Commuting between my shitty backwater town in rural England and London freaks me out: I get lulled into this safety net of functional multiculturalism in East London, and then the second I get home the whole thing falls apart faster than you can say "fashion bindi." I go from being dismissed by some sighing style blogger with rolling eyes and brothel creepers on Bethnal Green Road, to having “Paki bitch” squawked in my face when I trip over some woman’s monster stroller on the bus. Suddenly people don’t notice my (impeccable) nails, or questionable crop top—everyone just chucks me in the Asian bracket and that’s that.
The problem is, the longer I spend at home the more I come to appreciate this flagrant racism—at least with those people you immediately know where you stand (or lie, crushed under decades of racial prejudice). It’s actually the casual questions and comments from friends that are the worst, the ones that don't register until later, when you're ploughing your way through your third naan, and you realize that “actually, maybe that was some seriously offensive shit back there.”
To everyone who’s asked me how often I have to moisturise my “type of skin,” please take your Mean Girls ignorance elsewhere. At this point I’m amazed shit like this still comes up; everyone knows that even the most white-bread racists gulp down chicken korma on the weekends. Sadly for you stupid fucks, it does still happen, all the time. So here’s a rundown of some genuine questions that have left me feeling particularly deflated.
“OH MY GOD, ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE?”
The first time a white girl asked me this, I was nine years old and I burst into tears. The memory of it has been seared into my mind ever since. I can even tell you that it happened as I was writing a thank you letter to the organizers of our fifth grade sewage works field trip (I was a weird kid).
Seriously though, I know you think a bit of provocative racial jibing is a great way to break in our new friendship, but chances are we’re desperately trying to avoid being asked this question by our own parents, and they really did meet through an arranged marriage. Which means that you are both a) making things massively awkward, and b) shitting on our moms and dads. Neither of which are particularly endearing traits, especially when my mom was kind enough to tell me I could elope with a white boy or experiment with lesbianism as soon as all my ageing aunts and uncles were too dead to be offended by it.
“WHY DON’T YOUR PARENTS LIKE YOU HANGING OUT WITH WHITE PEOPLE?”
I suppose we are quite fond of our all-Indian wolf packs. The thing is, our elders don’t really trust you and your wayward ways. Of course we could never understand why when we were younger, and I assure you we have had scathing arguments with our parents because of it. But basically they don't trust white kids because they can’t forget the time a gang of tween skinheads tried to push us into oncoming traffic on the way home from school in 1980s Leicester. Chill though, we only need six months or so to convince them that you won’t scalp us on a night out.
“SAY SOMETHING IN YOUR LANGUAGE!”
The first time you ever ask is humbling. Unfortunately, the multitude of further requests will result in so many eye rolls that I am in actual danger of my ocular muscles spasming and my eyeballs ejecting as a result. Therefore, when you ask this to anyone over 14, we will always give you the wrong word.
Also, despite English being my first language (hello, duh, as if, etc.), if I do happen to go all buck buck ding in the checkout line, it’s because you took the last salad box and I hate you. Or I just hate your kid because it's ugly. Deal with it.
“DOES YOUR DAD WEAR A TURBAN?”
The amount of confusion on my white friends' faces when told he doesn’t is tantamount to seeing sultanas in a salad—something about it just feels irredeemably wrong. Oh, and no, turbans do not act as glorified mood rings, just think of them as equivalent to your bra: often necessary, sometimes pretty, and always a great place to stash a fiver.
"WHY DO YOU LIVE WITH YOUR GRANDMOTHER?"
Let’s face it, in 15 years’ time when you’re struggling to juggle the costs of marriage counselling and babysitters, we’ll be walking smugly on, safe in the knowledge that our live-in mother-in-law has got childcare under control for the next 11 or so years. Triple shift my ass.
"ARE YOU THE ONE WITH THE MONKEY GOD?"
You want to find out if we're one of those kinky types who are into kama sutra or a terrorist. Personally? I’m the one where we get to carry around a knife.
“WHERE ARE YOU FROM? NO, LIKE, REALLY FROM?”
Saying "The Midlands" doesn’t seem to cut it; despite being raised on a diet of fish and chips and heavily polluted air. I’ve come to assume that most people ask this as a test to see if you come from Pakistan or Bangladesh or any other Eastern country The Post tends to write horror stories about in an effort to drum up stupid white people camraderie. Oh, and God forbid anyone finds out you’re from India, after which they immediately assume you originated from some destitute farm with a hole in the ground for a toilet and chickens for bedfellows. Wrong.
Has that answered some of your questions, white girls? Next time you make friends with someone who has a skin tone that only NARS and Bobbi Brown cover, have a quick re-cap and save yourselves the awkward silences. Thank me later. And now.
Follow Erinn on Twitter: @erinndhesi
Drawing the sting out of more thorny issues: