I swear I wasn’t misbehaving, but minding my business while looking through the modest collection of crummy Russian DVDs at the local West Hollywood Library! Those things looked like they’ve been excavated out of the buried Chernobyl reactor: with their Xeroxed black-and-white covers and shredded cases that must’ve contained more ex-Soviets’ fingerprints than the American Embassy in Moscow. Still: I was curious. Or was I brushing up on my native language, which according to my Motha’, sounds Chinese to her ears?
“Oi, Verra!” she usually moans whenever I attempt to communicate to her in my mother tongue. “Dan’t push eet.”
So, I was in my preoccupied 5-year old’s state, sitting in a lotus position on the Library carpet and yanking the filthy covers out of the misfiled line-up on the shelf. To me, shit like this — is the very height of romanticism: so archaic and old-country it feels! And I wasn’t particularly squeamish about the germs I was going to harvest from this little adventure; because just like those tortured DVDs, I too have lived through Chernobyl. So, chances are: my Motha‘ Land has granted me an inhumanly high tolerance for all viruses.
The first thing I noticed about him — were his shoes. Actually, I had no choice, because those things entered my sphere with no hesitation. They were those clunky, white kicks reminiscent of the nursing shoes better belonging on the shelf of Payless than on a self-respecting male who’s flipped through at least a single issue of GQ or Esquire in his life. But boom! There they were, at my right hip, not even as much as looming but stubbornly intruding. And right off the bat, I knew their owner had to be my former countryman; so I braced myself.
(A little confession here, my comrades: I’ve never shagged a Russian. It’s a choice, really, because no matter my personal nostalgia for certain old ways of my Motha’ Land, I am not a fan of the Russian males’ swagger. I have yet to encounter a specimen who will approach me without an element of ownership, as if he’s been fucking me for a coupla years. Don’t get me wrong: I respect their badass Alpha-male-ness! But in my bedroom, I want me a happy combination of Steve McQueen and George Clooney; and there ain’t nothin’ debonair about most Russian ex-patriots I’ve had the pleasure to ward off.)
The shoes loomed at my side, until my act of ignoring them started to seem ridiculous and uncomfortable; so, fuck it: I looked-up! And sure enough: from the shoelaces, along the pant of his girly jeans; to the black t-shirt with Ed-Hardy-esque silver writing, the bling around his neck, all the way up to his un-styled buzz cut — this playa was Made in the USSR. The deadpan on his face altered at a microscopic level when he assumed that very smirk of ownership mentioned above:
“Aren’t you a wild riddle?”
Yep. That is the most precise translation of his first approach of a woman he barely knew, my comrades; but even my bi-lingual talents fail in describing the level of brazen familiarity in his tone.
Normally, in such a set-up, I would put on my Is There a Problem? expression; but the content of the Russian’s pick-up line caught me off-guard. (At least, I think it was a pick-up line.) Now, I am no motorcycle-riding, fire-spewing, gun-shooting, male-taming Angelina Jolie; but behind the wheel of my car or the closed doors of my bedroom, I do tend to unleash a lil’. And lately, the degree of wildness has grown significantly because 1. I’ve run-up some serious mileage to hell ‘n’ back this last year; 2. I am a woman on a mission; and 3. I’ve got NO time to spare en route to that mission. Unless resting my messy head upon the chiseled pecs of my lover, I move fast and stubbornly upright.
Many a men have been left scratching their heads on the origin of my olive skin and my character, as equally untamed as my hair. To this town’s casting directors and agents, the task of boxing me into a category appears burdensome and repeatedly annoying. To them, I am either too brown or not brown enough; never Slavic-sounding but ambiguously European. But my acidic sense of humor and refusal to draw smiley faces on sign-up sheets, next to my now Latin sounding stage name, has definitely chalked me up into a category of “intense” and just generally: “not from around here.”
As for the mortals not in the business of casting, I tend to unsettle them quite easily. Just the other night, a middle-aged white woman began interrogating me about the name of my hair stylist:
“Who did your hair this morning?” she interrupted my tete-a-tete with another “ethnically ambiguous” brown girl.
“No one,” I said, quite plainly, and nodded.
The white woman’s irritation jumped a hundred degrees immediately: “Did YOU do it?”
“No,” I said, now smiling politely. “My hair does its own thing.”
“YES! But what I mean! Is…” Whatever her problem, the lady began to over-articulate, as if I were some FOB innocent she met Walmart. “Did you — DO something to it?!”
As you can probably tell, my comrades, that interaction didn’t go over well; because after a 70-hour work week and 3-to-5 hour nights of sleep due to the stubborn pursuit of my dreams, I was not in the mood to tippy-toe around that white woman’s unreasonably hateful, uncalled-for tone. But I had to quickly forgive her for the inability to decipher “the wild riddle” of V. Perhaps, she would be more pleased if I cooperated a little, or got intimidated. Or perhaps, it would be more convenient if I didn’t enter her sphere at all. But in this day and age of not only post-colonial but fully globalized world, I believe she is the one the minority. And that minority — is ignorance.