I’m doing it again. I furrow my eyebrows and contort my face as I stare back at my reflection in the mirror.
And I do it again.
Taking a deep breath, I take the bobby pin and slide it harshly under my hooded, epicanthic folds. Surprisingly, the action itself doesn’t hurt as much as my sense of self-worth. Is this what I’ve come to? Sliding bobby pins underneath my hooded eyelids, silently hoping that by tracing my eyelids insistently, they would come to resemble the thick, Caucasian eyelids.
Growing up, I constantly felt like I was lacking in something. My jaws didn’t soften around the English syllables, causing my words to come out jagged and awkward. I stumbled over my words in grade school, and at the weird glances from my classmates, I stopped raising my hand as often, keeping the rough syllables to myself. At lunch, I hastily swallowed Mom’s piping hot wontons and Chinese broccoli as fast as I could, thinking that the sooner I polished off my meal, the sooner I could ward off the dirty glances from my classmates. I tried to erase the Asian parts of myself, tucking away my Hello Kitty pencils and traditional Jade pendant necklaces in favor of Ticonderoga pencils and glittery Justice necklaces. I purposely fell behind in Sunday Chinese school, pretending like the Chinese syllables were foreign to me even though they comfortably rolled off my tongue. I sat in the back of the classroom, clutching onto my copy of The Magic Treehouse instead of the Mandarin workbook. Before I reached fourth grade, I stopped attending Chinese school altogether.
For a while, this pattern of rejection continued—I did everything I could to hide the most Asian parts of myself and replaced them with scraps of American culture. The worst part was that I truly believed that I could reconstruct my identity until every trace of Asianness was erased from my skin.
In high school, I started experimenting with makeup. By then, I was old enough to notice that my features didn’t resemble my peers. Experimenting with makeup was the catalyst that made me acutely aware of the nuances of my features and how they differed from my peers. Whereas my friends had pointed noses and deep set eyes, I had a flatter, smaller nose and uneven, hooded eyelids. I turned to mainstream YouTube makeup tutorials, ignoring the fact that the makeup techniques were geared towards those with Caucasian features. Drawing on eyeliner, it didn’t take long for me to realize that instead of accentuating my eyes like the tutorials showed, the eyeliner swallowed up my eyes. Frustrated, I would scrub it off and reapply the eyeliner, convincing myself that the next try would be better. I continued mindlessly, scrubbing at my tender eyelids, but with each try, I grew increasingly desperate. What was wrong with my eyelids? Why did my right eyelid fold over more than my left eye? Was the unevenness my fault?
Staring at myself in the mirror, the same feeling of lacking something resurfaced—I saw my eyelids as yet another thing that I lacked in comparison to my Caucasian peers. My eyelids were proof—no longer how much I tried to suppress my culture, there was no point in erasing it. After all these years, my “Asianness” would always stay with me even if I desperately tried to erase it.
It wasn’t until I read Ruth Ozeki’s memoir The Face: A Time Code that I truly realized that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with my “Asianness”. Rather than spending my energy suppressing the parts of myself linked with my culture, I decided to own up to my “Asianness”. I drew my eyeliner the way that suits my eyelids instead of Caucasian eyelids. I unabashedly ate my Chinese food in front of my friends, and I now regularly wear my jade pendants. So what if my eyelids are uneven? So what if they weren’t the size of Caucasian eyelids? When I look in the mirror, I no longer see my eyelids as symbolic of my lackingness. I see them as the parts of myself that are wholly unique to me.
I chuck the bobby pin into the metal wastebasket next to the bathroom countertop. I don’t need it anymore.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.