When were you first aware that you were “different?”
I remember when I was first conscious of having small eyes. For our kindergarten we went for a “getting to know you” day in the spring before starting in kindergarten that fall. My brother and sister had already attended the school, so even though I was nervous and excited, I knew what to expect. This would be a recurring theme growing up as it relates to my eyes, amongst other things, where my brother and sister blazed a trail ahead of me, making life much easier. Although I don’t think I realized this at the time. I was playing on the monkey bars, which had this cool octagon shape and bright color spacers between the bars. I was so excited because we didn’t have a jungle gym like this at my house. I thought I was so cool and grown up getting to play at the “big kids” playground. I was starting to climb to the top when some boy must have said “No Chinese people allowed.” I didn’t really understand him because I wasn’t Chinese. I remember just being a little confused and then I kept climbing, ignoring him. My younger brother was with me and he somehow understood what I did not. My little brother said something, channeling the stubbornness of our grandfather, to the effect that I could climb wherever I pleased and he would knock the kid out if he bothered me again. Somehow my mom knew exactly what was going on as she related the story to my dad later. Oblivious me, excited to be on the cool monkey bars, kept climbing. That’s the first time in my conscious memory that someone commented on my eyes. They also treated me differently and assumed I was Chinese. A lot to process here concerning that a little boy was saying Chinese people weren’t allowed on the jungle gym, but that’s something to unpack on a different website.
What did people think of you as a child?
My mom tells the story of how when we were little, she would take us all to the grocery store and elderly couples would approach her and say “bless you dear.” I perhaps vaguely remember old people making comments to my mom in the grocery store. It turns out, my mom would get pissed because these people thought we were developmentally delayed with trisomy 21 due to the shape our of eyes. They thought my mom was taking care of four special needs children. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. As adults, my siblings and I all have masters degrees and are accomplished in our respective fields. I know my mom was forced to handle it with grace. She would get so upset and tell my dad about it when he got home from work. He would just laugh. To me, if you watch me and my siblings you’d quickly realize we are obviously not developmentally delayed. Hearing about this story when I was older, I kept thinking how could people be so stupid? This is a recurring theme in my reaction to those who comment on my eyes.
When did it first affect your life?
As a child, I remember getting questions and stares, but other than that, I didn’t even really notice or think about the fact that I was different. This didn’t really happen until high school, when I started thinking about wearing makeup. My sister and I experimented with makeup on our own because our mother did not wear any at all. I remember struggling with eye shadow. Anything dark just seemed to accentuate the smallness of the eyes and looked off-balance. For this same reason I have never been able to get eyeliners to work either. Again, it’s basically just highlighting the small size of the eyes. I usually just end up wearing white or a light shimmery eye shadow to make my eyes look bigger. And I avoid eye liner altogether!
Another technique that I cannot get to work is the smoky eye. I would see celebrities rocking a smoky eye, and ads for smoky eye kits. And I tried it, but I learned that a smoky eye is not my friend. Honestly, it ends up looking like I have a black eye. My eyelids are just too small for it to be flattering.
A couple of years ago a friend hosted a party for the cosmetics company Arbonne. First the representative had all of us put on lotions and facial cleansers and that part was fun. But then came the makeup portion. She had us start to apply layers to get a smoky eye. I had a bad feeling about it, but I went along with it. Sure enough, as we added the third layer I looked at myself in the mirror and was like, no. The representative tried to ‘fix’ it by adding on more but it just didn’t work. It was an awkward situation. My friends at the party did not really say anything but I could tell by the looks on their faces that it just did not look right. It was the first time I had ever been in that situation because up until then my experimentation with a smoky eye had been by myself in the bathroom. But I just kind of laughed off the situation and went upstairs to wash it off.
So I just continue to keep my makeup game simple, and stick to white, bronze and shimmery eye shadows.