My Asian Mom Bought Me a Blonde Wig
And other adventures in internalized racism
“It will make you feel like success! You can be anyone you want in America. So why not have blonde hair and blue eyes?”
My mom’s big idea was that I should go to my first day of high school wearing a blonde wig and blue contact lenses.
“Why not? It will be a change! Fantastic! I will buy them for you! We can get matching it will be fun!”
So many exclamation points! So much fun! Gesturing at me with a People magazine with Pam Anderson on the cover! I was 14; and even then I knew that this situation was no fun, not for me. And deep down, I bet it wasn’t for her, either.
You need all kinds of trickery to deal with an Asian mom who is obsessed with what is fundamentally wrong with you. Like a fly caught in her cheerfully embroidered web of Hello Kitty hair ties and iron will, you can’t struggle. You can’t resist. It only tangles you up more. Defy her. You will probably get grounded. You might be forced to eat chicken feet for a week. You will be followed into your bedroom and shrieked at about gratitude for hours. Cell phones will be taken away.
I tried to verbally tap dance out of it.
“I don’t have time for all that. I have to get school supplies and clean my room. “Okay, see you later, byeeee.”
I tried to lie my way out of it: “Oh yeah, sure I would totally do that, but I want to pay for it myself so it really feels like me.”
I tried to reverse psychology my way out of it: “People should like me for who I really am. Isn’t that what you taught me?”
I tried a feminist approach: “Women have to show the world that we are of value no matter what we look like.”
“That’s bullshit.” My mom enjoyed the odd burst of profanity. It was part of her triumph over English as a second language. Then she showed me dozens of pages of blonde ladies, heads thrown back, smiling, surrounded by guys in tuxes who were admiring that easy, breezy Covergirl lifestyle.
“Does anyone here look like you or me?” she barked. “No. This is America. You have to look the part. So why not have the same chance at success as Princess Diana and Princess…