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August 22, 2017

How it Feels being Middle Eastern in America.

I remember the first time I took a razor to my bushy eyebrows to thin them.

I remember dousing my thick, dark hair with lemon juice and capfuls of bottled bleach to try and blend in at the age of 11.

I remember all my pleas to put up Christmas lights and a holiday tree, and I remember my thickly accented, socially awkward parents looking at me strangely as I ambitiously learned all the songs I could about Jesus and Santa for my holiday concert.

I remember my doodles in cursive, dreaming of fictitious names that I could change mine to when I turned 18. “Kayla” eventually became my alter-ego.

I remember looking in the mirror and imagining myself with blues eyes. I remember calculating the cost of a future nose job before my first day of high school had even begun.

I remember praying to God to make me prettier because I couldn’t see the beauty in my exotic appearance next to the sea of blonde heads walking down the hallways.

Being a minority in a predominantly white and Christian town was not an easy journey. So when people ask me what it’s like to be a Middle Eastern woman living in the United States, I offer this response.

Middle Eastern Woman

You asked me what it’s like
as a Middle Eastern woman.
I tell you—
I don’t know.
I don’t know if I have ever known.
I don’t know that I will ever know.

Because most of this life
I did not choose her and
refused to disclose her name.

Most of this life
I concealed her
lightened her bronze skin
and rosed her maple cheeks
just so she could blend in.

Most of this life
I pretended she was white
highlighted her midnight curls
covered up her roots with
red, white, and blue.

Most of this life
I did not accept her
because
you did not
accept her
and they
still don’t accept her—
because
“different”
is still
inferior
in 2017.

Most of this life
I did not know her
because I didn’t want to know her—
because I was afraid to know her—
and so we became enemies
since the day I was born.

So I tell you—
I don’t know.
I don’t know if I have ever known.
I don’t know if I will ever know
what it’s like to be a
Middle Eastern woman.

~

~

Author: Yeggi Watts
Image: Author’s own; Caroline Veronez/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell

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