When I lived in this city in 1996 I tried so hard to fit in. I wore the clothes that Cuban women of my age wore on the streets—minus the pants stretched tight across my butt and the high-heeled sandals. I strained to understand every nuance of Cuban daily life even if it made no sense. I stretched my Spanish to the limits. I got on line to wait for a bus and asked “Quien es el ultimo?” (who is the last) with the best of them. Of course, I fooled no one. Teenage boys followed me down the street in a friendly way (even from behind they could tell I was an extranjera (foreigner) and tried to guess where I might be from—Argentina? They called out. Or Chile, Espana? Anywhere where there were light-haired, light-skinned women. They did not take me for a North American, but at that time there were few and it would not have been the mostly likely guess.
Now I am older, and maybe bolder, and I have blue hair so there’s no possibility of being taken for anything other than what I am. Not your grandmother’s blue hair, but the blue hair of NYC, punky blue hair that draws some looks even in New York that has seen everything—but not often blue hair on a 70 something woman. Here I draw looks of mild curiosity, a few look backs as I pass—and there is no fitting in. But it’s okay–somehow I don’t need to anymore.