Adventures in AmbiLand

Ambi = Ethnically Ambiguous

Ambi True Life: I’m an Ambi who thinks she’s Black. January 10, 2009

Hey Y’all.  How are you? Today we’re gonna talk about Ambis Who Think They Are Black. Namely, Me.  I would like for my readers to have a solid understanding my background and how it informs the psychology of Adventures in AmbiLand, some context if you will.  Blogs, like anything else, benefit from a good foundation.  So let’s start at the beginning shall we…

Part One: Ambi-Enlightenment

It all started when I was a child attending an all white private school.  I thought I was white too. I mean, I  knew I was biracial– my dad was black (he was mixed too actually, but that’s a whole other story) and my mother is Italian.   I thought mixed people turned out black or white, one or the other. My dad had a white mother and black father, but he had turned out black.  My older brother and I, on the other hand, came out on the opposite end of the spectrum.   This conclusion seemed logical enough considering  the only time I was significantly darker than my caucasion classmates was in the summer time when my skin would tan effortlessly, taking on a deep olive tone.  The only thing is, my hair was crazy curly (much to my school-aged dismay), and even as a youngster, the early signs of my thick thighs and mixed girl booty* were already apparent.  Naturally, I thought I was a DEFECTIVE white person.

I's Negra!

I's Negra!

There is no telling how long I would have internalized these faulty beliefs had it not been for one pivotal moment.  I owe it all to my beloved cousin Z and a conversation we had when I was nine-years old.    Zeta, as we called her affectionately, is a cousin on mine from my father’s side.   Seven years my senior, Z was the person I looked up to the most.  She was so beautiful, and so stylish, and most of all,  so knowledgeable about the ways of the world.  I wanted to be just like her.

It was the  summer of 1988 and  Zeta and I  were in NYC visiting relatives.  One day we decided to head down to SoHo to do some shopping.  But first, something had to be done about my appearance, I was looking a 9-year-old mess.   In an effort to rescue me from my devastatingly bad hair and unfortunately boyish clothes,  Z did what any other amazingly stylish older cousin would do: gme a mini-makeover.  It was the only right.

She taught me how to properly fix my hair that morning, dressed me up in some of her cute clothes- leggings and a ethnocentric jersey dress.  We completed the look with some 2″ silver hoops and a little mascara.   By the time we hit the sub, I was all glammed out (in a 9yo sort of way). During the train ride,  I was telling  her how and how I hated my hair how my thighs were too big, and how I didn’t fit in with the other white kids at my school and-

“Wait- Did you say other white kids?” Zeta asked me

“Yeah, the other white kids, like i’m white, and their white.  But everyone is always asking me “What are you?” beacause my hair’s so curly and–”

“Ok Lauren, let me explaian something to you and I’m gonna put it plainly.  You’re Black.

You’re black, you’re black, you’re black.

Your dad iss black, your brothers are black, we [your cousins] are black and so are you!

End of story.”

“Reeeeeally?” I said,   nine-year-old eyes widening in amazement.

Suddenly it all made sense.  I felt different from the white kids at my school because I was different.  My cousin’s clarification freed me in a sense from my futile struggle to conform to the dominant culture.  It gave me some context in in which to begin to form an identity.  My perspective was forever changed.

“Your parents never talked to you about this Lauren?” she asked incredulously.

“Uh-uh” I shook my head no.  “I guess it, you know, never came up.”

And that was that- I never has another moment of confusion about it.  My journey as misinformed mixed child had finally ended.  My

Adventures in AmbiLand, however, had only just begun.

Not Reading All That?

While Lauren (AmbiJawn) may look ethnically ambiguous, AmbiJawn thinks she is black.

*Not a huge fan of the word “booty”, but it seems appropriate in this context!

 

Ambi True Life: I was Just Another Mixed Girl with a Reeeeeeally bad haircut. December 19, 2008

Mixed kids with bad hair- I know you’ve seen them!  Walking down the street with their white parent, hair looking unkempt, tragic. Hair that is badly in need of conditioner, wide-tooth comb and some Carol’s Daughter.  I knew this one mixed girl- she looked like she had just stuck her hand in an electric socket! Oh wait, that wasn’t some kid I saw on the street- that was me in the 5th grade 😦

Don’t get me wrong- my white mother had my hair was looking right and tight throughout early childhood.  My curls were kept under wraps,  combed through, and braided up.  I was just never allowed to wear it out.  Eventually I got fed up with the restrictions and the massive tangles and decided I wanted a short hair-cut   I wanted to be just like my cousins, aunts and Denise from the Cosby Show. who were all rocking some fabulous late eighties short styles:

80s Denise Hair =F.R.E.S.H. And look at lil Rudy!

80s Denise Hair =F.R.E.S.H. And look at 'lil Rudy!

Except my mother took me to the Supercuts by our house (Midtown Atlanta) for the haircut.  The owner- a small Mexican dude with a big personality, was not familiar with “Denise Huxtable” style.  The only “black” style he could do was a boy’s box cut.  By the time he got through hedging me up, I was looking more like Cockroach than Denise 😦

Me + Cockroach in 1988 = twinz

Me + Cockroach in 1988 = Twins

This was undoubtedly the darkest chapter in my hair history.  It happened when I was 10 and I refused to go near another pair of scissors until the age of 12.  By eigth grade my hair had finally grown back, even curlier than before.  I couldn’t complain though, at least people had stopped mistaking me for a boy!  Right around the same time Appetite For Destrction had reached its’ pinnacle of popularity and the white boys at school had become fond of telling me how much my hair reminded them of elusive lead guitar player of thier favorite band: Slash from Guns and Roses:

me+slash=hair twins

Now, Slash is not a bad looking rock and roll dude- but that was not exactly a compliment considering the fact I was a preteen girl, and no one has ever really seen his face.  Surprisingly these young men were not usually being mean-spirited by their comparison.  Some of them even said it to me like it was a compliment.  I realize now that it was their way of putting me and my hair into context.  There were no other mixed people around with which to categorize me.  For a lot of these boys, I was the only mixed person they knew–well– just me and Slash, of course.   But I was the first one they had met.

After revisiting this image of Slash from  The Black LIst, I’m ready to admit that our hair texture is quite similar- except my hair is probably twice as thick.

Needless to say, I was one ambi-middle-schooler who was slightly less than successful in the social arena…