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  • All my life in New York City, people have taken me for Puerto Rican. Black Jamaican + Jewish equals Latina, in most reductive racial gazes. I was frustrated when people made this wrong assumption, as if there was only one box to be in – I was “something else” (not black, not white), just not the “else” that they thought. If I wasn't answering the “what are you?” question, I was attempting to explain – in less-than-adequate-Spanish- how it was that I wasn't Latina. But in the bodega, in the taxi, even in San Juan, it was pero mami, verdad, te pareces Portorriqueña.

    Then, I married one. I couldn't have been happier to find a home with a Boricua, someone who matched me, whose actual mix was close to mine, if in a different language. There was a chance that children would look like us, something I always worried about if I'd wound up with a white guy. With a white man- or even a black one- I feared I might disappear, with children who might physically belong to a group that I wouldn't be included in. With Juan, I was home.

    I began a new job, and when I filled out my initial paperwork, I was surprised to find myself adding my newly-acquired surname to my business cards. At work, and in most of my life, I was now Kyla Kupferstein Torres, the new name I claimed with pride. The “Ms. K” nickname from my students became “Mrs. KT”. I liked it. I worked at my old elementary and high school, and I enjoyed being someone new in someplace old. Most of all, I loved how the Jamaican Public Safety officer, sounding everything like one of my uncles, greeted me each day “Good morning, Mrs. Torres. Have a blessed day.”

    Recently, my physical therapist and I got into a conversation about being Jewish. “Wait, did you convert when you got married?” I didn't understand. But he'd been looking, not listening. Now “Torres” plus my face equaled Latina. But now, I feel less need to correct.
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