When I was six, my family and I moved us to a commuting town, a pastoral shit hole really, but I was deluded and happy and 6. I was almost obsessively excited to make new friends and play with other kids. Change was never one to scare but stir me on and give me butterflies instead – leaving me always on the edge of a good ol’ nervous giggle.
I only remember two things about the first day.
1) Playing dizzy dinosaurs in a vast panoramic playground that looked like it would stretch to the ends of the Earth and feeling the cool wind on my face and feeling wonderfully wild, almost feral, and being in touch with myself and all that shit.
2) And straight after, asking a ginger girl to hang out, and her refusing my request with the most audacious response ever (nothing has topped it till this day) “I’m not allowed to play with pakis”.
I stood there, clueless of what had just happened, whilst it was still happening. All that fearless beautiful shit that I had cultivated in my dizzy dinosaur sesh, ripped to shreads, suddenly I felt lethargic and helpless, being dragged away by another friend from the situation. Like a lumpy cold stone.
I didn’t know what that word really meant, or how it was used to dehumanise and homogenise people on the pigment-spectrum of brown, but I knew how it made me feel: utterly devoid of control. I didn’t like that I couldn’t control little ginger’s first impression of me.
I can’t remember if I felt that kind of otherness before that day. But I feel it now. Every time I meet new people alongside other friends, I read in to their faces a sad thing that’s probably not there: dismissal. Is it because I’m brown? Is it because she’s white? I have to be funny to compensate. I have to be noticed. I need them to see me.
But then again, I do it too. There’s more to little ginger than being ginger. Is it prejudice that I can’t remember her name? Was it Amy? Does everyone feel like they’re wearing a big bulky coat that they can’t seem to take off – that’s covering everything special about who they are?
Blast little ginger. Who knows if she began this pattern. Either way, it is mine to finish.