A Mutt's Dilemma

By
I’m a halfie, someone born of parents who braved cultural boundaries to pay the rent. My mom, a product of the Cultural Revolution, abuse, the countryside. My dad, a product of WWП, family, the mountains. Driven to America by necessity, my parents were not caught in a whirlwind of love and passion; they were caught in the cruel hands of poverty, and saw, in each other, a practical marriage that would provide health insurance and a reduced rent. So, I did not inherit a magical romance; I inherited more culture than I can handle. In my mom I find the roots of my unreasonable love for all things cheap, her frugality cultivated by a destitute upbringing. In my dad I find the roots of my love for the mountains, his only means to solitude in a tightly knit Catholic family. In neither of them do I find my country. In neither of them do I find myself.

Once you navigate around the chubby cheeks of my heart shaped face, framed by a tangled mess of black, you can find my curved brown eyes, button nose, and bushy eyebrows. Suffice to say I do not particularly celebrate my mom’s dominating role in my features. My dad, not at all happy with his contribution to my sex appeal, I hold in a more favorable light. I can thank him for my “whiteification”: the addition of prominent breasts, long eyelashes, plump lips, and double eyelids that make applying eye shadow easier. I wish I could say that my appearance presented a mystery to people, that I was an exotic beauty, but I am not the conundrum that I had hoped to be. Even I, a mutt, seem to own a predetermined place in the world, one I’m not sure I like. On sight, the Asians are quick to disown me, their pride leaving no room for the impure. The Whites are quick to label me, their pride leaving no room for the nerds.

In second grade my class was to have a cultural feast. Being the only black-haired, small-eyed kid, I was begged to bring dumplings. The confusion their entreaties provoked in me was soon mirrored by my peers. How could a Chinese person not know what dumplings were? I arrived home bawling at the great injustice done to me. I was not Chinese! I was white! My mom, bewildered by her sobbing half-Chinese daughter, who denied ever being informed she was Chinese, forced my dad to fry favorki, a Polish desert decidedly cooler than any Asian dish. My friends stopped grumbling over the absence of dumplings when I told them the fried dough with powdered sugar was a Polish delicacy. Curious eyes implored me to spill all I knew about Poland, while grubby hands reached for the exotic treat bearing strong resemblance to a donut.

In fourth grade, because I was half white, I was eloquently deemed “half cool,” a title I am now ashamed I ever felt pride in. However, in the throes of a terrifying new world of cooties, smacker’s chapstick, and gossip, I clung to any edge I could get. My Polish blood never failed to inspire small talk and served as my ticket to making new friends.

In sixth grade, a boy asked me if I hailed from one of those countries he couldn’t pronounce. I told him I was born in America, and that’s all that mattered right? He looked at me dubiously, and the conversation ended. His doubt raised questions I never thought I would have to answer. Could I claim to be American when so blatantly denied the bonds of kinship that unite a nation? Am I actually from a country that no one can “pronounce”, a country that no one can claim but me?

In ninth grade I was dragged to China. My mom, appalled that I was failing my Chinese language class at school, shipped my older sister and me off to China for the summer. It was her desperate attempt to rid me of my ignorance in a submersion in language and culture. Amidst the sea of black-haired, small-eyed people, I was not expecting to be labeled as a foreigner, as I was back at home. However, my appearance apparently told as much about me as my mutilated version of Mandarin ever could. Shoved through the streets of Beijing, we were victims of inquisitive stares and accusatory glares.

Today I’m writing this essay, and through it, unveiling the insecurities that have plagued me since the second grade. I am still not sure which aspects of my parents’ Western and Eastern culture constrict and guide me. I am still not sure “who I am”. However, I do know that I am no longer someone who will allow others to define me. I am no longer the child that ignored her Chinese heritage and researched her Polish roots. I am a hormonal female teenager succumbing to and rebelling against the pressures of society, exploring, sometimes cautiously but usually recklessly, the joys of puberty: bleeding, tempting, lusting.

Upon the memory of my parents’, I will create my own legacy.





Join the Discussion

This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

centerstage23 said...
Oct. 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm
I'm also half Chinese/half white. Awesome work!
 
ayee said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:26 pm
how honest and sensitive! I love to read it.
 
Luolan X said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm
Beautiful!
 
Helen said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 7:09 pm
Great story!
 
Ozzii said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 10:32 pm
Beautifully written, delightfully introspective, and thoughtfully presented. I like it very much.
 
Jason T said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm
Great story, I love it.
 
Jin said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 1:44 pm
execellent
 
jin l. said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 4:03 am
I loved this story.
 
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