Lacy, oh Lacy

Growing up, I had this deep sense of self-loathing. Mostly because I couldn’t accept who I am.

It wasn’t always like this.

I don’t think I came into the world self-conscious of my curly hair, darker skin, and perhaps strange features that originated from a mix of my parents.

I don’t remember the moment this consciousness developed, especially as I had quite a mixed upbringing in the Philippines, the UK and the early days in UAE … but eventually, I realised I was (and am) very different.

As I glanced around my primarily white peers at every stage of the education system and the working world, from retail to tech, a feeling of shame followed me everywhere I went.

At 12 years old, I went to the cloakroom to put a class photograph we had just printed into my school bag. That’s when I overheard sniggering from a group of boys. They were mocking how much I “stuck out” in the school photograph because I was darker than the rest of the class; they even compared me to a monkey.

My experiences in early childhood don’t stop there, and for the longest time, I convinced myself that I was just not enough because of my background.

Olivia Rodrigo wrote a song called “Lacy” in her latest album “GUTS”. I don’t know about you, but I connect with lyrics most in songs, which is probably why Taylor Swift’s work resonates with me a lot. Who writes “Machiavellian” in a song? She does. I digress…

Another beauty of art is how everyone interprets it differently. The song “Lacy” describes Olivia’s envy of her white peers for being “accepted” as the standard – beauty and beyond. Olivia herself has a Filipino background, which was one of the reasons I tuned into her in the first place because I don’t see many very successful, mainstream Filipino young women out there. She was and is a breath of fresh air!

“And I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you
Yeah, I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you”

Every time I listen to the song, I feel sad about how relatable it is. All my life, I wished I was someone else, preferably white, blue-eyed, tall and blonde. I thought about how much easier my life would be as people would not doubt my credibility in speaking English or think that I “amounted to nothing” because I’m from a third world country.

Although I don’t get such intrusive, self-loathing thoughts these days, they do cross my mind sometimes.

Actually, it’s worth calling out that I’ve been quite proud of myself in my early twenties as I had gone through a transformation of real self-love. That includes loving my odd personality, how I can be quirky, annoying and weird and honouring the roots that made me… me.

A sense of satisfaction also washed over me when I occasionally saw former school bullies who used to mock my darker skin struggle to tan to achieve my natural skin colour. Or those that used to poke fun at my “small, slanted eyes” to try and replicate them with cat-eye make-up and even desperately try to maintain a curl in their hair after taunting mine.

Recently, I started to find a home in Greece (spoiler alert on my following up on last year’s blog post, “Where is home?”). I fell in love quite quickly with everything about the country and attempted to set up foundations here.

Good things don’t come easy; my year here was far from it.

Old wounds related to internalised racism opened up, and this time, it hurt more than I can even describe. I’ve wanted to write about it for months but struggled to find the words as I tried to “just get over it”.

It’s sad to say, but I can easily take racist remarks from strangers on the streets. I usually laugh it off, knowing that I will never see them again and they will continue living their little life in their tiny world. Unfortunately, I saw this and felt this more than ever in Greece.

A recent example was in a café where an old man had followed my Greek friend and me in and yelled, “Get on the plane and go home” to me.

I was a little shaken, but I let it go because, to be fair to him, it was an area that few tourists visit. I did stick out like a sore thumb. They probably hadn’t seen many people like me there and felt threatened somehow by my 5’4 (5’5 on a good day) frame. That’s OK.

But the one that hurt a lot, maybe because of all the web of complexity with folks involved, was one with a guy named… Let’s call him Christos.

Γειαααα Χρήστο! Πώς είσαι; 👋 Συγχαρητήρια, είσαι διάσημη μαλάκα! 😘


A year ago, I was introduced to Christos by the guy I was seeing at the time. Let’s call him … Thanos. This was a big deal because I was 26, naive and excited about Thanos, who had began introducing me to his friends. Maybe it was getting serious?

At first, I thought it was cool that my interests with Christos overlapped a lot, and we had some great discussions.

Obviously, wanting to be liked by my “almost-boyfriend’s” friends was important to me. They were close friends so at the very least, I would be extra nice and understanding towards them.

November 26th 2022, Thanos helped Christos move into his new apartment and treated us to pizza. During that night, Christos asked Thanos if he could help him clean his new apartment now that all the stuff was there. Thanos, being a generous, kind person, agreed.

I remember watching Christos laugh to himself slightly, then turn his attention to me, saying, “Do you want to come too? Your people are good at cleaning.” He was implying that Filipinos are usually domestic workers, which is FAR from the truth.

