Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Problem with being "Exotic"

What is it with the whole idea of being "exotic" that people find so fascinating and attractive? No one wants to be found interesting or attractive just because of their ethnicity. Of course, that kind of stuff can play into it, but it shouldn't be the sole reason for anything.

I'm tan. Get over it. 
I am from a small suburb where most people wear SPF 50 if they plan to be in the sun for more than 30 minutes. Seeing as I tan easily, never burn and happen to have super dark eyes and hair, I tend to stand out. Of course, America is a melting pot, so people do not usually assume I am too different. However, a lot of people wonder about my ethnicity. I'll tell you right now- I'm 1/4 Japanese, 1/16th Native American and the rest is the typical American mess of European lineage. My strange Japanese and Native American mix really just means I have high cheek bones, slightly different eyes and dark hair. I could be a wide array of ethnicities. This is the problem.

Guys have a thing for "exotic" girls. During high school, I went mostly unnoticed. Not like weird girl with the stained hoodie unnoticed but, you know, just a girl. However, more than once, a guy found out I was part Asian and immediately found me more attractive. I get it, Asian girls are hot, I'm not here to argue about that, but I'm the first to (sadly) admit that I do not look Asian. I lost the awesome slanty eyes around age 10 or so. So please tell me, why does the mere fact, not physical evidence of my Asian decent result in a couple extra notches on the hot meter?

I now live in Argentina and thanks to my ethnicity mix, I blend in incredibly well. No one would suspect that I am anything from Argentine just by looking at me. In fact, because I learned my Spanish in this country, I can often speak without anyone knowing. It is usually not until further into a conversation that anyone will find out that I am actually American. I cannot tell you how annoying their change in demeanor is. Guys suddenly find me fascinating, ever so beautiful and, let's face it, a sweet trophy.

I'm proud of where I was born and where my parents were born. However, being foreign makes it difficult to see who is sincere and who isn't. It was much easier in the States but being here, I am a gringa and people love gringas. Not just guys and not just for dating. Everyone wants to practice their English and I am the perfect person to use. I'm glad to help, but I hate feeling like I am everyone's conversation partner.

Has anyone else ever felt like being "exotic" has resulted in extra, unwanted attention?


  1. You are not alone! I studied abroad in Argentina and was hit on so many times by students in my classes that it got annoying. (I was popular not because I looked like a super model, but because I was the exotic foreign student). Meanwhile, the girls weren't interested in talking to me at all. Very interesting dynamic!

  2. Leslie, I'm glad you agree though sorry it has happened to you too! It's one thing to be hit on, but to feel like it has nothing to do with anything other than where you were born is extra annoying.

  3. I don't think it's really that complex. People are attracted to things that are different. Perhaps they see it as something new, exciting, as if they're entering a new world; it's an experience.

    And I don't know why you find it to be a bother. It'll make it easier to weed out the people who see you as a novelty, and discover the people who are well-travelled and look at you for who you are rather than their idea of who you are.

    Also, you might look more unique than you think.

  4. Hilarious, and not surprising.. at least to me.

    I was born in the US but raised in Argentina. My dad is from there and my mom is from Texas. When word got out at school that Mom spoke to me in English, and that I was actually born in the US, I started getting a lot of attention.

    At first, the bad type. Anti-Americanism was at its highest point during the 90s. I got told things like "Volvete a tu pais, yanqui de mierda".

    Then, when High School started, I got more attention, but form boys. I don't look any different than a random American or Argentine, but just the little fact that I was born in "yanquilandia" made me exotic and popular. Very trophy-ish, as you say.

    Now, as an adult, I draw lines. Only my closest friends know the truth about me. But when I'm in the US, I'm American. And in Argentina, I'm just another Argentine. It's sad that I have to keep who I am "a secret", but honestly, it works to my advantage that way.

  5. @Carla - So frustrating! I don't hide it but I do try to avoid admitting it, not out of lack of pride of who I am and where I am from, but for the ridiculous attention!

    @Charlie- I agree that it helps me weed people out, which is nice, but sometimes it's hard to tell who likes me for who I am or who likes me for where I am from!

  6. Well, since I'm a boy, people really don't care about/don't notice as we girls, so +1 for the male gender into going unnoticed.