February 24, 2015

Where do you come from?

picture of receipt
'1 ppt for 10 years for his wife Natasha'

“What’s it like being the only brown-skinned person in the family?” my brother once asked me.

“Not half as bad as being the only girl.”

Sometimes, in the summer, when my skin turns thirty shades darker, I jump at the sight of the chocolate-coloured hand holding my vanilla ice cream, but this is the extent of my self-awareness. I just don’t stare at myself all day. It’s only when it becomes an issue for others that it becomes an issue for me.

“Where are you from?”


“I mean where are you really from?”


“What are your origins?”

“My origins?”

“Where do your parents come from?”


Using my skin as a conversation piece is like picking on an unusual mole or striking birthmark. It’s like asking a person with a prominent nose what religion they are.

And it makes me feel like I don’t belong. Dissimilar does not mean incompatible. I eat turkey and I watch hockey. That’s my culture. I didn’t flee war or come from a village where my one-legged father sold a goat to save me from a life of crippling destitution. I wouldn’t be ashamed if that were the case, but it also wouldn’t make me spiritually fulfilled. And above all, my Canadian passport was not given to me as a wedding gift, which is what the woman at the Canadian Consulate assumed.

Yes, I live in Switzerland, I speak English, my name is Russian and I wear brown skin. Where do I come from? My mother’s vagina. Where do you come from?

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