Love & Relationships

I TRIED IT … BEING WHITE

I permed my hair.

Bleached it.

Saved up for eyelid surgery, breast implants. I wanted blue contacts, badly. I only had white friends. I listened to Bon Jovi.

None of it made me white.

I remember being 8 years old and wishing Santa would make me white. I woke up Christmas day to find the same me in the mirror: same small eyes, sallow skin, straight black hair. Same ugly, Chinese-looking me. Somewhere inside, I was saying, “Fuck you, Santa! Thanks for nothing!” I grew up in suburban New Jersey in the ’70s and ’80s. At school there were a few black kids and a couple of Latinos and Asians, but we were scattered, like dim stars along the Milky Way.

I wanted to be white.

White was not being asked questions like you were a foreigner even though you were born in New York City (“Where are you really from?” “How is your English so good?”). It meant not having Jeff, the boy you had a crush on, place tacks on your chair and shout, “I GOT THE CHINK!” It meant not having kids set your trees on fire two Mischief Nights in a row.

I wanted to be blonde. Blonde Barbie ruled. Farrah ruled. Chrissy was hot. Janet was not.

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