That’s right. I used to hide my heritage. I get that sounds weird. I didn’t appreciate my uniqueness. What made me…me. I was inspired to read this post after I watched a video with Shay Mitchell. I could relate all too well. Let me try to explain why I had such an inner struggle.
Tired of being called exotic or pretty for being brown. I know being exotic is something I should have embraced. It is meant to be a compliment. Truth be told, I kind of like it now. But as a teenager it just made me feel different and not as worthy. It made me feel like I wasn’t like everyone else. Now, I enjoy being different.
I was made fun of…a lot. I wasn’t really told I was pretty until my freshman year of high school. In fact, I was reminded how ugly I was every single day from kindergarten to eighth grade. It’s hard not to be self-conscious at that point. I was one of a few kids who were not caucasian. Even though I started to feel confident in my skin during my high school years the old me would still nag on each little feature. I would hate on my skin color, my eyes, my hair color, my smile, my nose, my stomach, everything. Everything that I should have loved – especially that stomach because I looked good. Don’t you wish you could go back to your former self and give them a little pep talk? I know I do.
I was the weird kid who would bring sushi to lunch. Now, sushi is the cool thing. I bet my son’s friends will be jealous when I make him sushi for lunch.
Growing up, I would look at other girls and wish I looked just like them. Pamela Anderson was all the rage and I looked nothing like her. No one really looked like me until Jessica Alba in Dark Angel and Jennifer Lopez in Selena came along. Before that, I didn’t have any celebrities with similar features to me that were considered beautiful.
I felt different. I remember one of my high school teachers told us to look around and see how many non-white students were in the class. Guess where everyone looked? Right at me and one other kid. Don’t worry, his lesson was to talk about the lack of diversity in a constructive way.
I hated my brown eyes. They looked like poop. So what did I do? I wore colored contacts. Blue and green contacts were my go-tos. I wore them almost every single day my senior year of high school.
Want to know what else? I loved to dye my hair. I wasn’t into my dark brown hair. It didn’t help that Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez both had pretty blonde hair too. I still get the itch to dye my hair, but now it’s because I want to. Not because I’m trying to look less ethnic. I even dyed my hair blonde after Damian because I was tired of people thinking I was the nanny.
I‘ve had boyfriends moms not like me because of the color of my skin. They “liked me” but didn’t feel I was “right for their son” because I didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. The pain I felt can’t even be described. This isn’t a one-off incident either. There’s nothing I could do except cry. It’s one thing for someone not liking you because your personality isn’t their cup of tea. It’s another when someone writes you off because of your appearance or ethnicity before even giving you a chance. That does a number on you.
Don’t feel like I’m really a part of a culture. I’m not Japanese/Islander/Filipino/Indian/Irish/etc. Enough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “that doesn’t count” when saying I’m a quarter Irish. People don’t realize hearing the words “that doesn’t count” can really cut. Do I not really count? I don’t belong…anywhere? Ouch. That hurts.
My mother left me when I was one years old. When that happened I lost any and all connections to being Filipino. It’s always an awkward thing when people ask why I don’t know any tagalog or about the culture. I know pancit, adobo chicken, and lumpia. That’s it. I wish it was different but those are the cards I was dealt.
I was raised in a Japanese household by my half Japanese, half Indian grandmother. Sadly, her Indian father was taken away from her during World War II while they lived in Japan. The Japanese considered him under British rule even though his family was Japanese. Growing up, she dealt with a lot of prejudices being biracial. As you can imagine, that didn’t stop when she married an Irish army man from Kansas.
Today I am proud of my background, yet I still don’t feel like I’m really part of any culture. In my soul, I’ve always felt more drawn to the Polynesian culture. Not because I look the most like it. It brings a sense of home to my soul. However, that’s not all that I am. I am a mix of beautiful, interesting, and dynamic cultures. In spite of that, I’m never enough. Isn’t that a sad feeling even in today’s society? I still have to check “other” as my ethnicity.
Racism still exists today. I get confused for the nanny all the time. I have been followed in stores from clerks. I’ve heard she’s cute for being ethnic or for being a brown girl. Still. In 2016. Racism is live and well in America. All you have to do is look on your Facebook feed or turn on the news.
Even with today’s culture I don’t care anymore. I just don’t. I have finally grown to love my brown skin. I love my dark hair. I love my dark eyes. Yes, there are times when I don’t like what I see in the mirror. But, I love my ethnicity. While I still don’t feel like I belong in any box that’s okay. I can be a little bit of everything and if anyone has a problem with it that’s on them.
Love yourself. Whether you’re mixed or not – love yourself. You are beautiful and unique. Embrace it.