WHERE IS MY BUTLER DOLPHIN? I'm Really Bad At Living In Hawai'i

Every time I've landed in a new city, be it Dallas, St. Louis or Los Angeles, I've been able to find my niche. Hawai'i seems to be my kryptonite.
Publish date:
December 10, 2012

"Oh, but you live in Hawai'i! How bad could it be?"

That's the chirpy reply many of my acquaintances respond with whenever I mention something crappy that happened that day in paradise. I get it, I really do. Before living in Hawai'i, I, too, believed my butler-dolphin would promptly bring me a mai tai at 5 'o'clock sharp every day. And I totally know that while the rest of the country is shivering in this year's Snowmageddon (there's ALWAYS a Snowmageddon somewhere), I'm shaving my legs and hoping it will be cool enough to sleep under the blanket tonight.

I understand I'm lucky. But I also understand that I live in a place where this guy is a cultural icon:

I moved to O'ahu because my husband is dorking out and getting his PhD in Japanese Theatre, and there is almost no better place to do that than the University of Hawai'i. So here we are. I admit I was ready for a change of scene. Los Angeles was really starting to turn me into a tired old bag and the thought of endless beach days thrilled me.

The thing is I'm really bad at living here. Hawai'i and I are kind of at odds with each other. I think I've pissed her off.

Here's an analogy, and I'm bad at analogies. I think it's an analogy. Bear with me.

For me, living in Hawai'i is like always trying to get in good with the Cool Girl. She has badass clothes, probably smokes Marlboro Reds, everybody wants to hang with her and most of all she doesn't give a FUCK about what you or anybody thinks about her. Hawai'i is the Cool Girl.

Then there's the Spazz (me). The Spazz wears clothes rarely described as "badass," carries an inhaler because the humidity just really does a number on her delicate, pneumonia prone (seriously -- 3 times) lungs, and though nobody overtly hates her, the Spazz is often pitied for just being so lame. The Spazz, in this case, just wants the Cool Girl to laugh at her jokes or invite her to the party or maybe just tell her that her pants look good. 

But everyone knows -- Cool Girl, Cool Girl Posse, Spazz and Spazz's Mom (sigh) -- that the Cool Girl and the Spazz are just not going to work as a duo. My fear-sweat is giving me away, and Hawai'i is side-eyeing me and whispering to Guam that I have Spam stuck to my ass.

I wasn't always this way. I've moved a lot in my life and every time I've landed in a new city, be it Dallas, St. Louis or Los Angeles, I've been able to find my niche. I'm weirdly confident in most situations and up until recently, have found it easy to coerce people into being friends with me. Hawai'i seems to be my kryptonite. I just don't get it, try as I might.

I cannot TELL you how many times I've been told I'm too intense. "Chill out, relax, go with the flow" -- if one more person tells me to go with the freakin' flow I'm going to release an Obscenity Slurry on their ass, and THEN we'll see who needs to CHILL OUT.

All right, I'll admit I can be a total zelig, which is kind of embarrassing and completely annoying. I'm the asshole who will attempt some weird version of a Hawaiian accent when amongst locals in a social situation, then totally mispronounce "kalaniana'ole" or "hale."

I once wore what I thought was a rad Hawaiian print, tea length skirt with a high, gathered waist. I had gotten it in Chinatown, and I thought I looked good. Except, it wasn't a rad tea length skirt, it was a traditional hula skirt, and the print indicated a specific halau or hula school, which locals take very seriously. When I ran into the grocery store to get snacks and beer for the BBQ I was headed to, the older local lady in line behind me asked sweetly, "What halau do you dance with?" When I stammered, "Oh, uh, I don't dance anywhere. I'm going to a BBQ," her sweet demeanor went sour and the rage of the Ancient People skunked my beer.

It didn't help that I was wearing my "Find your groove in the GROVE" T-shirt.

I realize now that before I moved here, I imagined myself on perpetual vacation -- except with income. Somewhere in my smog-decayed Angeleno brain, I inverted real life. I imagined I'd spend my days swimming in the ocean, hiking in the mountains and eating delicious food -- while in my spare time I'd work at a quaint local seashell store, completely stress-free and perpetually laughing with my local friends while the sun gleamed on my glowing, bronzed skin. 

You were so deluded, Lou. 

The fact is I'm always going to be an outsider. Everybody really does seem to know everybody, and since they've all known each other since they were babies, nobody is particularly interested in letting anyone new into the circle. Particularly a neurotic mainland transplant who tends to rant about the high price of toothpaste whenever given the opportunity.

Look, I'm not trying to deter people from coming here (please, visit and bring regularly priced toothpaste and gluten-free cupcakes). I mean, it's HAWAI'I. I highly recommend visiting here or even living here if you have money and patience. Nowhere else in America can you swim in the warm ocean, trot back to your apartment that's 10 minutes away, then go for a hike in your neighborhood rainforest.

However, know that once the vacation ends and the reality of bills, cultural confusion and cockroaches (Great Kitten in the Sky! There are SO MANY ROACHES!) sets in, you, too, may wish you were back in the Snowmageddon.