I don’t quite remember how I responded, but the shame of being Filipino and his words tormented me in the moment and months to come. I was humiliated.

A few days after that first incident, Thanos casually shared that the people in my neighbourhood probably thought I was “just a domestic cleaner” as I lived in a nicer side of Athens.

There was a part of me hating the fact that I wasn’t accepted, that I was ridiculed as I had once been, and that my whole heritage was seen only as cleaners when I knew we were so much more.

I mean… I am living proof of this.

From my 2018 talk at inspireWIT

I know how hard I worked to break glass ceilings all my life. My family showed me the way as they all overachieved in their respective fields. Growing up in the UK wasn’t much better when it came to this type of racism, but I guess I hadn’t heard it so upfront.

Despite this logic and facts, my brain couldn’t stop convincing me that no matter what, I’m a brown Asian and, therefore, not good enough.

Months passed, and we had numerous discussions about the incident, and he apologised a few times.

Unfortunately, I loved his company, so I continued to see him.

One night at the end of April, I got drinks with Thanos and Christos. At this point, I tried to move forward despite the previous incident. I liked this guy and wanted to make it work with his friends, too. Why? Maybe it is because I have this inherent desire to be liked (that’s another blog post 🤷)

Christos started making remarks about me learning Greek, which I was proactively doing from January until then. During this conversation, he proceeded to tell me that “no matter how hard I try” (learning Greek), I would “never be Greek”.

To be fair, that was a statement that I wholeheartedly agreed with. I was learning Greek to be able to communicate better with locals, and didn’t envision myself to sign up to be a Greek national the next day.

But what hurt, even today, in December, was looking over at Thanos and seeing him mockingly laugh at me. Like I was some kind of clown.

The same old wounds of being humiliated for not being enough… Greek, British, heck… even Filipino!

These incidents opened up old wounds and created new ones with what feels like a blade deeply stuck in them.

After that April, I stopped learning Greek altogether and, as a reflex, stopped myself from speaking Greek in front of them.

The events have looped in my head for months, and I’m honestly exhausted.

Along with a good chop of my hair along with memories and trauma it held, I write this post not for sympathy but to process and finally let go.

Original tweet

In addition, it is to confront an ugly truth: racism is obviously still alive and well – especially as we zoom out on the wider world events right now, in 2023.

From a personal perspective, I realised that I still do not truly accept myself.

Sure, I had made great progress in my early twenties, but there’s work to be done on embracing my roots, challenging my internalised racism and not letting events like this agonise me for months.

It was not worth a single calorie or string of data…

… but it is definitely worth this blog post as I finally move forward. There’s some internal work to do, and I’m ready for it.

If you’re new here, let me introduce myself. My name is Pauline Narvas, I’m a proud Filipino woman who grew up in the UK. Today, I identify as a digital nomad, currently finding a home in Greece. Nice to meet you! χαίρω πολύ 👋

8 responses to “Lacy, oh Lacy”

  1. Holy shit, Pauline, there’s so many layers to what you say and I am shaken, embarrassed, delightened, proud all at once and have so many more feelings.
    What a mess the world still is to people who don’t fit the norm. I’m sorry.

    I love who you are: you’re an amazing human being. No need to mask or cover. <3

    1. 💜 I see your comment, thank you so much for being here to support.

  2. Channa Samynathan avatar
    Channa Samynathan

    Super sad to hear this but I know that you will persevere through this. In the global tech field it is not common but when you are with locals in many places around the world it is quite common to be that “thumb” which sticks out. In all my global business travels I have experienced things which many may not even pickup on but it’s out there. Don’t worry about local small minded people. Rather go out and keep changing the world and enjoy yourself.

    1. Hey Channa! Thank you for sharing your experiences as well. It’s nice to know I’m not entirely alone in this experience! Hope it got better for you over time. 🫶

  3. Hey just dropping by to send some love. You are so talented and so good (from whatever I have read from your blog since I started following you a couple of years back). My mum brought us up thinking we are inferior to ‘English’ people because ‘we do not belong here really’. Needless to say, it was hard to shake that trauma off.

    Unfortunately, so many people remain ignorant about people’s races and ethnicities and that’s the fact of the world! It’s not their fault that they’ve never met any other Filipinos as fab as you in their (probably) small worlds. You have the opportunity to help them see and gain a new understanding of what Filipinos (and other brown Asian girls for that matter) contribute to the world.

    1. Thanks for the love and support, Jen. 💜

  4. People are disgusting. I am so glad of your resilience (even though it shouldn’t be necessary) and willingness to share your experiences

    1. Thanks for reading, ols! 🫶

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from a blog by Pawlean

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading