As I put on my first pair of glasses at the end of 4th grade I realized I wasn’t the same. Unlike all the girls in my class becoming stylish with their new frames, I became a nerd. I began to question why I didn’t look the same, why, in the same pair of glasses, I was a nerd and they weren’t. What was it about me that made me different? I came to the realization that I wasn’t white, that my eyes weren’t the same as my friends, that my hair was darker and straighter, that my skin was a different shade, that I was Asian. These traits became a constant reminder as friends became envious of my straight hair, and I of their hair straighteners. Or as friends hung out and played with make up and no one, including me, had any idea how to work eye shadow or eyeliner with almond-shaped eyes. I longed to fit in; I longed to be white.
I still try to be white, to keep my friends white, to act white, but in turn I disassociate with my culture. I remove myself from the Asian group stereotype. I fear this stereotype, which is why I constantly joke about it. I joke about it before anyone else has a chance to, so that I can be in charge of how far it goes and I can be in charge of the “butt of my own joke.”
I constantly disappoint my relatives. They tell me to be proud of my culture, but it’s not how I identify myself. I’m an embarrassment to my culture. I have given up the “greatness” that comes with being Chinese. I feel like a sell out. But most of the time it doesn’t seem to matter. I feel moments of empowerment when partaking in certain cultural traditions with my family, but then I become aware of the reality; “this is a white world.”
You may see me as an Asian-American, but I’m not my ethnicity. I am not the hyphen, I am not the first part, nor am I the second. I’m not what you see on the outside.