In which I have a snarflaghbafnastagblurt moment

I have a box in my mind labelled ‘Mouth Fail Recordings’. The lid is lovingly worn from the number of times I’ve rummaged through and replayed, ad nauseum. 

I am not good at being put on the spot. My tongue tends to flap and flop like a beached whale, spewing the absolute crap that my brain frantically throws at it from its blowhole. A delighted part of my subconscious grabs popcorn and records it all in high definition, preparing for inevitable slow-mo reruns. 

My brain reacts to most unannounced phone calls with a violent urge to flee for the hills and throw the buzzing grenade as far away as possible. I don’t have any extra information to stop my brain from short-circuiting: no warning, briefings or body language. So mostly I ignore the call, gird loins, and call back… Which I also loathe, because phone calls involve interrupting someone, shouting (or vibrating) into their lives unannounced. It just feels rude.

I would possibly have been better off in an era that relied on handwritten missives.  And networking by carrier pigeon.

I’m also a bit pants with on the spot face-to-face interactions. It took me a long time to be able to interact with cashiers or bus drivers without an ‘I carried a watermelon‘ moment. And then they introduced contactless payments and self-checkouts, so I assume the future is on my side. (Though they’ve also introduced recorded video interviews, which seems to be even more whale-tongue inducing for me). 

Technology has yet to throw pouncers with clipboards onto the scrapheap of a bygone era. I get that charitable causes need people to donate and need to find a way to make themselves visible, and I also get that most people aren’t me and probably don’t have a problem with the whole thing. But clipboard holders feel like lions in the long grass. I get stalked because I look approachable, and then I get savaged with guilt because I’m too polite to cut short the spiel. 

I assume the only people donating to charities are the really nice ones who can’t get away. Ditto with cold-calling. Which doesn’t seem all that charitable.

I don’t know if this kind of anxiety is heritable or a learned behaviour, but I’m not the only one in my family who views innocuous interactions with abject fear. And I definitely did have a toy telephone as a kid, it didn’t help.

Aside from exposure therapy, my only recourse is to await the development of mental grenades that can obliterate that box of mouth fail recordings, as well as those other boxes labelled ‘Social Awkwardness’ and ‘Shameful Misdeeds’.

It’s been a long time coming.

White enough

In which I contemplate skin

When I was little, my skin was nearly white enough for my Chinese family. 

‘If you got rid of your freckles you would be so beautiful!’ they would say, whitening cream in hand. 

When I was older, my skin seemed far too white – a failed attempt to inherit my mother’s tone, the smooth brown that delights in sunshine and burnishes with ease.

Now I opt out of the hunt for sun, at home in the bioluminescence of my father’s skin.

And yet increasingly I feel disquiet. This pale passport allows me to elude assumptions, it is an all access pass to no questions asked. 

And the world doesn’t check the blood running beneath.

My half-blood friends whose dice rolled brown are forever asked where they’re from, forever questioned why they’re here.

I think of those times when they wrenched away children who were ‘white enough’. Those times when you might be less of a dog if your luck ran pale. Those times that seem to be circling back around.

And I hear the ‘Go Home’ howls, see the snarling fever as it spreads.

One day I might be lucky that I’m nearly white enough.

And for the first time, I fear that my family are not.