Playing by everyone’s rules is exhausting

Madison, WI.

To Fred down the street I’m half-Asian; to Nick the bus driver I’m from southern France; Veronica thinks I’m obviously Native; McKayla says I’m White; to Esme I look like one of those pochos who thinks he’s too good to be associated with “them.”

Sometimes it’s okay for me to talk about my experiences, but usually no one wants to hear it because I’m automatically wrong. I can’t know what it’s like to be stared at in public, for instance, because I don’t look non-White enough. Never mind that I get stares and rude looks not just at the grocery store, but at the mercado too.

No one wants to hear it so I keep my mouth shut and do my best to accommodate them. It’s not so much that I think they know more about my experiences than I do, but that the people in this state generally aren’t ready for such conversations. Also I value my time too much to give someone who I’m never going to see again a talking to about how not to be a dic*.

Everything’s so black and white here, that those of us who don’t fit so neatly into one of two categories are used to being scrutinized for every little thing we do. If we rightly take pride in our non-White ethnic and/or racial heritage, we’ll have to continually defend ourselves against the people who tell us we’re too White; if we give in and try our best to assimilate, then we’ll have to defend ourselves against the hordes of people who ask us why we’re so ashamed of our non-White heritage.

Much like cuttlefish, many of us change our skin when the need arises, to prevent something bad from happening -by “bad” I mean that unbearably awkward moment when someone tells you that you can’t be “Hispanic” because you look too “American” (or that just as intolerably awkward moment when someone tells you to buck up because other people have it worse). We get a lot of flak for that too. It’s not my fault I was born this way; no es mi culpa haber nacido al otro lado del Bravo. By the same token, it’s not my fault that you don’t understand and probably never will.

Ya se despide este pocho, hasta luego y ay los watcho.


Tweets by Michele Norris