Growing up as the only child without many friends, I didn’t get much social training. I often asked myself “Why am I so weird?”. Everyone starts out strange. As children, we’re all just tiny, little weirdos testing the limits of what is normal, acceptable behavior and what makes our parents blush or swear in public. “But I wasn’t a strange child,” you say, actively blocking out memories where you shoved bundled up socks down your pants or played a made-up game called Dead Girl where the whole premise was that you were a girl who was dead. I promise you, all children are weird.
We also have deep-seated beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are substantiated by a lifetime of personal experience amplified by our cultural affiliation.
When I was little but not little enough for it to be cute (nine or ten-ish), I used to play a game called Orphans with my sister and cousins who were all five to seven years younger than me. The game went like this: we were orphans trying to escape an orphanage. That’s it. That was the whole game. I think I saw Annie once and let it become my entire personality for most of elementary school.
When playing the classic game Orphans, you start by making up orphan names and identities. I, the oldest and therefore bossiest/bitchiest of the group, took to writing down each of our names and personas in a notebook. This was the majority of the game. My sister, whose non-orphan name is Ana, would be a Jessica or Stephanie or Cassandra. My cousins would be a Stephanie or Cassandra or Jessica, depending on who Ana didn’t want to be. I would almost always be Molly, a brunette with freckles.
I could have been Esther, a fairy trapped in a human girl’s body practising prolotherapy, or Indigo, an alien with three-foot eyelashes, or even Debra, a bucket with arms and legs. But my dream Orphan Girl was Molly, a brunette with freckles.
That, I suppose, was the epitome of a “pretty girl” to me, as someone who was/is/always will be half-Asian, half-white, and wholly racially ambiguous. My hair is technically brown. I do have these faint, freckle-adjacent things dotted around my eyes and nose. But no one has or will ever describe me as “a brunette with freckles.”