Monday, October 31, 2011

What do you mean I don't look Eastern European?

My bio professor wanted to meet with me and since it's a large lecture class, he just knows my name and not my face. I walked into his office today as planned and he looked at me funny, as if he wasn't expecting me. Finally he said, "How do you pronounce your last name?" I did that for him, and he still looked at me funny. He said something about me not being what he expected, and when I inquired further, he remarked that I don't look Eastern European and upon further questioning said something about me not having a thick accent.

Normally, this is not a big deal. But I'm insecure about my weight and assume everything has to do with that. When someone says I can't do something, I think it's because I'm fat. When they look at me funny, it's because I'm one of the few obese people in this town. When someone dismisses me and seems disinterested in having a conversation with me, it's my fatness pushing them away. You get the point.

So that's where my mind went as soon as he said I don't look Eastern European. I mean, girls from there are tall, blonde, and skinny. I only fit one of those stereotypes, and usually only in the summer when my hair has been bleached by the sun. I do have the high cheekbones and light eyes, but that's about it. And part of me (actually a large chunk of pun intended) really hates the fact that I should be skinny because of my heritage but am not because I choose to eat lots of food and live the slovenly American lifestyle.

I get embarrassed when I'm back in Europe and people find out I live in the States, because I assume they think that I'm the stereotypical American. The thing is, no female in my family (extended or close, in Europe or in the U.S.) is thin. We all have curves, and we've all struggled with our weight. We're the child-bearers of the world and we won't die in a famine. At one point, my mom was super skinny but she was also anorexic and ended up in the hospital, so clearly it wasn't a healthy or natural weight.

I would love to be the Eastern European bombshell that my country is made out to be. A lot of people I talk to remark on how the women in my country are beautiful over-all, and it hurts me so much inside to hear that and know I'm the exception. I probably could be one of those girls. I don't know, I've never really tried. Hearing it today brought back those feelings of cultural insecurity not only with regards to my weight but also to the feeling that I'm letting my Eastern Europeanness slip away.

It's becoming hard for me to find the words to communicate with my brother in our native tongue and I trip up all the time when I try to speak with my aunts and uncles. It really scares me because I know I won't be moving back there anytime soon and my language skills are only going to get worse. I need to make an active effort in immersing myself in the language one way or another otherwise it's going to be lost for good. It's just hard and most of the time I don't have the energy to even try. It's a vicious cycle that is very similar to my weight-loss journey.

As you can tell, there are a lot of issues that were brought up with that one silly comment from a professor whom I never liked in the first place.