2016 Drake Undergrad Payton Prize Winner
Posted here by permission of the author.
The Urban Dictionary Definition that Saved Me
by Anie Salgado
I am what you might call a vaguely caramel-colored person. Racially ambiguous to say the least. At various points throughout my life I have been visually categorized as Hispanic, Mexican (which is the same thing depending on what level of racist you ask), Native American, Indian (no, the other kind of Indian), Italian, Persian, and just a white girl with a killer tan. And all the internal speculation in the world won’t stop the barista behind the counter from asking, “so, like, what are you?”
The short answer is that I am Mexican American. Or at least, that’s the answer everyone is looking for. My mother’s side is white American. Like, really white American (we can trace our family tree back 700 years through Wales, Scotland, and Germany). My dad on the other hand, is Mexican, with the classic indigenous dark skin and darker hair, complete with an accent and a Cruz Azul Soccer League t-shirt. And lo and behold, my sister and I are right in the middle, vacillating between being my father’s daughters or my mother’s daughters depending on how much sun we’ve gotten recently.
The real answer is something more like “inarticulate mumbling followed by a shoulder shrug” because even though Mexican American is my lineage, it doesn’t really answer the question “what are you.”
In spite of my parent’s best efforts to instill in me pride my heritage, I have spent my life idolizing the Ashleys and Courtneys and Jordans. I went to white schools that only half-heartedly taught language and where the very few Hispanic kids were really Hispanic. They were also, coincidentally, looked down upon as the problem students: loud, promiscuous, poor, and ill-behaved—Wheaton North’s designated high school drop-outs. And while of course I know these stereotypes to be poisonous, as a sixteen year old honors student surrounded by some of the richest and whitest kids in the country, let alone the school, Hispanic was not the thing to be.
My poor parents. They really did try. But my early insistence that I wanted to be just like all the other Courtneys, Ashleys, and Jordans put a stop to any hope I might have had at being the sort of ethnic girl you expect when faced with a caramel-colored, what-are-you-worthy other.
Even my roommates, who know me embarrassingly well, who study sociology and law, who marched for Michael Brown and voted for Obama, fall prey to the evident Venus Fly Trap that is my racial ambiguity. Lounging around on Buzzfeed one afternoon they decided that while Jordan (her actual name—kill me) was Aurora because she liked to sleep a lot, and Lauren was Belle because she liked to read, if I was a Disney princess I would be Jasmine, because I’m brown.
And the confusing part is that while white people can only see my brown-ness, brown people can only see my whiteness.
Sitting in an art class in high school, chatting with my tablemates, Mario, an outgoing (if not occasionally obnoxious) actual Hispanic kid told me that I couldn’t pull off the big hoop earrings that I was wearing because it looked like I was trying too hard to be Latina. “And you’re not Latina,” he laughed. It’s not my fault certain things (like big hoops, fake nails, and long skirts worn with strappy heels reminiscent of a Salsa dancer) emphasize my ethnicity more than conservative studs might. But what could I say? I wasn’t and I’m not Latina. Not enough, as Mario said, to casually wear it and not get special attention for it.
So there’s my limbo: not Hispanic, not white. Stuck in identity purgatory.
I don’t know who that bothers more: me, or the barista squinting at me behind the French press, gathering up the courage to ask that fateful question. Because everyone has an opinion and ambiguity is not okay, and anyone who tells you otherwise has never been asked what species of person they are.
The name “Anie” doesn’t help. Pronounced like “Annie,” it’s an old lady name. Specifically a name for long dead old white ladies and regularly dead old Black ladies. And clearly I am neither.
The dropped N confuses people. My legal name is Ana Gabriela Salgado. It’s pretty when you say it out loud, go ahead, try it. I like my name, but I always feel a bit pretentious when I say it the way it’s meant to be said, sort of like one of those people who say Par-ee instead of just staying Paris. My parents must have felt the same way, because I’m only ever “Ana” on the first day of class or in the Customs and Immigration line (and even then it’s usually “Anna”).
I, like many non-white people with non-white names living in a very white society, have a very colored history with my name. And I have only ever been validated in that discomfort. If you look up “Anie” under Urban Dictionary you’ll find:
A cute word for anus. Often used in conjunction with other cute words; eg. penie, giney
“May I put my penie in your anie? Please?”
In a world where Ana is defined as
A beautiful girl, she’s never sure of what she wants hates commitments. There [isn’t] a person in the world that doesn’t enjoy talking to her. Guys are the main thing In her life, she gets attached easily but can get over a guy in a few weeks. She doesn’t like having an “owner” she flies her own way.
Her smile can brighten your day anytime, she is always laughing, and is easily pleased. She always wants what she can’t get. She has big expectations, and always expects the unexpected.
The name for the most awesome person ever, It is impossible to fit so much awesome into any other person.
“You think your as awesome as Anna? well you cant be because Anna is so amazingly awesome”
and Annie as
the coolest and baddest motherfuckin bitch alive. she is known for being fierce and independent, she will kick your ass.
“that girl is an annie.”
I’m stuck with “cute anus.” But I’m not Anna, or Annie, or even Ana, I’m not white, or Latina, and I’m certainly not Princess Jasmine.
And I shouldn’t have to be.
So, on a day much like any other day (but especially like October 7th, 2012), I added a definition.
A nickname for “Ana,” the Spanish equivalent to “Anna,” or “Anita”
“Hi, I’m Ana, but you can call me Anie.”
It has since been up voted 11 times (and down voted twice, which confuses me), but that was never really the point. Seeing it there, hovering quietly under cute anus, forever, was validating. Because suddenly I had a real definition. And somehow that meant I was just as legit and normal as the Annies and Annas and Anas.
So what am I?
“Hi, I’m Ana, but you can call me Anie.”
Anie Salgado is a Writing, Sociology, and Gender Studies student in her fourth and final year at Drake University. You might spot her procrastinating at the local movie theater or coffee shop or in Periphery’s table of contents. She believes in ghosts, the unrivaled goodness of dogs, and the oxford comma.