I just trimmed your bangs last week. Now your eyes are uncovered and I can see midnight within them.
At two years old, your thin, almond shaped eyes have seen two continents, two countries, and three homes. They are already a familiar with loss, but they know the hope of a new morning. They wear the squint that laughter brings. And while it’s taken time—and tears—since your adoption seven months ago, they know that love can grow yet again.
My resilient girl, what will your eyes encounter as the days continue to pile? Every day, I catch a little more confidence in your gaze. For now, the magazines at the checkout aisle are a game: you try to yank them down, giggling, while I put them back and try to pay for our groceries. Those pictures are nothing more to you—just a game. My beautiful girl, you don’t yet know how they want to confuse you, selling you half-truths and subtle lies. Will you notice someday that none of the women on those magazines have the same eyes as you?
I remember staring into the mirror at twelve. My hair was irrevocably dark, like a burnt piece of toast—nothing like the perfect chestnut brown color I esteemed above all others. Sun-In spray in hand, I believed with all my heart that lighter meant better.
Friends and magazines alike told me that I was lucky to have my mixed Asian eyes. I was “lucky,” they said, to have a hint of Korean almond flavor in my corners and a large serving of Dutch pancakes in the middle with the color of syrup on top. I almost believed them. Smart girl, I want you to know that there’s no “lucky” when it comes to looks. Telling me I was “lucky” was subtle discrimination with long-lasting damage—like the Sun-In in my hair.
There are more dolls that look like you and me now. Not many, but even the small few would’ve made such a difference to me back then. There are more men and women who represent our people on the stages across the world now too. But there are still people who might pull back the corners of their eyes and laugh at you on the playground.
While American moms today will voice opinions and fight for more recess and playtime for your generation, those same moms may not care to fight for more representation of people that look like you. Will there ever be dollars spent on studies that show the healthy outcomes of diverse representation in the media and on the playground, not just for minority children, but for all children?
The benefits of more recess don’t matter much to those of us who are afraid of the little boy at recess who taunted and chased us with the corners of his eyes pulled back.
My tender girl, you may see women who were made like us that go long lengths and pay large sums to look less like us. There are people who might tell you that symbols of beauty can only be tall and light. People might take one look at your eyes, and without invitation, ask you if you speak Chinese while telling you everything they know about that sushi place in town they love, the Japanese exchange student they knew (at least they think she was Japanese), and about the recipe for spring rolls that they just found. Try to remember that they are image bearers too. If they offer room to respond (many times they won’t), respond with grace and truth. Kind education has power.
My strong girl, if you are ever tempted to hide your beauty or wish it away, I will tell you to come out of hiding and remember: God made your eyes the color of the night sky, the same color that holds a million suns and the curiosity of unknown galaxies. I will brush my finger over your smooth, uncreased eyelids and remind you that they are like a long searched-for skipping stone, the only kind of skipping stone that can make it all the way across the water. Little girl, your almond eyes bear his image.
Cover image by pan xiaozhen.