Reification and Wasted Vulnerability

It’s always a white man, the white man who can make ungrounded arguments and thinks that he is so sentimental and deep. Meanwhile I sit on the other side, panicking at his lack of understanding and empathy. He is the one saying that his uncle with the walking disorder deserves no pity: As though people can be expected to act in non-burdensome ways even when they are ill. He says mediocre things like “I’m not good at math but I passed my statistics course”. I stared at him with a stoic smile, but wondered how someone can be proud of mediocrity. But then I remember how upper middle-class white people have the privilege of being mediocre. This privilege comes from not having to tackle systematic inequality and never being denied an argument based on their identity. And then I disclose too much, I disclose too  much to prove that his oh so deep argument is actually a misunderstanding of normality. He says nonchalantly: ” the only life that can seem normal to oneself is one’s own life”. But hello my own life has never seemed or appeared normal. With the shifting moods it has only felt like a life that moves too quickly and I can barely catch up to: as though my life is a train and I am running to make sure that the door doesn’t close on my face. I told him about the bipolar that plagues me. He interjected by praising mania, exclaiming how jealous he is of people that are bipolar, and that yes he is aware of the coming doom, but the mania sounds amazing. Mania is not what the movies show it to be, mania is decisions which leave you empty, in problems, which push people away because everything moves too quickly and you have no inhibitions to control your interactions. I told him that it is not what he thinks it is. We moved on to the cliche topic of how terrible 2016 made everyone feel. He chimes in to say: “Now is the time to figure out how you would behave during the Hitler Era, blah blah.”He proclaims his knowledge that as a white cis-gendered hetero man with blue eyes, he faces no coming persecution. Everything at this point becomes noise, I am being pushed to an extreme discomfort and I don’t know what to do. I feel dirty, as though every part of me is soiled and unworthy. This man so confidently walks around being a disgusting excuse for a human being. All the microaggressions remind me that to indirect racists I am a stereotype, not a person but a reified phenomenon. Not real but an object; an illusion, an invisible figment, a sort of problem. I looked at him who has excused himself to go to the bathroom, and attempt to form a connection through a smile, he looks back, panic stricken, a half smile forming through force, and I know that apart from wasting 4 dollars on cold-brew and basically sabotaging my sleep, I have wasted so much vulnerability on someone who wanted nothing but a surface connection. I went back, I hid, I felt sad. This is the experience of having a complex identity, one who does not fit into definitions of normality, who as a woman am too direct, who has been able to succeed through the obstacles within education and don’t directly fit into the narrative of mediocrity, and yet as I sit with this particular white man, I start to hate everything about myself, particularly the part of me that isn’t mediocre enough to validate this man and in turn is validated. I have a great amount to learn and love still. I don’t know what normality can feel like, nor do I want to though.

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My strawberry scented soap offers me smooth and sexy skin. Once again I face an ad that offers me a desirable promise of sex. I am a sexualized creature. To be honest there is no point in saying that only women are sexualized. The word sexy is plastered on men’s ads. But to be honest I can’t just write about advertisements but rather want to focus my attention at the way that we are oppressed.

I am speaking right now not of the oppression that we face as Americans but rather talking about the inevitable injustice that my race faces. What is my race? I was always characterized as white on state exams because I was always the honor student. I could not be a black hispanic but truly in slave terms, am I far away enough from blackness to be considered free. 

I face the obstacle of being a woman, of being hispanic, and of being part of the low middle class. It’s intoxicating and it really sucks. I can’t find eloquent language to describe the shittiness of not being white, of not being rich, yet being friends with many who fall into this category. I sometimes convince myself that if I try hard enough to hide my ethnicity, it will fade away from my face. My skin will become lighter if I don’t face the sun and my features will altogether soften. Instead every day I am faced with a face that is on the verge of being accepted and slight things that distinguish it. 

I can’t see to relate to many people lately. I think that it is worse because I have reached a level of maturity where I no longer want to pretend that everything is perfect. Sometimes I fear that a certain parent will be racist, or that a professor will look down upon me because I am not white. And yet, I am not faced with much prejudice because of my proximity to the metropolitan area. 

I used to pretend that people’s comments couldn’t touch me. I overlooked my teacher’s prejudice of hispanic kids because I was white enough to blend into a safe zone. I let people mistake that I was a spaniard because that gave me a higher pedigree. And to some extent I am partly spaniard but the amount is not one that I can sum up. 

I let so many comments just happen. “You as my ____, me as your white rich provider”. I really should have realized that the picture that I was facing was a very ugly one. But I had pretty dresses, wine, shoes, all the things that lines my little closet in my little house. I always feel jealous of my friends for having huge family dinners and for having a sense of tradition. I don’t have any sense of tradition. I spent so much time avoiding myself that now I am just a mush of nothing. 

I am concerned that my father faces prejudice at work. It upsets me when he tries so hard to provide for his family but has to kill himself in the process. Who are the mules of the world? The poor, the colored, the marginalized. 

What can I say? 

I don’t know.