May 18, 2021

“Chink.” “Do you eat bats?” “Why does your lunch smell so weird?” “Why are your eyes so small? Can you even see?” These were all comments made directed towards me throughout my childhood. Hearing all these remarks made upon my uniqueness had taken a toll on the feelings I held towards my culture. If I had a dollar for everytime someone had pulled the skin surrounding their eyes back to minimize the size of their vision, in an attempt to mimic my own, I would be casted in the blockbusting movie, Crazy Rich Asians. There are no words to properly explain just how big the seemingly harmless quotations, made by my classmates, impacted the mechanics in my brain. All of a sudden the gears started turning backwards, and I learned to resent who I was. One thing ran through my mind, at a constant pace, as if running a 4×800 relay; the thoughts never slowed even while blowing out my birthday candles or while tossing my loose pennies I had hidden in my qipao into a fountain: I want to be American.

Countless times I had caught myself fantasizing about a life where bright blonde hair spilled from the top of my head and complimented eyes that competed with the ocean for hue. There would be no monolid in sight as along with blue eyes, a double eyelid came cohesively packaged in bubble wrap. I waited for the UPS truck with a delivery that would never ring my doorbell. The fiction of living a life where it wasn’t a requirement to hide my warm thermos of delicious dumplings in my lunch box, so no one could see them, or to hide embarrassment for my culture behind sarcastic jokes and laughter. It was the little things that got to me, like adding the words “for asian eyes” at the end of my google search when attempting to master the art of eyeliner, swapping out the familiar feel of chopsticks for a flimsy plastic fork just to fit in, and dying my hair brown just to feel an escape from the coat my jet black hair had covered me in. I had conformed myself to fit into society’s standards of what was socially acceptable. In the process of seeking approval from others, I had lost myself and who I was.

I was ashamed of who I was and where I came from, like it was a crime to be Asian; and now, the media says it is. The hate crimes against AAPI had never made me more aware of my culture. I was afraid for our ancestors who are to be respected in our culture, however they are being brutalized and attacked in vicious spite. The shame I carried for my culture had uplifted, and instead I realized just how proud I was to be Asian. From loving celebrations that allowed for unabridged families to gather together, to learning the art of making a signature dumpling, and to appreciate just how far our ancestors have come. The AAPI attacks that have been voiced in the media have lead numerous amounts of allies to raise awareness on the injustice of the situation. Through raising awareness, I have encountered a community of support who see the inequality and compromised virtue as I do. I should not feel ashamed for the yellow undertones in my skin, my monolid eyelids that now model perfectly symmetrical eyeliner, or the language that greeted me everyday in the comfort of my home.

There is no valid contention that would uphold the reasoning to be ashamed of one’s culture. Every culture is unique and should be respected as that is what makes our world so diverse. I no longer conceal my dumplings within the walls of a polyester lunchbox, I no longer make a point to use forks in substitution for the familiar feel of chopsticks, and I no longer constantly wish to be American. I no longer have to wish anymore, because through the journey of finding who I was, I realized: I am an American. I am an Asian American and I am proud.


6 thoughts on “Eyeliner”
  1. Sophia, I want to give you a big hug for what you have experienced and how you have risen above that. The journey of finding oneself can be filled with confusion and pain, but it also brings immense joy and growth. Wish you the best!

  2. Such an excellent and moving piece, recounting the difficult transformation process very vivid and emotionally. Bravo!

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