Do I Have Something on My Face?

By Anoja Muthucumaru

The best part about living in the city is the anonymity. Nobody stares at you like a dog walking on its hind legs. I never recognized this wonderful perk of living in the city, till I left my beloved city for a small rural community in northern Québec.

I would sit in a café reading, and I would look up to see an old lady staring at me from the window – just to see if I was real – and look away the moment she noticed that I noticed her staring.

When I started noticing the staring, I kept thinking it was because I had something on my face, like a booger, but it wasn’t a booger. I did have something on my face; it was the color of my skin. It revealed a culture and heritage that was intriguing to some.

At first, I felt awkward and fidgety, when I would notice the confused stares and when I would get double-takes on the street by kids and adults. I felt very insecure and kind of scared I wanted to be anonymous, and roam the town like a ghost, or a sneaky fox, but that was impossible.

But after the first week of stares,I figured people were staring because some of them had never seen someone like me, and some of them were surprised to see me in a small rural town, and some were just wondering what my background was – so I couldn’t be upset at them.

After this experience, I became really sensitive to stares when I am outside my city. It had been a shock to my system. I was scared to enter any small town or small city. I went on cottage trips in northern Ontario, and refused to go into the Tim Horton’s, because I didn’t want to be the token visible minority customer there.

There were some perks to being someone people noticed, even if it wa because of the colour of my skin.I was treated like a regular in the café and the local library pretty much from the first visit. And, once people got to know me in the town, I got fewer stares from the locals. The funny thing was, people went out of their way to introduce themselves to me and learn more about me.

Currently, I’ve just graduated from school and I am looking for a job. I told myself that I was going to find a fabulous job in the city, rubbing elbows with big city slickers, but it seems like I don’t have the experience and I don’t have that rich uncle to push a little nepotism my way. Consequently, I have to seriously consider leaving the city, and maybe moving to a small city or town where I would most likely be more of a minority than I already am.

So, I am trying to have a new outlook on living outside the city because people only stare when they want to know more about me, and maybe about my culture. It’s a hard job being the non-official ambassador for an ethnic group, but somebody’s got to do it, So why not me?

It's hard being the different-looking one, but the perk is almost everyone will know you and remember you. You’ll stand out in the crowd when you’re networking, and even if people don’t remember your name, they will remember your face.

Recently I went to a small get-together and I introduced myself to someone, and they answered, “Oh I know you, I’ve seen you around” and I thought, Wow, I can’t believe someone remembered my face at the event – it’s hard to tell if she remembered me because of my complexion, but I has the feeling that had something to do with it. At the event she remembered me from, I had been the only one of my ethnic background, and I think that worked to my advantage. So when it comes down to it, sometimes being a celebrity is not all bad, because people might want to rub elbows with you – you celebrity, you.

This story is part of the Infoblock "Common Problems Fitting In and How to Deal With Them". Read other stories.