Like most of my young students in Japan, Maya was curious about her Western teachers, making it a point to pinch my backside every day. Following school policy, I said nothing. She was little, after all. But the day Maya fondled my bosom, I told my boss. She only laughed: “Too big,” she said, gesturing at my chest. “Beautiful.” I was stunned. No one had ever called my chest “big and beautiful” before.
In the American South, where I was raised, the locals grow tall and sturdy, like racehorses. The people in my Italian/Guatemalan gene pool, however, were miniature and frail, like chihuahuas. In middle school, I heard one of the popular boys say: “Eva would be pretty but she’s too short.” By high school graduation, I was so self-conscious that I wore high heels every day; wearing platforms to the beach while my friends luxuriated in flip-flops. I moved to New York City for college, hoping I might fit in better there, but I was still forced to shop in the children’s department. Even in my 20s, I always winced at my reflection in windows when I went on dates, at the image of a man leading his little sister by the hand.