- Tank: Target
- Necklace: gift from husband
- Bracelets: bangles from Banana Republic Factory, cork bracelet from Honolulu swap meet
- Skirt: thrifted
- Belt: thrifted
- Wedges: Reaction by Kenneth Cole, via DSW
Can you Dress Your Best and give a round of applause to your familial heritage? Because that’s how I’m ending my DYB this year.
I’ve always taken great pride in the fact that I am hapa, half Japanese and half Caucasian. Because I grew up in a predominantly Asian culture, I perhaps feel more bonded to my Japanese heritage, but I’ve also come to cherish my Scottish and English roots and my old, old New England settler connections. To have two such different and unique histories wrapped up in my own family continues to be a fascinating thing for me.
But even though I may strongly conceive of myself as hapa, as mixed race, not everyone perceives me that way. Most people in Hawaii, many of whom are mixed race themselves, recognize me as being hapa, though they might jokingly give me a hard time for my paler skin or tall stature that makes me stick out amidst the predominantly tan, short population. Since moving to the mainland, however, I’ve found that such recognition is, ironically, more mixed. Some people recognize me as being “not white” and ask, “What are you?” Some people take guesses. I’ve been told that I look like Michelle Wie and Lucy Liu. Once, someone asked if I was part Mexican. Many people just assume that I’m full white.
All of this — the categorization that happens based on physical appearance, the notion that visible recognizability is a necessary part of assuming a particular identity, the very conception of “race” in general — is incredibly fraught and something that I wrestle through in my own academic work. But I know that, for me, my body plays an important role in reminding me of my heritage and seeing my future in the fat cheeks and flat nose of my son who, for all other intents and purposes, looks more like his Caucasian father.
So today I’m celebrating being hapa. I’m celebrating the height I got from 6’4″ father along with the freckles and big ears that are all from his side of the family. And I’m celebrating my big cheeks, dark hair, and yellowy undertones in my skin that come from my mother’s side. So hooray for shoes that are purple and tan even though the skirt is salmon and the shirt is navy. Hooray for a hot pink belt rather than a brown one. Hooray for silver and cork bracelets, worn together. The mixing is what makes it interesting.