Musings of a Middle-aged Matriarch: My face does not match me — a six-word memoir
Moon face. I have a really big, round moon face. I never really considered my face until the boys at school wanted to point out that my face was flat. So, I was then known as flat face. I added this to the list of taunts that already got fired at me like missiles. Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at these. Ching Chong. I used to wish I could change my face to be small and petite. That the large bridge of my nose wasn’t so protruding, and my cheeks weren’t fat, flat tortillas on either side of my nose. I wanted blonde hair that was light and fluffy. You could spray that hair with hairspray, and it actually stayed in place. My thick dark hair refused to curl, always straight an hour after I got to school. Those rag curls my mother put in my head, futile. My mom said I was pretty. But no one cares what their mom says. Moms have to think you’re pretty. They are blinded by love.
My eyes have monolids. It’s where the top lid doesn’t roll back into the eye socket. Instead, it curls up, under, and folds on top of itself like an accordion fan. That means if you put thick black eyeliner on, it’s going to smudge and disappear under your top lid and you end up looking like a raccoon. The discount version of a smokey eye. Oh, and Heaven forbid, you smile big or close your eyes tight when you laugh. Your eyeliner ends up on top of your fat tortilla cheeks.
My ears connect to my head awkwardly. There’s no distinction between my cheek and my lobe. The bottom of my ear just sort of blends into my face like a merge lane. There’s no cute round lobe on the side of my head. Just a little triangular flap of skin I got pierced when I was eight at a mall kiosk in Indiana. The holes aren’t even. My unicorn earrings always sat weird, one dipping lower than the other.
The real crux of the six-word memoir is that this face, this awkward, Korean-looking face, does not match me. My face doesn’t represent who I am. People who don’t know me look at my face and make a lot of assumptions. They assume I am Asian of some sort. They assume my face is Korean—if they are a good guesser. Some people assume I don’t speak English, that broken English should come out of my mouth, or that I’ll speak a language that sounds like pots and pans falling down the stairs, as the racist joke goes. When I was a greeter at Olive Garden in college, an older woman complimented me on my English saying I spoke English well. I said, “Well, I ought to since I’ve been here since I was 6 months old.”
I thought I was American. I grew up in America. I ate American food. My lunch was Chef Boyardee. My family drove through McDonald’s and my parents’ favorite restaurant was Cracker Barrel. I spoke English. Yet, my face would say otherwise. My face came with baggage that wasn’t mine. My face gave some people permission to think they knew a part of me. When this happens, you are constantly trying to prove you are someone or something. How many times did I overcompensate for this? Did I speak extra American-like? I tried to do all the American things like cheerleading or ballet to show how white I was. I dated the white boy in high school…to be fair, there was only one Asian boy in my school, so choices were limited. I think I’ve spent a lifetime trying to combat my outward appearance instead of accepting it’s a natural part of what makes me, me. Acceptance is what we crave so much in our youth, yet we tend to find it much later in adulthood. I wish acceptance had come earlier. I wish I had given myself permission to feel like an outsider but had the confidence to know I really did belong. I know my face does not match who I am inside, but now I know it doesn’t matter.
Cover image: Cathy Lu