Where Do I Fit In?
Was there ever a time in life where you felt like you didn't fit in?
Growing up, I always felt like an outcast. I feel like most people have a strong sense of ethnic/racial identity, and they don't have to hesitate on the "race" portion of any form they've ever filled out. As someone from an Italian and Thai background, I never really knew what to put or how to identify myself.
No matter what race I decided to tell someone I was, people either didn't believe me or had no clue what I was talking about.
Sample conversations from my past:
Ding Dong 1: "Italian? My uncle is Italian and you sure don't look like him."
Me: "Well, thank God for that."
DD 1: "Well, can you speak Italian?"
DD 1: "Then you're not really Italian."
Ding Dong 2: "Asian? What kind of Asian? Japanese?"
DD 2: "Chinese?"
DD 2: "Vietnamese?"
DD 2: "Well what then??"
DD 2: "What the !@#$ is Thai?"
Me: "Thai, you know, as in from Thailand."
DD 2: "Oh you mean like Pad Thai? But I thought that was just a food."
Ding Dong 3: "Hola Maria! Habla espanol?"
Me: "No. Soy italiana."
DD 3: [in English] Italian? Yeah right. No really, where are you from? Bolivia? Honduras?" [Or insert just about every other Spanish-speaking (or Portuguese-speaking) country, I've heard about all of them and have had many versions of this same conversation - Cuba, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Portugal, etc.]
Me: "No, I'm Italian."
DD 3: "Whatever. I know you can speak Spanish, you're just pretending now."
You get the point, right?
As a kid, whenever my mom's friends were around, they would look at me as if I were an alien and ask her questions about me as if I weren't even in the room. "Can she even speak Thai?" "Wow, look at all that curly hair, she's definitely not Thai."
It wasn't until I read an article in a teenybopper magazine (Seventeen magazine, maybe? Can't remember) as a teenager about Kristin Kreuk (from Smallville, if you remember that show), where they described her as Eurasian. And that term blew me away, as I began to do more research and find pictures of people who looked kind of like me (and I am by no means an actress or a model, not by a long shot, but I just mean their facial features and coloring and hair, etc).
As I got older, I stopped letting it bother me and kind of enjoyed being a bit of a chameleon. On a trip to Miami with my dad, we went to the Miami Zoo. I stopped at a kiosk to get ice cream and the guy behind the counter asked me if I was from there (meaning Cuban). I said, "Sure." And he gave me the ice cream for free!
Charlie (who is also part Asian) and I got married in Hawaii and we fit right in. Everybody thought we were natives because there's such an amalgamation of Asian ethnicities there.
Now I always joke around with people who are trying to fish and see what nationality I am without coming out and asking. They'll ask, where are you from? And I'll say, Virginia. And they'll say, what about your parents? And I'll say, oh they're from all over, but most recently Virginia. :)
I guess the point of all this is that I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, whatever - I accept me.