First penned April 2008
I am known to the outside world as Connie, ConBon to my friends (who have plans to name a pastry this someday), Lulu to my family, and Wanlu to my relatives. To avoid further mispronunciations of my Chinese name by others, I chose my own American name and to this day, I’m thankful that I had enough foresight at the age of five to avoid “Wanda” and “Lucille.”
It’s been called Flat Pancake, Yellow, Too Tanned, Too Blotchy, Too Asian, Just Too Something. I just settled for Normal.
My mother always tugs on them approvingly, exclaiming they are xin fu (lucky) because their large size will bring me great riches. I’m still waiting on said riches.
One: Head size.
In spite of the fact that my father, when I was born, reprimanded my mother for not taking more fish oil pills during pregnancy to decrease the size of my cranium, I like its roundness. It reminds me of a ripe wintermelon, the kind my mother uses in her famous melon and tomato soup when I fall sick. Its width is also a point of pride for me. My favorite uncle always praised that such width carried enormous brain matter, making me the “genius of our family.” I’m not so sure about the genius part, but to be lauded so by one’s own family brings unforgettable joy.
When I was old enough to understand what double eyelids were and that most Asians didn’t have them, I was thankful that I did. Most times when I look into a mirror, I don’t feel that my eyes belong to me. They also belong to my mother, whom I miss with incredible intensity, and my late grandmother, the woman who raised me alone in China while my parents were in the States. I last saw my grandmother in China nine years ago, but I see her face every morning when I get ready.
Two: Imaginary Dimples.
As a child, I always pretended that I had dimples to match those of my favorite cousin. He and I were inseparable as children, our arms linked like iron wherever we wandered to, and I was certain that we were twins. His dimples were so deep that he could bury half of his pinky in his dimples. Convinced that I too should be the rightful owner of a set, I tried for uncountable hours to twist dimples into my cheeks with my fingers, not failing to stop my exercise even for conversation, play, or walking. Clearly I never succeeded, but each time I recall my failed dimple endeavor, I think of my cousin, my brother, my best friend. I also haven’t seen him for many years.
They are pretty fast on a track—they can run a mile in just under 15 minutes. My favorite aunt was also the first person to teach me how to use my legs. She taught me how to walk with just the right saunter, to sway my hips with just the right rhythm, and to choose just the right flowing skirt. Yet though she taught me femininity, she also taught me not to depend on it. Because of her, I can stride confidently in three-inch, red stilettos, but know that I can be just as confident in holey tennis shoes.
They are musician’s hands. On piano and violin, they are capable of spinning melodies—some pleasing, others not as much—but the thrill of making notes dance in the air to a tune only I know the rhythm to keeps me sane, especially here at college. I am sensitive about my hands too. A boyfriend I had in high school always liked to envelope my hands in his because his were so much larger. I would make a little fist but it would disappear completely in his clutch, leaving him with a triumphant smile. I hated this action, however small it may have been. I hate feeling powerless, especially at the, pun intended, “hands” of men because I have seen its destruction too intimately. This boyfriend is now an “ex.”
I came into college 98% convinced I wanted to become a doctor (along with the other 800 students in my year). After spending many hours at a local hospital observing colonoscopies a little too intimately, I liberated myself from such rigid, self-induced thinking and am now considering many other career options, among which include: cultural anthropologist, writer, Sunday crossword solver, avid listener of Debussy, professional scarf knitter, Most Enthusiastic Barbara Kingsolver Fan, and frequent Facebook checker. In spite of my ambivalence, my family still says that they couldn’t be more proud.