When I was a kid at the age of 9, I felt a little like an outsider. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but they were all pretty, with blonde or blondish hair. Somehow it wasn’t just my slightly doughy exterior that made me feel this way, or my brown hair and crooked teeth. Something about me felt different but I couldn’t place my finger on it.
When I would play with dolls, it was mostly for fashion. However, when it came to Barbies, they felt like they had a story to me. My mother gave me her Barbies from the 1950’s for my birthday when I was quite young. Growing up I felt like her dolls were reminiscent of high fashion and glamour. When it came time for me to get Barbies of my own generation, someone gave me one with bleach blonde hair.
This Barbie was very much of the California kind and echoed everything every guy ever wanted according to the Beach Boys songs I heard from my father’s record collection. When we would go to a garage sale, often times I would find Barbies; with blonde hair. Even Barbie’s sister Skipper had blonde hair. Their measurements looked like they were all an unattainable 39″, 18″, 33″.
As I got older and had more of the freedom of choice when it came to dolls, I tried very hard to find a Barbie that looked like me. They didn’t have dolls who looked like they might be silly, and slightly roundish. They didn’t have any dolls at that time who resembled girls who were of Native American descent. The closest I could get was one with brown hair. Immediately I shelled out my Christmas money to purchase the blue-eyed doll I would play with a few times and leave in her periwinkle ballerina costume. Something inside me still wasn’t satisfied.
In my last year of playing with dolls, my grandparents took me with them to the store. They told me I could purchase a Barbie if it was under a certain amount. I wanted the African American Barbie. Her name was Devon. She was beautiful, and more importantly, she understood me and what it was like to be different. She wasn’t dressed in all pink, she only used it as an accent color. In fact she was wearing a “rocker” dance club outfit, which meant (obviously) she understood my taste in music. She understood, period.
Fast forward to this year. I’m now 26 years older. Still different, but have since learned how to embrace and handle it. For Christmas instead of getting dolls and beloved tiny tea cup sets, I get practical, useful things…and an Ancestry DNA test.
My husband decided to surprise me with this gift, to use his words, “Because you’ve been talking about wanting to do this since we’ve been married.” My family is a bit of a mystery on my mother’s side since her parents were in the foster system. It wasn’t until recently we’ve had some confirmation of roots in Great Britain and Germany. My dad’s side has some ambiguous roots in Western Europe and Germany but one thing we were sure of is we were descended from the Choctaw.
We waited weeks for the test results to come in. My husband decided to do the test as well to trace his ancestry back even further. He didn’t know what to expect with his results. I on the other hand, was expecting a high percentage in Native American and European Jewish.
The other morning as I was getting ready for work, I came in to the bedroom to see my husband staring at his phone with bleary eyes. Being concerned I asked, “Everything Okay?”
“The test results came in.”
As we sat and looked at them together, he clicked on mine.
It was like a scene in action movies where there are loud explosions. Finally one is so deafeningly loud everything else becomes quiet and you have ringing in your ears. As my eyes went down the list of each culture they could trace me back to, it was like mini-explosions saying, “Knew that, knew that…” Then came two very loud explosions.
“2% Spanish” boom.
“>1% Melanesian” Ka-BOOM.
My entire life, my father and I were told we were Choctaw. For something that was to give clarity, it ended up adding more mysteries to an almost filled in family tree.
The test however, confirmed my intuition about being different. Even though this is only 3% of me, it confirmed why I never felt like I fully fit in. Even though it gave me closure and insight on my ethnic background, it now gives myself and my family more questions as to how we got here.
It confirmed I had more in common with my Devon doll than previously thought.
Have you done a DNA Ancestry test? Were you surprised at what you found? How did it compare to your family tree?