Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eating Myself

The photo above has always been one of my favorites - just a random, posed shot taken in Japan when friends and I happened upon a small and random theme park in Kagoshima.

High-school-theater friend, Margaret, said that the head looks like the Caucasian version of me, to which I replied, "I'm eating myself!" She thought that was deep. I'm sure she was being tongue-in-cheek facetious, but I liked the symbolism of that: "white-me" consuming "Japanese-me."

From my perspective, I've always thought that the statue of this giant boy's head bursting from out of the ground looked very Japanese, including the color of the eyes and the shape of the eyebrows. But the skin tone may be too alabaster-white. Nobody is that pale, even the two albino people I used to know.

Growing up in Southern California, I never felt "white enough" or "American enough." I never felt good enough, even if that was only my own perception of myself. I knew I could never hide or disguise how Japanese I looked, no matter how American I felt or acted - or no matter how much I assimilated back into American culture after our family moved back from Japan when I was a fifth-grader.

Returning to Japan as an adult helped me to more easily embrace my Japanese identity, which helped to increase self-acceptance of myself (even if it also emphasized how Japanese I am not). The symbolism in this photo would actually be reversed in that my Japanese self helped to eat up the white self I was trying to perpetuate, the self that I was trying to make the larger part of my identity as a young man in the U.S.

Yes, you could say I'm all mixed up, but in a good way. Good Friend Ben used to love quoting an audience member he overheard after she saw my head shot before a show: "He's a mixture, isn't he?"


the Constantly Dramatic One said...

Dude, the head does look like you.

Also I'm glad that you have somewhat come to peace with your mixed heritage =)

Marshall said...

This post is awesome! Inspiring many thoughts in my head about my Chicano Heritage and my White raising..... Thank you Peter!

Peter Varvel said...

CDO, you think so, too? Too bad the artist isn't getting all of his due credit! =)

Omg, Marshall, we were totally "white-washed," weren't we?