Dealing with the hand you’re dealt

Braids. When I was little, my hair was always in braids. Two thick black braids with big pink bobbles at the end. I absolutely hated it. All the other girls could let their hair down, or use those thin, clear elastics – the same ones Barbie dolls use.

When my mother wasn’t around, I would always take out my braids and brush my hair. This made it puffy, but I liked it because it made me feel like the other girls. It made me feel white.

My Barbies were white. Sailor Moon was white. I just wanted to be like them. I wanted blond hair and blue eyes. I wanted my name to be something that ended in “ah” like Sarah, or Krista. Instead, I was stuck with black hair, dark brown eyes, brown skin, and the name Alex. Not even Alexandra, it’s just Alex.

Vautour wondered about her ancestry for years, but she’s learned acceptance (Cara Smith/AQ)

“Why are you so dark?” everyone would always ask me. As a child, I was pretty timid, and my response was always “’cause my mom is dark too.” I never knew the real answer, and I still don’t.

Half-and-half. My grandmother is half-black, and my grandfather is black, which makes my mom 75 per cent black. My dad is white, so I am 43 per cent black. I normally just say that I’m half-and-half, or else people ask too many questions.

I have no idea where the black part of me comes from. All my grandparents were adopted and the furthest they can trace back our family history is Saint John.

This frustrated me. I remember searching for girls from different countries and cultures on Google, just to see if I looked like them. I used to think I looked like the girls from Morocco, but I also sort of look like some of the girls from Italy. It’s hard to figure out where you come from when you have similarities to girls in over 20 countries. Brazilian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, I have heard it all.

Eyes. I always hated my eyes the most. They are small, far apart and so dark that you can barely see my pupil. When I was 14, I started wearing blue coloured contacts. I often ran out of contact solution, so they were always dirty. This ensured two years of on-and-off painful eye infections. My eyes would be so red that my teachers thought I was high. Beauty certainly came with a price.

Dark skin. I loved the summertime because I could swim in my grandmother’s pool. The only thing I hated about the summer is I would get darker than usual. I didn’t think it was pretty. I would apply sunscreen to my skin without rubbing it in, just so the sun couldn’t turn me any darker. Was I ever wrong; all it did was make my mom angry because she constantly had to buy more sunscreen.

These stupid insecurities went on for years.

First day of Grade 10. The braids were long gone because now I straightened my hair every day. Sure, it was damaging to my natural hair, but it looked nice. I had just gotten back from a vacation in Cancun with my family. My skin was glowing. I took out those awful contacts to give my eyes a break.

Shelby walked up to me that day. She was a girl in Grade 12. She was thin, with long blond hair and light blue eyes. She had everything I ever wanted. She came up to me in the hallway at school.

“It’s Alex right?”

“Uh, yes,” I said, nervously.

“Wow, yourskin is gorgeous, you are so lucky,” she said.

“Ha ha. Thanks?” I said, even more nervously.

I could not believe what Shelby had just said. I was convinced she was the prettiest girl in the school, and she was jealous of me. Who would have thought?

Compliments. After that day, I started getting compliments all the time about my skin, my hair, my eyes – even my name.

It seemed like every blonde I knew was turning into a brunette. Tanning became a fad. It’s funny how things change. The best compliment I received came from my professor, Laura Penny. She said interracial marriages were the sole reason for all the hot people in the world. This made me laugh, but at the same time, it added to the confidence I’d been building for four years.

Now, I never want to have blonde hair or blue eyes or change my name. I want to stay just the way I am. It took a long time for me to realize it. Now when someone tells me I look Italian or Brazilian, I just take it as a compliment.

I don’t care where I come from anymore. I only care who am I and where I’m going.

After all, we’re all from the same planet, whether we’re blonde, brunette, Brazilian, or Italian. What’s the difference?

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