Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Sylvia (Page 2 of 2)

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This is a space for us to compile any work (texts, media, etc.) outside of our assigned material that has inspired or influenced us in some way. Artists must be self-nourishing, so please feel free to share and comment on the pieces that speak to you. Also, don’t forget to add your name and a title to the post (so that we have an idea of what we are looking at) and tag it under Well.


Sylvia Chowdhury, 01/06 “Elegy Owed”

I get it. She put it in better words than I think I am able to do, but I felt different in the same ways, the hesitancy about my skin grower darker or my thighs getting bigger, or not losing my baby fat until I was seventeen and on the brink of my fourth year with an eating disorder. Everyone says New York is a melting pot, but this little corner of Brooklyn was mostly desis and other variations of Muslims. My block specifically had several kids in my age range that would play together outside. I always watched my hours, when I was younger. I knew I tanned badly, if you could even call it tanning. My skin would get this burned orange Auburn color, though I wasn’t, I looked like I was constantly sweating after a particularly eventful summer. As I grew up, playing outside escalated into concerts at Prospect Park for celebrate Brooklyn, and later on I would make sure to cover my legs in white, light cloth. I knew all the tricks to stay cool and white as I could for a brown girl during troubled times.

I remember coming home as the sun went down; cool outside and unbearably suffocating in the house. That sort of summer was usual back then. I would come home and as I walked towards my room, my sisters would jeer at me and call me Mexican and make clucking noises at me. For an hour or two afterward I would be treated like their slave, they thought it was a clever joke on my darkness. I don’t even know why I played along with it then, I remember feeling hurt. Maybe I thought laughing it off and pretending to enjoy it would make it more tolerable somehow, or that my sister’s would see I was capable of taking a joke and they would stop making them so much. Maybe even back then I knew the problems would stop in our Kensington apartment, but extend and follow me throughout my life, wherever I went. ABCD was the term I picked up from my siblings and their peers, which I assume now was to make light of our shared situation. American Born Confused Desi.

That’s the thing I started to realize over time, and that I am still working to grapple with and be blatantly honest with myself about, no matter how disgruntled I may be about my falling into the trap. The natural world doesn’t judge you, I realize, but is it fair to say that the world is not unfair? There are certain genetic lotteries, ones that go beyond appearance and attraction and actually concerning health. A large part of our histories are written before we even enter the Earth and we spend our feeble little lives slowing uncovering the secret like peeling a clementine, slowly and with great tenderness. So that’s survival of the fittest. The most beautiful, agile, cutting edge. And over time what the people say get to you. Through osmosis or absorption or metaphysics or whatever, they decide your fate and sick it upon you like a hex. Any girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and her long gazelle legs can make a weasel out of you or me. To them you are different. Too fat, too dark, too thin, too short, too loud, too nasally, too much for them to be held accountable. Too grey, your skin gets orange in the winter and grey in the summer. At least grey’s not black, right? At least brown’s not black, right? Whatever, same thing. Close enough.

 Here’s my contention with the next step: What if it’s not up to me? I’m hardly capable of standing up for myself let alone changing a stigma that I can’t help but feel in my gut is unfair, but perhaps true? What a disgrace I am to my mother and her mother, and how much I resent them both for putting this wretchedness like a disease on me. People have a way of making you feel like a sack of shit with just their words, like you’ve been festering in the corner for weeks without notice. You’re like gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, back in your living room now, suffocating.

Well. Who do you owe it to? And is it worth it in the long run, to fight here and now and hard and long? You’ve got to pick your battles. Admit it. You are not displeased always when men watch your brown ass sway in a miniskirt, jeans or your period sweatpants. Exoticism isn’t so bad, everyone’s got their fetishes anyways. It might be worth it to assimilate, to straighten your hair and only let it curl back up a little. To pluck your eyebrows thin as the girls on Cosmopolitan. Maybe in a few years you’ll be lucky, and their fascination with you will come back. Maybe it will be worth it, all the hiding, for someone who falls in love with you anyways? For that boyfriend, or that outfit, or for simply not trying to draw bad attention to yourself- it might be worth it, to suck it up and admit you fall short. To keep your mind and body running until you catch up or fall so far behind you fool yourself into thinking you are in the lead. 

Where’s the integrity you ask? My self respect?

I must have burned it away playing in the raging sun.

I must have scrubbed myself raw and clean, gotten the brown, like dirt and grime, finally off me in the shower.
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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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