I’m a brown Chinese. Like a left over banana muffin waiting to rot. I wish my skin tone was pinkish pale like Fann Wong or Lucy Liu, may be even warm tawny like Salma Hayek or sexy olive like one of my favorite local models Tengku Azura, but I’m just banana muffin – muted dark yellow. Period.
One fine afternoon many moons back we four very happy people took a very happy holiday in Genting Highland. Cheeky Koko wanted to take all the rides he could get on the outdoor theme park. Papa always spelled Fun so Cheeky Koko insisted papa went with him.
Pumpkin Mei-Mei and mommy decided to take a walk around the outdoor playground to catch up on some quality mommy and daughter time. As we approached the swings, one nice lady sitting on a bench stared at me who was then wearing the latest baker boy cap walking hand in hand with my little pumpkin. As we walked towards her later to take a break, she quickly squeezed a friendly smile to me while I nodded to her with a smile.
With an extremely slow speech and the utmost clarity as if I couldn’t possibly understand English, she pointed towards Pumpkin Mei-Mei and said word-by-word, “The girl you take care of is from where?”. Without a doubt from her accent I knew this nice lady was as much a Malaysian as I do, so I told her warmly “Oh, she’s my daughter, we are from Malaysia, like you.” “Oh…” she said, biting her last words “I thought she is from Japan and you are her nanny from Philippines!” She chuckled embarrassingly.
Two things came to my mind. No. 1, slap her and make a dash to the nearest beauty centre for an overall whitening treatment. No. 2, slap her and say something sarcastic like “thanks, never knew I was an exotic beauty!” I wasn’t sure how I even got back to reuniting with Daddy Joe, Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei-Mei later in one piece, sandwiched by all three of them who had the cutest pinkish cheeks from the chill.
Shattered ego. Shattered confidence. No wonder twenty years ago when Daddy Joe fell in love with me, Most times he said he loved my inner beauty. The rest of the times he was speechless.
The thing is my own mama has brought me up with an overdose of confidence. My siblings and I grew up pretty much convinced about what mama said about our skin tone that we were deliciously “hitam manis” (translated as dark but sweet).
For the longest time this year I was extremely convinced that Cheeky Koko looks like ME -though he’s considered not tan, he had never been fair either. Then one day Daddy Joe decided Cheeky Koko needed a good scrub-a-dub-dub after noticing that the boy washes from top to toe in one flat minute to catch his favorite TV show. As he came out after Daddy Joe scrubbed him real hard, Cheeky Koko emerged with a glow and sheepishly said to me, “mama, actually I don’t look like you, I was dark because I didn’t bathe myself well. See, I’m fair like papa”
Banana muffin never got fairer as the days went, but it decided to live happily among the other vanilla muffins. Pumpkin Mei-Mei once told me as I tucked her into her bed, “mama, you sure are dark cuz when you switched off the light I can’t even see you. But you know what? I love you anyway.” Banana muffin thus lives happily forever in glorious love, believing that her inner beauty as the wife and the mama made her heart smells of vanilla.