They call me mestiza—translated literally from Tagalog, my mother’s foreign tongue, to mean HALF BLOOD, HALF BREED, NOT COMPLETE ENOUGH. As if I am not a full person on my own. Broken mosaic of a girl, forged from so many cultures soldered together, none of them want to claim me.
My first language was not English, but an alphabet my father did not care enough to learn. At three years old, I could form whole conversations with my Lola, who still calls me nakong even though I have stopped responding.
When I asked my mother why she stopped speaking to me in Tagalog, she answers me in English. Did I not know I was American? How lucky I was to be born to a white father in a white man’s land. I never had to deal with the growing pains she and her eight siblings did. This translates to I AM ASHAMED.
When I was little, my titas would tell me to stay out of the sun. I did not know that they meant to keep me from deepening my coffee creamer skin, that they were ashamed of the sunripe bodies they were born in. My mother’s sister used to bleach her skin with sunshine and lemon juice to fake what I was naturally. In the Philippines where half my blood comes from, to be WHITE, I mean, LIGHT, is synonymous with BEAUTIFUL. My parents used to joke that I could make millions just by existing there—because I was mixed. I know now these comments aren’t so much jokes as microaggressions. I know now to not laugh along.
I am a first generation American, and I do not belong anywhere. Too foreign for my paternal family, not foreign enough for my maternal family. I grew up in San Francisco, but even there some things just do not mix. Even in a melting pot city, things still burn.
First published in Fresno State University’s Spectrum, KR Szyszka is a procrastinator first and an author second. Currently attending PCC, they can be found spending most of their time searching for the right playlist to write and never finishing their tea.
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