Updated: Sep 17, 2020
When I apply for a job or fill out any application, I usually have to check the ‘white’ box when identifying my ethnicity. My parents are Persian, and I’ve never felt white. I wanted to be white, and maybe unconsciously I still do.
I wanted to be a white girl in a white family so badly, it destroyed my identity. My legal name is Aahoo. It’s the name my dad gave me because I didn’t cry when I was born--I just moved swiftly out of my mom's womb.
Aahoo means gazelle, a poetic name emphasizing large eyes. From 18 to 23, I wore blue contacts.
Another family member gave me Ellie, because she knew I’d be made fun of if Aahoo was used. I am grateful for this, because she was right.
I would do my homework in the whitest communities and watched families smile as they passed me. I always felt noticed in white communities. I wondered what their Thanksgivings or daily dinners looked like. Do you get asked about your day? How do you express emotions in front of your family?
I wondered this as I watched my mom cry to old Iranian music, missing a home she left at 12 because of a revolution.
I don’t know how to explain to you what struggling in your own skin feels like. What not having an identity or being on auto-don’t-be-yourself-mode feels like.
I don’t know how to tell you what it feels like to disassociate myself from men I like and groups of friends because I don’t feel whole enough.
I still beg new friends to call me Ellie.