This is an excerpt from Elizabeth Flux’s non-fiction piece, How To Build A Eurasian Wardrobe. To read more, and discover other essays and creative pieces exploring the theme ‘binary’, pick up a copy of the 2018 Antithesis Journal, launching October 9th!
How To Build a Eurasian Wardrobe
White T-Shirt, Pink Shorts
In this kindergarten boys wear yellow, girls wear pink, and no one really pays much attention to the fact that you have brown hair even though everyone else’s is black. We all speak the same monosyllabic language and we all have the same accent. Clothes and hair don’t matter. The bigger concern is trying not to get a turtle stamp in your diary—it means you’re doing badly. ‘Slow’. Focus on getting a rabbit instead.
Tartan Pinafore, White Skivvy, the Undies with Rabbits on Them
Uniform policy says that undies are supposed to be green, but who would have thought the teachers would check? The other children laugh even more than that time you didn’t know the difference between a skirt and a dress. It’s hard to explain that back home—at old home, you mean—there’s just one word (kwan) that covers both.
China Doll Pyjamas × 3
You’ve already outgrown the pink pair, but the green should last you the rest of the year. The top buttons up, and the pockets have a boy and an ox embroidered on them. The trousers match exactly until you climb down from your chair the wrong way and knock your scab, creating a blood stain that never fully washes out.
Power Ranger Tracky Dacks
They’re a hand-me-down from your older cousin and you wear them to casual clothes day. Pretty much everyone else is wearing Esprit. On the playground you use the seesaw wrong, walking back and forth until you find the perfect balance. Then, when the two sides are level you shift one foot, just a little, and as the plank tilts you quickly lean the other way to offset it. A teacher yells at you to stop because it’s dangerous. Twenty years later you’ll wonder if this is a metaphor for being Eurasian, only to chastise yourself thirty seconds after that for being so literal about things.
The Dress That Looks Like a Cake
You love it, because it seems like something Barbie would wear—it stretches all the way down to the ground and fluffs out because of all the ruffles. Each layer has a red trim. You get to wear it two days in a row—on the second occasion your mum comes with you to the classroom, and your teacher leads everyone outside as you explain exactly what an Australian citizenship ceremony is. Well, your mum does.
Fifteen years later you’ll have some trouble applying for a new passport because in the early nineties Chinese names are still unfamiliar territory and the person who listed your name on the back of the citizenship form left out the space between the ‘Tien’ and the ‘An’. You’ll have to file a bunch of forms to fix it. In the meantime, your driver’s licence doesn’t match your passport or your birth certificate.
‘A Vietnam Hat’
Your teacher sets everyone a country to make a poster about, and you’re assigned Vietnam. Once you’ve painstakingly copied out everything Encarta Encyclopedia ’95 has to say on the topic, you set about drawing a picture to go with it. When your dad walks by and sees you colouring in the people you’ve drawn with lines for eyes wearing triangular hats, he starts laughing and can’t stop.
A few months later your parents come back from a holiday with the one thing you asked for—a ‘Vietnam hat’. Later when you look at the solitary picture of you wearing it, you’ll cringe, only in part because your younger self decided to pair it with electric blue overalls and platform shoes.
Image by Eduardo Aigner, used with permission.