A Tan That Holds Up

“I don’t think there’s a strictly White category; I think that’s just the default.”

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Transcript for A Tan That Holds Up

When I was in elementary school, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, so she did all the classroom parties, she was around helping all the time. And I look exactly like my mom. And she is half Mexican, so we both have our darker skin tone. My friends and all of my classmates would see, ‘Oh, that’s your Mom? You guys are so much tanner!’ And I would come back from the summer and have this nice tan that would hold up most of the school year, and these other kids didn’t. And so they—they just were like, ‘Oh like, what?’ At first they’d be like, ‘Are you Italian, are you this?’ And parents would do this, too. Parents would be like, ‘What are you?’ Finally I was like, ‘You know what? Like, my dad’s a hundred different things.’ Like, I tried to make, like, this map thing for one of my classes in high school—I think it was a pie chart. And it was just split a hundred different ways—like, so many different ways. And my dad has really no idea what he is—we kind of guesstimated. And my mom only knows the part that’s Mexican, so that’s my majority. And so, eventually they were like, ‘What are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I’m Hispanic—Mexican—and I don’t really know what else.’ I think, just growing up they just knew like, ‘You’re tan. You said you were from—your grandpa’s from Mexico, so you must be Hispanic, and you’re different.’ I mean, they didn’t treat me differently; I never felt like I was treated differently. But I definitely stood out being, like, a heavy tan kid in elementary school when I had these skinny white girls all around that were just pale, and straight hair, and just—I mean, I stood out.

It’s different because my boyfriend is Czech—well, Czechoslovakian—because his grandpa’s from Czech and his other grandma’s from Czech, and then his other grandma and grandpa are from Slovak, and that was the same country. And it’s so funny to see—the two grandparents will come together for like, Christmas or holidays, and they will argue and be like, ‘That’s a stupid Czech thing!’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? That is the same thing!’ And that was just so weird when we started dating, I couldn’t understand them—I couldn’t… And now I’m like, I can understand them clearly, I’m like, ‘Hey Baba.’ Like, when I was, like, introduced, ‘This is Baba, that’s Slovak for ‘grandma.’’ And I like, started eating noodles with cottage cheese the other day, and my mom was like, ‘Can you just go move with the Slovaks?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, Mom. Like, I don’t know what to tell you.’ So, and it’s like, different that even though like, I’ve only known them for three years, I’ve started picking up on their culture habits. And I think it’s amazing that he knows what he is, and he has that full-on ‘I’m Czechoslovakian.’ But, not a lot of people have that. I think there’s a ton of people that just don’t know what they really are. They don’t know what—if they’re Polish, or German, or Irish, so I just think there’s a big group of people that identify with a lot of different things. And that’s what that category is right now. So, I don’t think there’s a strictly ‘White’ category. I think that’s just the default.