “A Letter, To the Gadje I Used To Be”

  1. Danny Says:

    Then you are a cousin of mine, if you are Gypsy or Rom as you prefer, I dont shy away from the word Gypo or Pikey as I know exactly where my roots are and can trace them back. However being Gypsy or Rom is not enough to turn your blood to Gypsy blood, to become a real Gypsy you must first adventure with a band of Gypsy and I’ll be honest with you it’s something you will never forget, then you recite the Gypsy oath and have a drink.

    We are a persecuted people, yes we have our own secret language and Gadje is only one word out of many, for example have you been admiring the Ragweeds lately?

    Horse’s cousin, horse’s…

    • Luarien Says:

      Unfortunately I know almost no Rromani thanks to my family being so far long separated from any of the people. It’s been a long time, and probably a continent, since anyone of my blood was part of a band of any kind.

      • Danny Says:

        Then you are Gadje in some respects because you have been excluded from learning about your roots. They have a long and very interesting history. But to put it mildly you are decended from the Gaels. So now you are one of the settled people whereas there are still thousands of us that refuse to settle down. Refuse to bow to the Gadje way of life or abide by their rules. For example would you go out on the tea-leaf? Would you fight a cousin bare fisted if you knew he had stolen from you and your family? Myself I have had that happen, I had a relative of mine pass away in a nursing home whilst listening to my father telling me my own mother was just a Gadje woman as far as he was concerned then the family on that side of the family fleeced the poor old cow of a grandmother and went off and spent most of her money. She was just a Gadje so why would they care? But then I had my blood changed and I became Gypsy and my eye’s where opened to what they had done.

        Horrible but none the less true…

        And now what gives my own father pause is the knowledge that I am a pure blooded gypsy through and through.. Family before traveller and traveller before anyone else.

        • Danny Says:

          My own father a gypsy blooded relation and my own cousin decended from his gadje relations put themselves before there family and that is something I find unforgivable, but none the less I love my father and although I dont trust my father, I will light a candle for his passing, but for my cousin who is didicoi or a half-blood, I would much rather pull down my trousers and wee on his tome stone.

          • Danny Says:

            Heres a Gypsy motto for you: My hand is my heart.. Meaning, if you take it out of my hand, then you take it out of my heart!

  2. Danny Says:

    The first thing you learn as a gypsy is, yes your mother and father love you. But that doesnt mean you can trust your own mother and father. Can they not beat you when they want? Can they not rob you blind? Of course they can and you let them get away with it because it’s family although that doesnt mean you wont “Grooskill” or punch your other family members in the face when you figure out what they’re all playing at.

    • Danny Says:

      Especially if some of those family members are Gadje.. Then they get it even worse!

      • Danny Says:

        For example my younger cousin, he was adopted by my aunt, she was no blood relation to me or my family, then they hatch the plot, lets just spend the grandmothers money. My father goes along with it as he would… Only bit in there plan that was so bold that they did not count on, I went and had my blood changed, got wise to what was going on and my younger cousin who is Gadje, is going to get taken and punished according to the Kris. IE: we’ll go, we’ll find him and we will kick seven colors of crap out of him with pick axe handles and the lot. Steal from a gypsy who steals out of the necessity to survivie and you will have a huge problem later on.

        • Danny Says:

          The gadje law is insular as far as gypsy law is concerned IE: it protects the Gadje who does wrong and steals from the Gypsy. IE: you go around there and scream and hollor “Oi what are you playing at you’ve stolen in excess of 850’000” and the Gadje make a phone call, “yes irate man, threatening us” and the Gadje law take you away.. The Gypsy way is far better.. “Is that him?” answer “yeah!” “right boys you know what needs to be done!”

  3. Danny Says:

    A good old fashioned hiding is whats is oft needed… Let me tan the leather for you my good sir!

  4. Danny Says:

    I’ll post there names here so every Gypsy and Pikey khureen hear the cry of war on these sheeka.

    Mary Angus Taylor
    Leven Fife KY08
    Francis Joseph Taylor
    && Linda Taylor
    Dunfermline Fife KY11

    All three of these names are Mirime to our folk, if you encounter these Didicoi then they are to be shunned.

    They left a tinker of the royal house to be a gyoochra, a mislier. Then when the minker found his roots he was blyhunka with walking the earth.

    As Daalyon is my witness they will pay, for now I mistrust all lu own relations, my own people and my own tribe.

    How can I forgive these gooth feen, who take from shum lyitchen.

    • Danny Says:

      Aye tis true they went awa and lived the life of riley! But it was my money they where spending whilst they did it!

      • Danny Says:

        Holidays in hawaii, drinking Vodka & Coconut and there the tinker and the minker, grafting, working a stroke to earn his daily keep. That is just plain wrong and my own father plays the innocent, I had no idea you where decended from a Gypsy bloodline… The family name on its own is worth more than it’s weight in gold.

        • Danny Says:

          Watch careful;y those closest to you because they will hide the truth from you and when you discover who you are and where you come from it can be a very real shock that shakes you to the very foundations of your soul.

          • Danny Says:

            Do they know who you are? Do they know what you’ve done? Do they know how it feels to walk the earth and learn slowly about your roots because to your own father your just a Gadje! A Didicoi – A half blood and then you find out much as I have who you are, where you come from and then you feel the illumination, suddenly your enlightened and a great weight is lifted.

  5. Danny Says:

    I know who I am I am gypsy and proud of it!

    • Danny Says:

      My own father might well have been the head of the natsia, but I hope you all wont mind if I take the old bastards place!

      • Danny Says:

        Yous might be thinking what the fu** but yes cousin I am the head of the nation and I’ve got the spoons to prove it, your welome to mishlin around my gaff whenever you like!

        • Danny Says:

          That sums up why you can never trust a gypsy in one simple paragraph.. Because we’re all busy thieving off each other along with the gadje.


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