Quest for identity partially solved at Wal-Mart

My entire life I have been asking myself what color I am and what race I belong to. My mom is a caucasian Irish-American and my dad is Mexican-American. My brother and I are just mixed up and confused. But at long last I discovered some clarity at Wal-Mart.

This dual-race issue has been an interesting journey, at times. Other times it makes no difference at all.

As a child, at my paternal abuelo’s house he would routinely ask us, “Que eres?” (What are you?) – the two choices were Mexican or white. (If you didn’t know, Mexican is both a culture and color in our family.) The answer he was looking for was Mexican. Upon gleefully exclaiming with all of my childish enthusiasm that I was “Messican” he rewarded me with a big smile, hugs, kisses and usually some food.

But that answer was forced to change when we moved to Mexico. There it was pointed out to us again and again that we were not Mexican because we were born in the U.S. so we were American. It didn’t matter where our grandparents were born, it mattered where we were born.

My teacher at the little Mexican-shop-of-scholastic horrors that I attended actually paraded me in front of the class to ask me what it felt like to be white and steal Texas and California from the Mexicans. At 12 I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer this question, having never stolen a state before. Should I feel bad like I did when I was caught stealing candy bars from Wal-Greens in the 5th grade? So the new answer to the question of my life was white, American.

So I should have been ready to go back the U.S. for college. I should have fit right in as a white, American. However, during my freshman year I had a friend, very matter of factly, tell me that I needed to stop wearing pink lipstick because I was not white and it did not look good on me. Alright, so now I’m not white again but am once again ethnic. That’s interesting. Apparently I needed to wear darker lipstick and that would really answer the question once and for all. It would also signal to others that I was indeed Mexican. But at least now I know.

Or did I? The first time I met a former boyfriend’s family his brother made some really racist comments in front of me about Mexicans. The ex and his family were horrified and quickly told him that I was Mexican. He looked at me and said, “well you don’t look Mexican.” I guess I had forgotten to wear my dark-colored lipstick that day. And in all fairness, he didn’t look like an idiot but apparently he was one. So now I’m white and not Mexican/ethnic enough.

But clarity came at Wal-mart once and for all.

I was wandering up and down the make-up aisle and saw that Cover Girl has developed a really sophisticated system for determing the proper shade of foundation by scientifically matching your skin tone. That’s right, all you have to do place your hand under a piece of clear plastic with various colors of foundation on it. Simply find the closest match and voila you have quickly and correctly identified your color.

I am natural buff. One of the lightest shades on the sheet. I am pale white. Sorry Abuelo.

At least now I can figure out what shade of lipstick to wear.


About Marti

After a year-long sabbatical in Southern California I am returning to Ohio to try and resume my life. Who knew you went home again to start living.

Posted on April 18, 2007, in About Me, Friendshipping, Mi Familia and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. oh my, that was well-written. great payoff. still snorting…

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