I was a test tube baby. Mixed in a petri dish and then put inside my mother – to grow against all odds. My parents went through such lengths for kids because my mom was a little older – they met after medical school. Her body was fine, but her eggs miscarried whenever they tried.
Having an anonymous egg donor for a mom shouldn’t have been a problem, right? It wouldn’t have been, but that wasn’t the only factor. My father was born in Manhattan – the same place I went to college, and the place I hope to live for the foreseeable future. Adopted at three months to a sweet Italian and German couple, he grew up not knowing what he was, but his darker skin and curly black hair belied some kind of ethnic origins.
Growing up, I always got these questions – What are you? Where are you from? I proudly would respond, San Francisco! I’m from California. They would narrow their eyes at me and say, no, but where are you FROM?
As I got older it became common knowledge that this was a rude question to ask, but I must have gotten it over a hundred times. Sometimes I would make up an answer, and sometimes I would just say that I didn’t know. This didn’t fly, however – because in what world does someone not know their ethnic identity? I was greeted with hostility when I used this answer and most of the time, I was made to tell my entire life story to a perfect stranger. It still surprises me to this day that the unknown is so scary for most people.
Sick and tired of the questions and the interrogations, I was done with not knowing. A few months ago, at the ripe old age of 22, I decided to bite the bullet – so to speak – and take a DNA test to see just where the hell I come from. I waited, checking my email every day, and then of course, when I least expected it – my results were in. I called my mom, almost in tears, with my heart thumping so loudly in my ears that I could barely even hear a word she said. I took deep breaths and she asked me what I was afraid of. I answered, of being told I’m white. No one had ever treated me like I was white, so if my results came back that way, I know I would have been beyond disappointed. She assured me that wouldn’t happen – she had a feeling.
West African, Italian/Greek, Middle Eastern. Those were the three results that jumped out at me – once I finally had the courage to open the email. Just three things that described everything about me that I had never known but always wanted to. These were the three that explained exactly why I got so many stares, so many questions on the playground, in the supermarket. Why people used to try and guess what I was when I was in line at a deli trying to buy a turkey sandwich. I was a girl without an identity for so long that to suddenly have one was…overwhelming, to say the least.
It’s been four months since I found out what I am, but the shock still hasn’t worn off. I’ve tried to step into my new identity – but it’s like a daring dress – one that I can’t muster up the courage to wear in public, so now it just hangs in my closet, getting dusty. Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable enough to put it on, but for now, I just like knowing it’s there.