Something that seems to intrigue people about me a lot is my colour. I touch on it quite a bit in my blogs, since it is quite relevant to self-exploration and identity. However, since travelling, the sheer number of remarks that I get, sometimes multiple times a day, has driven me to consider it more and more. I am not sure about the reason for this amplification – maybe because I’ve tanned so much that any whiteness in me is temporarily unavailable for viewing? Not sure – but anyhow, it is getting quite excessive.
I like talking about my heritage (just in case you didn’t know, half Sri Lankan, and the other half is a melange of European) but thought I would compile a blog-cum-instruction-manual about my experiences, and ways people could be a smidgen more tactful about how they approach the topic.
For convenience, I will write the remarks that people have said and explain why they wind me up. For some (many) of you, the explanation will not be needed, but I shall nonetheless include it in case you are in any doubt. Also, being the generous soul that I am, I shall offer an alternative way of phrasing it which won’t make me aggy.
So, you’re from India right?
PLEASE will people bog off saying this. I know that there is nothing wrong from being from India. In fact, word on the street, quite a lot of people in the world are. But when people feel the need to come up to you -in a club, in the street, at work, at a party, teachers at school, in a cafe – and tell you (not ask you) where you are from, it becomes exhausting. At some points whist travelling it has been happening to me three or four times a day. When I worked at John Lewis, customers would approach me, unsmiling and without a greeting, and demand to know where I was from. I mean, England. Apparently, this is not an answer.
‘But your parents are from India?’
No, both English. My parents’ parents had parents who weren’t from England. One of my sides is from Sri Lanka, which I presume is the only one you are interested in, or will believe, since when I list you the countries from which I am descended, you smile and say ‘Oh, so you’re Sri Lankan.’
I think the reason that this gets to me to such an extent, is that it happens so much that sometimes it feels like people are not really interested in any other part of me. It isn’t about shame, but about a mass of strangers thinking it is their business. If I like you or feel comfortable with you, I will probably happily tell you myself where I am from very soon after meeting you without even realising that I am doing it. This is because (and I completely understand that this might be quite difficult to empathise with if you don’t look physically foreign but now you know) it is personal. You wouldn’t approach a random and ask them what their sexuality is. You most definitely would not reject their first answer, and tell them what YOU think their sexuality is. You wouldn’t even do that to a friend (or if you would, then my friends are way better than you).
If you are too impatient to wait for me to tell you myself, or you are late for your bus and have not the time, then I am accepting applicant questions of the following: what is your ancestry?/ If you don’t mind me asking, where are your parents from?
I eye-roll at: Nooooo I mean where are you FROM from?/ Nooooo I mean where are you from ORIGINALLY?
You’re the only Asian I’ve ever wanted to f*ck!
I have no sympathy for this one. It makes me feel sick. Another variation is ‘I still fancy you even though you’re black!’ Well, aren’t I just the luckiest to have you direct your horny adolescent fever at me EVEN THOUGH I am not white.
Admittedly, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. I think that this arose a lot more back home due to the fact that I live in a pretty white area.
Pleasant alternatives: can I buy you a drink?/You look nice. /I’m really drunk right now and so am going to walk away before I say something inappropriate.
Sidenote – I actually like discussing things like this with boys, since it is quite a crucial part of really getting to know each other. I would just much rather it be spoken about in a more private setting, and in more intimate conversation.
Are you into black guys? I know someone.
Are you into white boys? I know loads of white guys, you can have one.
I don’t really have an alternative for this one, just don’t be weird.
Your English is so good!
Thank God my 19 years of training have not been in vain.
These are a couple of questions that I get consistently asked, but don’t find annoying at all. Ask away, or read this blog for speed and practicality.
How often do you go to Sri Lanka?
I have only visited once, when I was 14. I had quite a strange time there; I did not really feel safe. I think the people -particularly the men – can sense my Western side, whether it be due to my clothes sense, my mannerisms or my features. Whatever it was, I got followed around, spied on and touched all the time. One man put his hand up my skirt and had a feel whilst I was holding my (white) mum’s hand.
I felt really bizarre for a long while after our holiday there. Evidently, the harassment was a factor, but upon reflection, I think what my young mind was grappling with was the realisation that there would never be a place where I slotted comfortably into a tribe. In England, people link me with my Asian roots, and vice versa in Sri Lanka. I am not insinuating that I always feel left out. I am referring to myself in more of an anthropological sense than a social one.
After a combination of this, and the aforementioned ‘fuckable Asian’, I was tired of, and confused about, how boys viewed me. It felt as though wherever I was, my exoticism was sexualised, whether it was due to my Western or Asian ancestral influence. It makes it a lot scarier to let boys touch you – after all, if it feels like so many British boys view you as some foreign entity about which to fantasise, what makes the touch of their hand any different to that of one up your skirt on a beach in Sri Lanka? This is something else that I have had to let myself do at a slower pace than my peers, simply to give myself time to realise that most boys are in fact the good uns. I don’t know many people in my position, but if there is someone reading this who is younger than me and feels the same as I did, the best advice I can give is to be really patient with yourself. Anyway, if he (or she) is worth it, they will be patient for you too.
Can you speak any other languages?
I wish… French A Level is all I have to offer.
Thanks for reading. I hope that this post has been at least a little enlightening.
(Old but gold pics of my not-even-from-India family).