My monolids (do not) mean I'm ugly

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 12:07am

Jakin Zhang

Jakin Zhang Buy this photo
Courtesy of Jakin Zhang

I grew up drawing eyelids on all of my stick figures so that they could look pretty — well, as pretty as a stick figure could get. I took long looks in the mirror and touched the soft space above my eyelashes, miserable about the fact that I had been born with monolids. Like many of my Asian American peers, I was cursed with the inability to physically fit in properly with my white classmates who were busy exploring different eyeliner shapes on their perfect double lids. I mean, I can’t say I didn’t also explore. But, it was beyond devastating to stare back at myself in the mirror, long black lines distorted under the single fold of my eyelid, crushed by the way the makeup looked on me. I was never going to look like the rest of these girls.

My prepubescent self spent hours raking through the Internet, from YouTube tutorials to women’s beauty magazines, searching for ways to “grow” a second eyelid or at least fake the illusion of one. I ogled at these videos of accomplished Asian American women who expertly spoke of how an eyelid could be artificially formed by drawing on creases halfway onto the monolid using heavier eyeshadows or a layer of eyeliner. I read articles from Asian American women who discussed “the monolid” as if it were an unfortunate syndrome that could be remedied through proper makeup strategies. I Googled “how to get a double eyelid” and found WikiHow pages and a variety of eyelid tape products being sold on Amazon. I watched suggested vlogs and reviews of Asian American women raving about how eyelid tape changed their lives. Essentially, my childhood was a box of shame for my natural eye shape and an intense envy for these beauty gurus who seemed to master the art of deception. They had the eyes of a white girl.

It sounds so trivial, but one of the biggest things I wished so longingly for as a child was to have double lids. I can’t remember how many times classmates would comment on my eyes, telling me that they were so small. A second eyelid would’ve helped, I told myself. My eyes would look bigger if I just had that. I recall how my dance instructors and fellow dancers would laugh at how amateur my makeup looked, even though it was the same way we all learned to put on competition makeup...it just didn’t work the same way with a monolid. Years later, when I learned to do a gradient eyeshadow, which was supposedly a more flattering look for monolids, my eyes were still the center of attention because, “who put on makeup like that?”

It wasn’t until the very end of high school that I began to feel more comfortable with the way my eyes looked. I can’t honestly say that I fully appreciate them just yet though, as I still feel bouts of uncertainty and low self-esteem over my monolids, especially considering that a close friend of mine recently underwent cosmetic surgery to get double eyelids. But what I know I can confidently say right now is that you, my beloved monolids, are just as equal and worthy of love. It has taken me so long to realize that all of the “empowering” Youtube videos and articles about how to cover up a monolid were reinforcing my negative feelings about being born with different phenotypic features from most white Americans. They preached ways to achieve that double eyelid look, they encouraged uncomfortable products that modified the monolid into a sort of skin fold, and they made my nine-year-old self feel that I was unnatural. Unappreciated. And unattractive. I felt that way for almost my entire life. But today, I am celebrating my monolids. I am happy with my bare eyes. I know that I look different, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I have grown older, I have also grown to understand that there is an appreciation in difference. There is beauty in diversity, and my monolids do not mean that I am ugly.