Story by Sarah Stallinger
I’m a coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside. Growing up as a mixed child, with an Austrian mum and an Egyptian dad, my combined heritages have often been the roots of my frustrations. Time and again I get the question: “So, where are you from?” followed by: “No, where are you really from?”, which mostly leads to a fun guessing game about my heritage. I don’t mind, mostly. What I do mind, is being reduced to my ethnicity. There are more interesting things about me. In a group full of people, why am I the only one being asked that question, being singled out?
As a child, I always felt a bit out of place. Going to a catholic school in a very white country, the distincti- on in looks becomes clear quite quickly. And I hated it. I disliked the green undertone of my skin, wished for a smaller nose and lighter eyes, and straightened my hair every day for years.I just wanted to look like my classmates. Why can’t I be the pretty, blonde girl, be the crush of every boy?
You look like us, but you’re not one of us.
These thoughts have followed me my entire life. Growing up around almost exclusively Caucasian people with the awareness I looked different, you get a certain type of knowledge of people. When I meet new people, especially men who I’d be interested in, I know in the first couple of seconds if I could be a potential love interest or not, purely based on my race. I’m a ‘type’. I’ve had many men who were trying to pursue me tell me they’re into ‘exotic’ women. I hate that term. I am not exotic. I’m not a rare species of lizard. I just happen to have some different features than ‘the norm’.
Even though I have no connection to my Egyptian culture, when it does come to a meeting point with my ‘ethnic side’, I’ve faced even more rejection. They don’t like the way I dress, speak, or see the world. I don’t belong there. I’ve been told: ‘‘You look like us, but you’re not one of us.”
That makes for another interesting situation I have to deal with. Even though my features are more similar to them, my way of living prevents me from being a part of them. So, where am I wanted as I am? Where am I considered beautiful?
I think these questions will take a lifetime to answer. All I can do is try and continue my journey of self-lo- ve and acceptance, and create a place of belonging on my own. I have to embrace my differences and learn to appreciate them as they are. What makes it a whole lot easier is being around people that make me feel loved and cherished, proving there’s more to me than my looks or ethnicity.