The Identity Crisis

The story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” follows an incoming Yale student, Dina, and her struggle to function in society. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about Dina’s personality and why she is socially recluded. I feel that the reason for her poor mental health stems from her lack of acceptance and understaning of who she is.

The main social factors that affect Dina are her race–she’s Black–, her socioeconomic status, and her sexuality. All of these factors also contribute to identity. During orientation, Dina quickly realizes that she is racially in the minority. She frequently will bring up and contrast White culture from Black culture, emphasizing how she does not fit in. Furthermore, she doesn’t feel that she even fits in with the other students that are Black. Dina says: “Not that I understood the Black people at Yale. There was something pitiful in how cool they were”. My interpretation is that perhaps Dina did not culturally relate to her Black peers, and, therefore, did not feel comftorable in attempting to be friendly with them.

Another part of her identity that Dina struggled with was her economic background. She came from a poorer family, which is referenced all throughout the story. When talking about an instance in which she was walking home from the grocery store, a boy with nice shoes offers to help her with her groceries. Because she “didn’t want someone with such nice shoes to see where [she] lived”, she ended up panicking and running away. I feel that this implies that she feels very self-conscious about her financial situation, which prevents her from reaching out and making connections. Even to the extent of pushing away help.

The final social factor that I want to note is her sexuality. While reading the story, there is enough evidence to make a strong argument that Dina is gay, despite her insistence that she is not. I think that her intimacy with her friend Heidi indicates that Dina is attracted to women. However, once Heidi comes out as gay, Dina pushes her away and ends whatever their relationship was. It’s safe to say that Dina is at least confused regarding her own sexual preferences, and her first instinct is to disconnect with anyone or anything that is close enough to her to possibly cause her trouble.

Among other factors, the driving causes of Dina’s need to separate herself from other people all relate to her identity. She feels isolated at her school due to her race, she is highly self-conscious about her economic background which causes her to be anti-social out of a sense of embarrasment, and she does not even understand her own sexuality, leading to extreme insecurity. And Dina, in response, does what she is most comfortable with and pushes people away. Dina failed–probably justifiably due to her background–to put herself out their because she was not confident enough in who she was. Maybe if Dina can come to terms with her economic status and understand her own sexuality better, she could more confidentally open up with people.

One thought on “The Identity Crisis

  1. Violet B

    This is similar to my interpretation. Dina tries to distance/seperate herself from her own identity throughout the story as a result of the shame that comes with these identities. I feel like another reason that Dina pushed Heidi away was due her feelings about her own mother dying, as she never fully coped with it, and as a result did not know how to respond to Heidis mother dying.

    Liked by 1 person

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