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No one knows what my family is, or how exactly we all relate to each other at first sight, but it's always been a question of where we come from, and implicitly, a question of what we're doing here at all. I have never met someone who shares my ethnic mix (outside of my brother) in my entire life. My grandma divorced her husband. My mom ran off and married a black dude. They've never said it to my face, but I've figured that a lot of the amazing and independent choices my parents made as women didn't totally click with a lot of what India was telling women to be back in the day.
By the time I hit middle school, I was bringing home more As than a family-sized box of Alphabet cereal. I was clueless when it came to drugs. I made curfew like my life depended on it. I respected my elders. By society's standards, I was a well-behaved kid. So how come I've never heard my parents say, "Son, we're proud of you"?
When I was younger (and even now) I craved the approval of my parents. I wanted so badly to make them proud. But not hearing the actual words on a regular basis lead to me believe that I wasn't good enough. I wasn't smart enough or creative enough, and I needed to overcompensate to finally feel like I was making them proud, so I would feel good about myself.
The question I've been asked consistently throughout my life is, "which side do you identify more with?" I hate this question. You are forcing me to choose between my Italian culture and my Filipino culture. It feels like you're asking me to decide between pasta and puncit. Between gelato and halo-halo. Between my mom and my dad.
I knew it was something parents said to their kids, a thing friends said to each other, and I wanted someone to say it to me.