Being afraid of my own differences.
Since I started writing, whether in my journal or in my novel, I have deliberately tried to hide my own ethnic background. I told myself I could attract a wider audience this way because most English-speaking readers are after all not Chinese. I told myself it was a business decision. That might be true, but ultimately, I have to admit, it is because I am still insecure and worry about not being accepted.
It is unfortunate that environment we all live in does not foster universal acceptance. For example, I really have the way certain terms are used to imply minorities. Sometimes the word “ethnic” alone is used to describe ethnic minorities, as if you are part of a majority then you are not ethnic. We are all ethnic because we all have ethnic origins. Ethnicity ultimately isn’t even that important on a genetic level. It is sad that we use people’s appearances to classify each other. We will leave the oppression of many other type of minorities(gender, sexuality, economic level, political power) etc. to another day.
Therefore my worry is at once understandable and unnecessary. Of course, there will be many out there who can’t relate to me once they realize I am not part of the class or race or culture they relate to, whichever one that might be to them. I certainly have experienced marginalization in Boston, where I grew up. However, ultimately, it is my own lack of complete acceptance of myself that resulted in this veil. It doesn’t matter who I am or where I am, there will always be people who cannot accept me for who I am.
Legacy of fear from my father
When I was still a child and living in my birth country China, I remember feeling like an outsider. My father was a newcomer to the city, having studied hard to enter a university in the city through a college entrance exam from the countryside. He carried with him a sense of shame and embarrassment about being a farmer and being poor. He felt he was the quintessential country bumpkin. This sense of superiority of metropolitan residents over those from the countryside is still very prevalent in China. It has perhaps become stronger as the old communist values of equality for everyone have long faded into the background of capitalist pursuits. There are now severe income and wealth gap in a country with billions of lives. My father, not particularly confident or bodacious to begin with, suffered from severe self-esteem issues. To this day, after getting his master degree in computer engineering and working in the states for 30 years, he never quite saw himself as anything but a poor farmer from China’s rural village. He compulsively sees himself as less than people around him, even if his achievements speak otherwise.
Growing up with him, I inevitably caught some of that self-negation. It is not until recently, I finally began to accept myself. Complete self-acceptance, however, is always a work in progress, since we will always continue to discover new parts of ourselves. As we find out more about us and interact with those new parts, we have to develop new understanding and acceptance for those parts. Therefore, today, I tell myself, for me to establish true intimacy with my reader, I must be brave and disclose more about myself. I might lose some of you, but what and whom I gain in return will hold more meaning for me.
Embrace all that is different about me.
I have long been accepted myself as exactly who I am, just another being of nature, no less and no more. I am not superior than a plant, nor am I inferior to a different category of human beings. Here I show you my utter otherness, whether it is my race or my hairstyle or my gender. I hope you will embrace it. In the end, each one of us has many things different from a particular preset standard. Rejecting something different in others as inferior or bad is equivalent to accepting you accept your own inferiority according another standard. Why not embrace it all?
So I guess that also fulfills my promise to show my “pixie”! I kind of went from pixie to a buzz cut and then to an overgrown buzz cut(those are sunglasses at top of my head, not some weird styling). Not quite Natalie or either of the two Hudsons, certainly much less makeup :). But I think I am good with the way I look. We really all look quite good. Buzzcuts are underrated, join me, ladies! Update 2021: pixie is gone(too much maintenance), but the spirit is still there 🙂