Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'll grow up to be just like Mommy, right?

Once I officially became a Chatham, I never looked back.

I never thought of Korea or of who my Korean mother or father might have been. I never fantasized about their appearance or whereabouts or imagined their distant pining for me. It never dawned on me to even entertain a thought about either one of them. As far as I knew, I had never seen them or touched them. I had no memory of either one. They were more like two people who had never existed. So, I forgot, or rather, it was more as though there was nothing to remember and therefore, nothing to forget.

I moved on.

I became the "typical little American girl” who attended school in ruffled dresses and shiny white shoes, who played with Barbie Dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids, who played dress up and tried to walk in her Mommy’s high-heeled shoes. I loved Minnie Mouse and Miss Piggy. My favorite fairy tales became Cinderella and Snow White.

During these younger years, I watched my Mom every morning with awe and anticipation as she sat at her vanity, curling her golden hair and lining her big blue eyes. I hoped to grow up to be just like Mommy one day—except for the fact that I had hair like obsidian, eyes like almonds, and a nose that didn’t slope, that I was not genteel or graceful and that I did not know how to maintain emotional serenity.

Although I had all but erased any awareness of my Korean origins, as I grew up as the only Asian among not only a family but a community dominated by White culture and standards, it did not take long before I began to encounter interminable reminders that growing up to be just like Mommy or like anyone else around me would require more than what I had to offer.


3 comments:

mrkmommy said...

Recently while I was searching for my normal gray covering dye, my oldest daughter asked me to pick the color black for my hair. It surprised me a bit because her little sister has been more about matching everything, clothes, skin, etc. Also, even though my husband isn't Chinese he is is Latino so he has very dark eyes and black hair.

But it got me to thinking and I am wondering whether or not I should do it. It seems like a simple thing but the underlying issues of being a different race are not going away with simply matching hair color.

Melissa said...

mrkmommy-- it's true that the racial issues are not going to be mitigated by you dying your hair...but just the act of dying your hair demonstrates, in my small opinion, a willingness to try to relate to your oldest daughter, particularly because she specifically asked you to do it.

If she hadn't made the request, then it would seem negligible, but the fact that she actually requested you to do so, means something--well, I think it does. Obviously, it's your decision and you know your daughter better than I do...that's just my two cents, whether you were asking for it or not. ;)

mrkmommy said...

Thank you Melissa, I was asking. Having your opinion means a lot to me.