Gyasi Ross: Feeling insecure about being Skin
"When I first moved from the reservation to the city, I felt like a fish out of water. Like a leopard with no spots. Like the New Kids on the Block without Donnie. Awkward. I was short and chubby. I was also a nearly-teenaged Skin, pigeon-toed with long and bushy hair – like a brown Axl Rose. I had an incredibly thick Starr School (the community from where my family comes) accent. I remember people always made fun of the way I said “bag.” Apparently it sounded like “beg.”

In short, I got teased a lot in the city. Thing is, I also got teased a lot on the rez. Through this strange cross-pollination of teasation, I became an expert on the fine art of teasing and also learned to differentiate between different types of teasing. I realized – because of my experiences being the perpetual victim of vicious wit – that all teasing is NOT created equally. There are, in fact, many specific types of teasing.

For example, on the rez, I tangled with a lot of older Skin kids and they systematically utilized a five-step process to tease me (“Wash. Repeat.”). I call it the “Build Me Up Buttercup” approach to teasing; they’d hurt me, but not too bad. They’d typically make fun of my sister’s lavender shoulder-padded shirt that I was forced to wear because we couldn’t afford to do laundry; make fun of the part of me that was not Skin (oh, 3/8ths or so); and, hit me. I would fall. Crying. They were slightly more aggressive and unsubtle on the rez than in the city. Still, I knew that we’d play kickball or basketball soon after – magically friends again.

And I usually forgot about the episode until we started again the next day.

In the city, however, it was much more passive aggressive – almost to the point where I thought the teasing was harmless, because there was no real physical aggression. I called this the non-Skin, “backstabbers” approach to teasing. See, I was much bigger by this time, and so my “friends” would tease me and sing songs (“♪Sing a song with meeeee, ♫Gyasi’s Ugleeeeee♫”) in a very friendly, smiling way. They’d make fun of my long and bushy hair, and tease me about my nose, which they said looked “broken,” as well as my big lips. I always laughed it off because, well, it was funny, right? Not everyone is born handsome or beautiful. I was just one of the unfortunate people."

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: 6.0: I’m so insecurr (Indian Country Today 7/14)

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Gyasi Ross: Fancy Skins and non-fancy Skins (6/15)