Progression

age 8 - oblivious:

my almond-shaped eyes crinkling,

smiling and giggling on the monkey bars

elementary school:

a time of simplicity

a time of blissful ignorance


he looked at my eyes and brought his fingers to his temples

pressing and stretching his lids like they were some type of toy

“you look just like me!” i exclaimed

he laughed

they laughed

and so i laughed

while ignoring my blurring vision

and closed up throat because they were

still laughing

at me


age 10 - ashamed:

my vibrant pink lunch box bounced in my hands

as i made my way to the cafeteria tables

the cacophony of students adds to the usual colorful chaos

but they sneer at me

their noses upturn

and i see them squirm

nanay told me it was rude to criticize

that i’m supposed to keep my thoughts to myself

so why did they do it to me?


was the rice not white enough for them?


so i turned my nose up at the dishes my mom made

and opted for food that my peers accepted

too stuck up to notice my mother’s sullen face when i refused her food

too naive to realize my mistakes


age 13 - normalized:

at last, my teenage years

for me, with adolescence came assimilation

i wanted to fit in

and tried so hard

no matter the cost


people would say

“of course you’re smart, you’re asian!”

“you play the piano? that’s such an asian thing to do!”

“i got a better score than you? i’m practically more asian than you!”

and i laughed.

can you believe that?

i made a fool of myself

hid my cultural insecurity

behind a glass mask that cracked

with every word

every remark

why speak up anyway?

there wasn’t anything wrong with this

right?




age 15 - terrified:

a time unlike any other

covid-19, we called it

cases rise and fall and rise and fall

but what if

there is another virus i’m afraid of?


our brothers, sisters

mothers, fathers

grandmas, grandpas

Assaulted

Struck

Ignored

Abused

Neglected

our identity is being shaped by those who fear the unknown

who feel the need to blame someone anyone for issues they cannot control

as the cases rise

so do the hate crimes.


it isn’t our fault

it never was

and yet

i am still so afraid

afraid of how my almond eyes

the eyes that people now envy to possess

the eyes they paint on their faces to imitate us

without the fear

without the repercussions

may be the death of me.


- Julianne Tenorio


Cover Photo Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/41853087/Race-and-Identity-Asian-America