I must have looked at myself in the mirror hundreds of times up to this point, but today was different. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest and I had no control over the pace of my own breathing. I turned the corner into my bedroom and quietly closed the door around me. I made the last few strides to position myself in front of the antique white dresser that I loved so dearly because for some reason, it made me feel like a princess. Like I was someone worthy of fancy opulence, even though it was probably an inexpensive reproduction. I had stood in this exact position every morning of my life as I brushed my hair and each time I did, the same imaged stared back at me. I thought she was the most beautiful person in the world. Her features were a combination of all the Barbie dolls I ever wished for, Cindy Brady, Laura Ingalls, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, precious little girls in Spagettios and Oscar Mayer commercials, my best friend, Nicole, and the faces in the toy section of my mom's Sears catalog.
But today that girl was gone. In her place stood someone who bared no resemblance to her at all. Instead, this girl had smooth dark brown skin that was the same color as the Hershey's chocolate milk I drank each afternoon. It was rich and flawless. And I hated it. Her hair so black and lifeless that even if it could pick up the rays of the sun, I would never want to call any extra attention to it. Her eyes were so tiny - the color of dirty, black mud, her faint eyebrows were barely existing. It was painful to look at her yet she wouldn't let me look away, gripping me steadily with her powerful gaze. It would take me 12 years to think she was beautiful.
I was 6 years old the first time I realized that I wasn't white. There was a new student in my first grade suburban Chicago elementary school class. He was Japanese-American. As he was being introduced, one of the girls sitting next to me whispered in my ear, he looks just like you. I turned around and glared at her like she was from outer space. I couldn't wait to get home to a mirror to prove her wrong.