My Mongolian Spot
An ephemeral birthmark is a rare gift, connecting me to generations spanning the centuries
By Jennifer Hope Choi
June 5, 2017
First you should know: I was born with a blue butt.
So was my mother.
Thirty-two years and many thousands of miles of land, sky, and sea separated her creation from mine, yet we emerged the same: wailing, mad for first breaths,
10-fingered, 10-toed, chick-like tufts of black hair nested atop our soft skulls, and, incredibly, a wavy-bordered blue spot not unlike that of Rorschach’s inkblots, blooming across our tiny bums—blue like ice-cold lips, blue like the ocean at midnight, Picasso’s most melancholic bluest of blues.
By the time I learned about my blue butt, it was gone. Like a spy’s secret message written in vanishing ink, the spot disappeared sometime after my fourth birthday. The timing seems strange—to think that as soon as I could form my earliest memories, my blueness had already left me. In one such memory, I recall taking a shower with my mother. The water beat down on my shoulders thunderously. I’d misbehaved (perhaps, refused to wash my hair), and as I slid open the mottled glass door to escape, my mother smacked my bottom. Because this is my earliest butt-related memory, I mined it recently, hoping to uncover any clues of my former blue self. I remember wailing in the showy way children do when they’re old enough to know better, then peering behind me for proof: the fierce, fiery outline of my mother’s hand. But I can recall nothing but plain tush. I was neither red nor blue. We stood as nude as newborns, un-shy in our nakedness, water cascading across my mother’s towering body as she fumed and I wept in her shadow.
I once asked my mother why we were born blue, and she said matter-of-factly, “Because we have Mongolian blood.” Then she walked away casual-like, as if such a spurious-sounding answer did not inspire its own army of follow-up inquiries. My parents were born in South Korea, but I was born in Los Angeles, raised in a nowheresville suburb on frozen TV dinners and laugh-track sitcoms. Jennifers were American. I was American. My blue butt and Mongolian goods seemed practically mythological.
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Jennifer Hope Choi is a writer whose work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Lucky Peach, and elsewhere. She is at work on a memoir about her mother’s sudden relocation to the Alaska panhandle.