I read once, "Children serve as mirrors of their parents' forgotten selves." I basically wanted to please everyone. That was my motto from a very early age. I'm a good girl. I'm a very good girl.
I was born "Asya." In Russian, it sounds a little more like "Ash-a." I was pretty much the model Soviet child—well-behaved, polite, kind, obedient... Check, check, check.
In Riga, children were taught to be part of a group. In America, I felt very much alone, different, and not accepted. I picked up the language very quickly. I picked up the culture very quickly. And I just really wanted to be a regular American girl. They knew about blow jobs. They knew about dark lip liner and giant hoops. And I was, like, this little immigrant girl who hadn't started shaving her legs yet. I was not allowed to wear makeup, but I...at some point, had stolen my mom's, like, little, tiny chunk of a lip liner that she had lying around at the bottom of a bag. We had a pretty early bedtime, but I would sneak my Walkman, and I would listen to Z100's Love Phones. I was learning about a world that was larger than my own, and I kind of grasped what I had to do to fit in, to be cool. I told my parents I'm changing my name. I'm not gonna be Asya anymore. I shaved my legs. I wanted to be noticed, and I wanted to be pretty. I just wanted to be wanted.
里加的小孩從小就學到要合群。我在美國覺得非常孤單、格格不入、不被接納。當時我語言學得很快。也很快學到當地文化。我只是想當個非常普通的美國女生。他們懂什麼是口交。他們知道深色唇線和大圓耳環。而我就是個移民小女生，連刮腿毛都還不會。家裡不准我化妝，但我...有一次從我媽那邊偷走了她包包深處的一小支唇線筆。我們家很早睡，但我會偷渡隨身聽，偷聽 Z100 的《愛情電話》（註一）。我開始認識自己以外的世界有多大，隱約知道怎麼做才能融入、才能變酷。我跟我爸媽說我要改名。我再也不當 Asya。我刮了腿毛。我想被注意，也想變漂亮。我只是想被喜歡。
In high school, I was known as the new, exotic girl. And I kept thinking to myself, if they only knew. When male attention first came my way, I ate it up, and I also defined myself by it. I still didn't know how to displease. I really didn't know how to say no, definitely not with any kind of strength. I took these flowers—these dumb, blue flowers as I went up to his very dingy room. All I remember is crying, having my clothes taken off, and then him asking me if I wanted to order Chinese food in bed. I cried. I said, "God, that was dumb of me and so slutty. This is so embarrassing." And then I put it away for over a decade.
Eventually, I stopped being a rag doll. Of course, then I gave birth to one daughter, followed by a second daughter. I realized that in order to raise strong women, I had to become a strong woman myself. I need to make sure that they have a better sense of self than I had. I didn't have friends in this country. I felt very much rejected. So, one of the constant conversations we're having is about inclusivity. How can we be kind to the people that need it the most? I think of myself as a defender of my daughters' little spirits. And I know that even though our world is changing, it is gonna chip away at this inner strength that already exists. So, my job is to help preserve that strength and teach them to have faith in it. These little freedoms throughout their childhood are going to teach them to listen to their own inner voice. And they will know that they are as worthy as anyone else of making their own decisions. And if they're not the most polite girls on the block, I don't give a—
註一：《愛情電話》是當時美國的廣播節目，在 Z100 這個電台播出。