The first man to imply it was my dad. Then years later my (now ex) husband would say it. And my partner after that. A unanimous verdict from all the men in my life. All of them Hispanic.
They meant it as an insult of course. I remember my dad taking me out for meals and talking at length about why white women were not REAL women. Why they could never please a man. Why they were so cold and so wrong.
But Hispanic women were beautiful. They were gentle and kind and always did what they were told. They served others and they had kids. Lots of them. They cooked and were happy with very little. They never wanted anything more than what they had, never asked any questions, and never did anything without permission.
The Hispanic women I knew all did actually fit this mold. They could take abuse like “real women”, be it verbal, physical, or emotional. As I understood, that’s what made them beautiful. That’s what men wanted.
Over time I started developing what I knew were “white” qualities. Stubborness. Imagination. Ambition. A desire for something better. My own voice. This would upset the men around me, and if I didn’t try to suppress it – they would.
I was horrible at making friends with other Hispanics. In the company of Spanish-speaking women, I felt awkward. I didn’t talk about the things that did – cooking and kids and sex. I talked about books and ideas. The men would look at me like eye candy and nothing more. I was accused of thinking I was too good for them. I felt white.
A few weeks ago I was told my decision to move to the States was a “white” one. And I hope that’s the last time I hear that word used as an insult.
The funny thing is, since moving to San Diego, I feel more ethnic than I did in Canada. I have more opportunity to speak Spanish. My skin is better at soaking up the sun. And I’ve eaten more Hispanic food in two weeks than I usually do in Canadian months.
Running these hills and mountains, it seems I’ve spent most of my life feeling homesick for a place I’ve never been. A place like this. Miles away from brown or white or black or yellow. A place where I can just be myself. Ambitious and determined. Maybe even a little stubborn. But still beautiful.