Sem and I were laughing about a week ago over this girl who was “gossiping” about me. She was saying something about how when I walk around campus, I look angry. I have to give it to her, I probably do have a resting bitch face. I don’t mean to look like that, and while the cop out excuse is to say “that’s just how my face is, how dare you” I know there’s more to that story. Truth be told, I’m a defensive person. And a resting bitch face is code for “keep out unless invited in”. And going to a small school where everyone knows everything doesn’t help. Good thing graduation is soon!
The resting bitch face is usually accompanied by skepticism to people’s curiosity about me. And there is one detail about me that not many people know about. While we use anger, sarcasm, pessimism, or any negative emotion to express our defenses, the point is that we are defensive about something that matters to us.
While this blog is partially meant to teach me to take down some of those walls, there’s still a few that I have yet to relinquish. And today you get to read about the enigma that I constantly get badgered about: where are you really from?
I hate it. I hate that that’s the first thing that most people want to know about me. I hate that I hate it because I feel like I’m being an irrational cry baby, it makes perfect sense that people ask where I’m from. I’ve tried every strategy from answering curtly, not responding, to repetition, to joking about it. But they don’t let up. My answer isn’t enough. Please stop. Why do you care so much to keep at it? You’re a stranger, and you don’t care, so stop pretending.
In reality, it’s not that these people care about where I’m from, it’s because I care about it. And the type of care I have about it is one of anguish. It’s uncertainty, it’s hopelessly wishing for an answer that I will probably never get. And it pisses me off that people will sometimes probe me like a zoo animal or racially stereotype me until they get what they want. Or maybe that’s just how I’m perceiving it and in reality they’re being perfectly politically correct in all shapes and sizes. The point is that I’m defensive about a wound of sorts. A deep wound that frustratingly hasn’t been turned into a scar, in my 20 years of life, no matter how hard I try.
Hello world, my name is Krista Zwart, and I am really from China. I think that’s the answer that you’re looking for. But I’m not finished yet. I was born, just like you. But unlike (most of) you, I was abandoned. I was left for someone to find. I was put into a poor orphanage that could hardly take care of their kids. And then transferred to a foster family in the middle of rice paddies. It was a house made of an adobe or crude concrete, dirt floors, and chickens running inside and outside of the house. You can forget about doors and indoor plumbing. At a year and a half years old, I was adopted into the United States. She was unmarried, of Dutch ancestry, and from now on would be considered my mom. That is why I have an Asian face, an American passport, and a Dutch last name that doesn’t match my father’s.
While I’m doing my best to remain even-tempered about this, it does make me angry. It makes me upset that I know I have a story that starts like everyone else’s, but that for the luck of the draw, I just don’t get the privilege of knowing the details. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I don’t know where these facial features come from. Every time I go out with my family, composed of two white people and an Asian little sister who doesn’t look like me either, I’m reminded of how and why we don’t look like every other family. And every time someone asks an innocent question, I’m reminded of my story. Or lack of story. And it sucks.
Sometimes it’s fun to make up stories about how I was brought into this world. I was the long lost great great granddaughter of the last Chinese Emperor. I was born in a mud puddle next to an elephant in the African Sahara, and then shipped to China. I was brought by a geographically confused Chinese stork to an American house. But at the end of the day, I would just really like to know. I would like to know who, what, when, where, and why. The first sentence of the story of my life doesn’t start with “She was adopted” it starts with “She was born to…” but then the ink gets smudged. The pages are torn out. And what’s left is the third page that begins with “And then she was adopted”. And try as I might to accept the third page as the first page, I know it’s not. And that’s the whole difficulty of this. I probably won’t ever know. And while knowing the mundane details won’t change how I view myself, it will give me the first couple of pages to my narrative. We all have narratives we build our lives around. Perhaps I just need to change the phrasing of mine in order for this anguish to subside. But change is hard, especially when you’re hellbent on knowing that you don’t start on page three, you start on page one.