About a month ago I found myself in the corner store on the receiving end of what one damn-near-adorable gambling geriatric Italian man thought was a compliment:
"Jesus Christ, you're gorgeous -- are you an albino?"
Being the evolved Intergalactic Starseed Queen that I am, I respectfully engaged with the well-intended man. Carefully avoiding all biological, medical, and anthropological details, I exited stage right with a playful pucker and a wink, and quickly took my albino-frontin' ass upstairs.
In the comfort of my own three-story walk-up treehouse, however, I proceeded to have a shit fit -- performing in obscenity-laden theatrics only for my cats -- and naturally, chose to dispose of this toxic emotional diarrhea via a Facebook rant:
"If one more motherfucker asks me of I'm an Albino this week I'm going to lose_my_fucking_shit. Are you morons so fucking mentally hindered that you think it's appropriate (sober or not sober) to ask someone if they're suffering from a debilitating/progressive/degenerative eye disease -- better yet, like it's some kind of fucking compliment? This is something I've been dealing with my entire life, though it's gotten increasingly more common/obnoxious within the last decade -- most likely due to inter-ethnic-procreation on all levels [of which I am enthusiastically about] and subsequently the fading out of my particular aesthetic in society. TO BE CLEAR: I am not at all offended by people assuming/perceiving me to be an Albino -- they are some of the most unique/beautiful people. However, as someone who has Albino friends (no -- they're actually not some mythological character like the Chubacabra) I am OFFENDED FOR THEM, who have to contend with the very real physical and emotional ramifications of this disease. Seriously, get a fucking clue, assholes: would you approach someone with a twitch and be like, 'Hey -- is that MS or Parkinson's?' -- I am floored at how ignorant the general public is. Maybe it bothers me more because I was tortured as a kid for looking the way I do; now I couldn't be more amped that I don't look like any of you. Amen."
And now, fresh off another albino assumption delivered as ignorant praise, here I am again. I have no problem admitting that I get a minor thrill in Market Basket when every Haitian in the place is gawking at me in the same way I once hypnotically stared at a blue-black man at the A&P when I was 18 months old and my mother quickly whisked me out of the check-out line knowing I was about to drop some whack toddler speak that would have taken a good five Oprah After School Specials and a UN meeting to rectify.
Alas, shit gets old.
People casually ask me if I'm an albino all the time -- in line at Starbucks, at my job, in Facebook emails [barfs] and I've developed quite a tolerance for most of these harmless, innocent inquiries. In fact, I've resorted to self-'depreciating' jokes/catchphrases as a means of curbing/diffusing the non-malicious yet ignorant albino bomb when I feel like it's about to drop. I can only describe this awkward social experience by comparing it to feeling your own face getting hot when you're embarrassed for someone else.
It's become so frequent recently, that on the chance a friend catches me mid-rant, they suggest that I stop getting so worked up about it and take it as the compliment X querent intended it to be. Hey, this is all well and good, but where were you in the fifth grade when the intention of albinism branding had zero to do with building me up, and all to do with making me want to go home and off myself?
Aside from my own sensitivities, it's just straight up ridiculous and rude to ask anyone if they're an albino, and the fact that people [of all age ranges] don't understand that, blows_my_fucking_mind. I mean, I just can't seem to recall the last time I went up to a Dominican woman with facial melasma [likely due to pregnancy] and asked her nonchalantly if she had vitiligo.
Though much aware of what the disease of albinism entailed from a superficial medical standpoint, I didn't have any albino friends until I was 26. I remember mentioning one night that people have mistaken me for an albino throughout my life, and Sandra looking at me in disbelief like I had ten non-albinism-affected heads. The mere suggestion to her seemed ludicrous, much as it always did to me, but it seemed especially so now. It was then that I really began resenting the albinism questions, and not in the 'instant defense against something that has historically been used to purposefully hurt me' way that I was accustomed to. It was no longer about me. Albinism was [is] real, and it was someone else's reality -- a reality with greater implications than I had even given consideration to. The insight and weight of all of that frustrated me in a different way, and it still does to this day.
At the same time, we humans are funny little creatures, and we tend to act our silliest and most awkward around situations/people/experiences that are foreign/different to us - even if it's a mere block outside our comfort zone. Fortunately, I can sense when this is the case, and this kind of intuition has afforded me an opportunity to school some people on the subject, which is always a good thing. And of course, some of us humans are just straight-up, ignorant, shameless, insecure, emotionally-underdeveloped, sheltered, no-hope-havin' motherfucking dickbags -- and you can bet that my white ass be praying for theirs.