I’ve been pretending.
My skin color has always made me feel like The Other.
Am I evil? I wonder, turning my hands over. I look at my pigment, examine the green veins below the skin. Café con leche, you can say. Coffee with milk. Or yellow? Like the kids say these days. My skin color was of great pride in my home.
“No se a quien salío tan blanca!” You could often hear my mother say, my dad nodding in proud agreement.
To them I was india, clara, linda.
I had olive skin.
And while my immigrant parents always found a reason to beam about it I always felt a reason to dislike it. The way they beamed about it made me feel really uncomfortable. I never understood this strange love my parents had with my color and my “fine” features, rather than my mind or my thoughts or my art…
I went to sleep every night, hoping to wake up in any skin but mine.
It wasn’t the first time I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I once had a crush on this Dominican boy in high school who would flirt with me and then tell me we were just being friendly. He’d three-way bomb me with his two best friends late into the night (meaning 7/8pm ‘cuz you know high schoolers). We never really talked about anything, sometimes I’d fall asleep with the phone to my ear because he’d charm me into staying on the line as they yabbed away.
“You sound white.”
They joked on me every chance they could get.
These were my people and they still managed to make me feel like an outsider.
The first time I felt Dominican I sat in a group of rich white kids in J. Crew shirts and LL bean boots squirming in my DC skate shoes as they delved deep into a discussion on Shakespeare. I felt stupid, underserving of my full-ride liberal arts admission because I’d never read Hamlet. Fucking Hamlet. I’m just gonna say it: I fucking hate Shakespeare ‘cuz to me he stands for all the bourgeoisie white shit people like that makes them think they’re the only ones who know “real” art. As if “real” art is one thing or another, a fact more than an opinion. Here I was, salutatorian of my high school, and I thought I was unworthy to be around all these smart white people because I’d never read Hamlet. Fucking Hamlet.
I tried for a long time to fit into boxes. I said sorry for inconveniencing people (or when they bumped into me…). I tried to wear more feminine clothing and be less of a tomboy. I tried to do things by the book: close my legs, speak proper English, work hard in silence, keep any critiques (especially negative critiques to myself). Never be angry. Don’t appear threatening. Act like a lady. Better your race.