At the age of 13, I had an epiphany.
My biological makeup and the continuous changes in my social life weren’t of any concerns of mine, I had a much bigger fish to fry. I mean, I was a struggling Buddhist / Protestant.
The main focus on religion and contorting my essence and nature to commit to conformity was a main drawback in my life. I’m still struggling and I don’t know when this long drawn out battle of the religions will ever end. My mother is a religious and superstitious being, while my father was rational and never used magical belief as an explanation for behavior or actions. This possessiveness from the Church and other monotheistic entities consumed most of my childhood years that I almost missed it — my epiphany. When I look back, if I had blinked it would have been gone. That was how quick my epiphany was.
I remember sitting on the settee in-front of the fireplace in Germany and enjoying the bouts of freedom I was given. I could slip into a pair of bicycle shorts and walk 3 kilometers into the town-center of Bad Fallingbostel, or neighboring Dorfmark if I pleased walking just over 7 kilometers. The freedom and option of choice was almost limitless that when I sat down at the dinner table in mid-July, 2011 over a steaming pot of rotkohl did my grandmother begin to inquire about my friends in Sri Lanka. My 13 year-old, irrational self told her the truth.
Being a fair woman in Sri Lanka is seen as a magnificent yet controversial thing. Mothers don’t want their sons to be captivated and infatuated by a white woman because the whites are uncultured people. Peers from other institutions loomed into the lives of white schoolgirls coining the term ‘fast’ and ‘sexually advanced’ when in reality some of them wouldn’t be able to step a foot outside the front door even as little as to go to the supermarket.
So every year when I went to Germany, I loved the Summer as if it were my own. I felt like I was cheating, looking back at my friends that shared the same fate as me for having overly-concerned parents — but my freedom was given hastily and abruptly and I wasn’t going to misuse this opportunity.
My epiphany comprised of the restrictions that were placed on me when I was living in Sri Lanka and living in Germany.
The trail of thought where Sri Lanka is not a safe environment can be justified, for women at least. The misogynist and patriarchal mindset is apparent, you can read numerous articles, books, magazines, blogs — all arguing for the equality of women and against the vulgar behaviour of the local “beach boys” — this article isn’t about those boys that catcall and disrespect women casually, this is an article on the misconception of melanin and about how love is a scarce entity when you’re seeking for something more meaningful and passionate.
And here I was, a white girl. The white girl that everyone perceived would lose her virginity in a bathroom stall at Kama, yet wasn’t even allowed to walk into Crescat without a parent.
Being white doesn’t mean that you are necessarily uncultured. In reality, most boys would use your skin tone as a tunnel of compliments and grandeur from their fellow peers but ultimately settle for a native, religious, local woman. Discarding the white woman as if she never existed or impacted his life for the most part.
Hey, my grandmother didn’t give parental consent towards my father’s marriage proposal because he was white. Similarly, when my mother was legally documented as his wife and my father’s own grandmother was informed about their commitment did he have to purchase a colour palette from a hardware shop to help his grandmother identify my mother’s hue.
A friend, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time, once said at the dinner table ‘I don’t care about women, machang. I’m only down for the buggers that have been there for me throughout. I don’t give a fuck about these women, man.’ I cannot account for the words my friend had said, but it got me wondering; if this opinion of women in general is commonly shared among Sri Lankan men, then what happens when they develop a romantic interest for a white woman? Is there any prospect of cohabitation, or marriage?
Many could argue that being a woman is a curse, at any given point in a woman’s life they have been alienated and discriminated against their sex, some even gaining a high status position purely based on their presentation of Self (Goffman, 1959). There are set standards to beauty; a fair, light-eyed female has been the societal desire for decades and that’s the cold truth served to you on a paper plate. Thankfully, this face of beauty is changing. However, the association and misinterpretation of white women being obligated to respond to crude flirtations and cringing advancements is a tearful need for acceptance in order to fix this apparently cogent viewpoint, because associated with the white woman is the desire of sex, of sleeping with her, and preparing yourself for the praise given from other members of your social group.
A white woman in this society is seen an object rather than a being. A few make it out alive and get married to local men but many are tossed over to the side after months of cooing and being showered with affection. Dating a white woman is almost like unlocking an XBox achievement, you’re happy with reaching this given point but don’t think much of it afterwards.
White males have painted a very bleak picture of the world as we see it. White power and the pale supremacy of the West has been the Grim Reaper of subjugated and vulnerable states with potential resourceful value, unfortunately including Ceylon to the colonial list. When people protest against the West and blame the whites for everything, they paint a larger picture which comprises of the say of white women, little did they have.
Fast forward 3 years and I was with my first potential partner. Thinking back, I was confused a lot (which is nothing new). The only possible hope for our relations to continue was for him to see me at my home, something that created tension between us due to his family’s disapproving nature. His father took him out for a drive one day and had told him that based on Sri Lanka’s conservative nature and society it was immoral to visit me inside my home without any propositions of getting married.
My mother was applying makeup in-front of the bathroom mirror when I explained my confusion to her. Was it negative to be invited to another person’s home? What does this boy do when he has to go to a project meeting at another girl’s house? For the most part, my mother was furious. She looked at me with a flushed face and an uneven eyeliner wing, informing me that what his father said was not far from the truth and that she does not want me to continue any form of relations with this particular boy. So, I cut him off eventually.
At the age of 16, I had an epiphany.
My melanin would be held responsible for the rubble left behind from previous relations; romantic or platonic. I’m not a white woman, if you picked me up and dumped me in Dresdan, Germany, I would be passed off as being Turkish. Yet, here in Sri Lanka, I’m white. The mother of one of my partners had once asked; ‘Why are you dating her? She’s so white.’
I have many fears in this world, and my #1 fear that I will always hold close to me personally, is meeting the mother of my partner due to the colour of my skin tone.