I remember a time when there was no guilt associated with eating ice cream. Or when I was oblivious to the darkness of a black woman’s complexion when estimating her beauty. And when I would happily agree with criticism of the U.S., feeling like I had allies abroad.
Experience gives you wisdom. It also irrevocably destroys your innocence.
I remember realizing as a teenager that I couldn’t subsist on dessert and expect to be in shape. Getting pudgy earns you advice, and reading up confirms that advice. Ice cream and cookies for me became the mixed blessing that pesticides are to farmers today.
I remember a black female friend correcting me: T. wasn’t beautiful, but K. was, because she was light-skinned. The eyes of the black men in my dorm confirmed her position more strongly than mine. Today, I can’t help but perceive women of color through the prism that I know their culture values their beauty through.
I remember feeling the burning resentment against all things American from a large segment of people I met when I lived abroad. Their cricitisms of the U.S. had a strong undercurrent of loathing that mine didn’t. Judgments against religious bigotry and self-serving conservatism seem less valiant when they’re coupled with haughty sniping about our lack of fashion sense and stupidity.
Part of understanding the way things are makes you lose a part of you that didn’t understand enough about the way the world worked to be bothered by it.
But, then again, being bothered by something is what makes you act.