When I started writing about what it is like being mixed, I got a little carried away. We like to keep our blog posts at a reasonable length. Well, my original draft turned out to be a whopping six pages! So here I have abbreviated my story. Something that is more to the point, but if you’re intrigued and you’d like to continue, I encourage you to check out the uncut version of my story. I don’t think you’ll regret it. If you already plan to read the uncut version, don’t worry about reading this one. I really do hope you choose to read the uncut version if you have time. It provides a lot more insight and is a much more fun read that I am actually pretty proud of. Thanks for reading in advance!
The Point of Impact
I had never recognized my skin color as being an issue until my freshman year of college when a teammate of mine asked what it was like being mixed in today’s world. I didn’t have an answer for her because, well, I had never thought about it.
I grew up in small town Indiana. This town is predominantly white, yet I never felt like an outsider. My mom taught me to be confident in my appearance no matter my skin color so I never struggled with self-identification. I simply felt like I was white with tan skin. Maybe I was ignorant and oblivious but I assumed my town saw me the same way.
While this remained true, I still wished I looked like the others. Ever since I can remember I thought about how much easier life would be if I were tiny and blonde like all my friends. If only I were petite, I would have a boyfriend. If only I were blonde, more people would like me. But I came to accept that I was “tan.” I guess it was easy to accept since it was rarely pointed out. I truly began to think no one noticed. Everything was spectacular.
Here I am growing up with white friends, a white family, white teammates, white white white! Forgive me for thinking I was also white.
Before this teammate of mine brought my skin color to my attention, I had seen myself as tan, not biracial. I wasn’t ashamed of my father’s skin. I was simply tired of answering the question of “what are you?” I think people secretly wanted to hear an exotic tale of my heritage. They wanted to hear how my father was Nigerian and my mother was ½ Israeli, ½ British. Unfortunately for the curious interviewer, my answer was “just white and black… maybe a little Irish somewhere?”
After my teammate brought it to my attention I was very aware.
Like most freshmen in college, I didn’t know where I fit in in this new environment. And to top it off, I was on the other side of the country at the University of Southern California.
Before I continue, USC tended to be a bit divided. Obviously not by law or anything crazy, but it was common to see white clumps or black clumps of people just like so many other places in our country. With that said. I was drawn to white crowds. Again, it’s all I had known.
I think people started to recognize this and comments were made. Black people said I was arrogant and believed that I was above them all. Some made comments that I was racist. None of this ever became a problem, but those little comments can eat away at you when you’re already questioning who the heck you are.
So now, and not in a self-centered way, I feel like people stare at me. In my head, black people stare at me because they think I think I am better than them or like I am some kind of traitor for having Caucasian blood. Sometimes I think they’re even nicer to me as if I am some rare breed.
Then sometimes, and not often, I feel unwelcomed by white people. As if they assume I am nothing like them because of the color of my skin, but if they took a second to know me they would realize that I am so much more like them than they could imagine.
And maybe I am crazy. Maybe I’m making this up and 21 years have allowed these ideas of biracial acceptance to stir in my head but that’s the point! My thoughts and feelings, created by time and consequence, affect the way I see the world.
After my freshman year, I decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin where the comments continued. I thought I was going to have a fresh start at this new school, but I was still seen as arrogant. They still thought I thought I was above them for the people I chose to hang out with.
While I know who I am and I know I am not the person they pegged me to be, it still made me think twice about my actions and how others saw me. I became very careful and cautious.
I tend to make myself smaller to boost someone else’s ego. So when I had an encounter with a black person I would start to make myself smaller by rolling over my shoulders or offering a soft smile. I would do anything to keep them from thinking I thought I was better than them.
What I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t being me. Instead, I was trying not to be what everyone else thought I was… if that makes sense. I was trying as hard as I could to counter those opinions of people who really don’t matter. My people, the people that really mattered, didn’t see my skin color and didn’t think I thought more of myself because of my skin color.
I needed to love myself. Not love the idea of everyone else loving me. I am who I am. I’m drawn to bright and cheerful personalities not skin colors and I started to roll with that. I had never been more confident with who I was. I had found my people who loved me for who I was: bubbly, black, obnoxious, white Lauryn.
Then my skin was brought to my attention again. DUN DUN DUN!!!
The Hurt (Check out the uncut version for more saucy details!)
Basically, I met a boy. He became my best friend. Over a period of about eight months, we became inseparable and I started to develop feelings. We were great together. Ask anyone, and they’d tell you they hadn’t seen a more compatible pair.
One night, a close friend of mine overheard this special boy tell his friend how perfect I was for him if only I was “tiny and blonde”… That sucked.
To be honest (and this isn’t a “daddy beats me because he loves me” story) I didn’t blame the boy for his wishes. His whole life he had expected to fall in love with a tiny blonde babe. Well, my whole life I wished to be a tiny blonde babe. It has taken me 21 years to get over this so I don’t expect him to see me differently anytime soon.
It was tough to accept this so I pushed the words aside and still tried to make him love me despite his obvious requirements that I could not fulfill. That’s where I went wrong. General life lesson, don’t make someone love you. Be with someone that is obsessed with you, someone that literally cannot live without you because that person is out there (fingers crossed am I right?).
And then I look to myself as I rebuild what I see in the mirror. I tell myself the basic stuff like “you’re you for a reason”; “someone will fall in love with you for everything you are”; “if you were like the others, you’d just blend in.” But then I take an extra second to actually believe these things I tell myself. No one talks to you more than you talk to yourself, so the stuff going on up there better be positive and beneficial.
It’s a process. Accepting and loving you for all that you are. You don’t forget a cruel comment in a day, you don’t get over a boy in a day and you don’t accept yourself fully for who you are in a day.
I had a minor set back, but every day, I’m closer to loving me again. So yeah, maybe I look a little different than a majority of my peers. Yeah, life might be simpler if I was tiny and blonde, but being me has its perks.
So I tell you to be resilient and value no one’s opinions but your own! Embrace who you are and the people who don’t appreciate that, don’t belong in your life. Decide right now to never beg for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself.
With all this said, and don’t worry, I’m almost finished… I am so proud of my best friend, Jordan, for starting REVLY. REVLY is for every body and everybody, but that isn’t just implying all shapes and sizes. It is all skin colors, all hair types, all backgrounds. I, along with extraordinary tiny blonde women, will be celebrated for who we are. No look is better than another. We hope to shut down all wishes to look like someone else because who you are is pretty damn awesome.
So love yourself more! If you can’t love you then who can?
Wow this is so relatable! I’m mixed as well (black and white) and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say that I’m not black because I “sound white”. Thanks for sharing your story, I loved every bit of it!
Lauryn don’t know if you remember me or not, but I worked at Parkview & saw you every day at lunch just so you know you were one of the nicest young ladies to ever go thru the middle school, I personally never looked at you as black white yellow brown or green just one of the most amazing young ladies who always had a great smile for everyone, a very lovely young ladies who I am proud to call my friend!!!
I loved this, you have it figured out at 21, what has taken me double the time (I’m 42), and just to the point of not caring what others think of me ;)
You don’t know me, but I am from your home town. I’ve known you indirectly through common acquaintances for most of your school years. This article is a fantastic price if work and a great read thanks for sharing and keep being you. Seems like you have a great start, and go badgers!