Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Asian Eyes

Editor's Note: I wrote this post a few weeks ago (March 22), and it never made it to the blog until today.  

I have “Asian eyes”: narrow, almond shaped, “slanty” – whatever you want to call them.

And I know the feeling I’m about to describe isn’t all that different from the experience of many others with Asian-American heritage, but I’m going to throw my voice in the pool anyways. My “Asian eyes” have always seemed to be a source of weirdness. When I smile big, my eyes disappear completely – they’re still open, but because of my rounder cheeks and narrower eyes, you can’t always tell that. So in photos, I either intentionally widen my eyes – making my smile look really fake – or I have a natural smile, and my eyes look like they’re shut. Consequently, on my badge photos for work, on one, my eyes look closed, and on the other, I'm not smiling (so that you can see my eyes).

In 7th grade, a kid in my class called me out on my Asian shaped eyes during recess (he wanted to call me almond and the African American girl in our class “brownie” – almond brownies – so much wrong with that). In 9th grade, my art teacher docked me points off of my assignment to practice drawing parts of my face because “I made the eyes too skinny”. In my freshman/sophomore year of college, my roommate’s boyfriend commented on how, in photos of the two of us together (my roommate was Filipina) you could see that we were both Asian because it always looked like the sun was in our faces. "Asian eyes" were always different, always something people felt the need to point out to me - "hey, it looks like your eyes are shut!"  

As a result, I don't usually like the photos where it appears my eyes are closed (even when they're not). I take pride in other things associated with being Asian (chinese new year, not wearing shoes in my house, folding plastic bags into little footballs, etc.), so why do I dislike my Asian eyes so much? Because it's the thing people point out, it's the thing that seems weird to them. They say "wow, you look super Asian like that" - what's wrong with looking super Asian? I am, after all, a half-Asian woman! So I made a recent photograph of me and my husband my Facebook profile, and even though my eyes look closed, I kind of love it. The end. There's no big resolution or meaning to this post, just me telling myself that "Asian eyes" are just a part of what makes me.  

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