For some people, being themselves is never good enough. It’s guaranteed that you’ve met dozens of people like this in your life, starting way back in grade school with that one kid who just discovered lying and couldn’t tell the truth if his life depended on it, all the way up to today with someone at work or in your family who’s always late — not because they slept in, but because a yak escaped from the zoo and tried to mate with their car on their freeway. They have to spin yarns about how unusual and weird their lives are, because a normal life like the rest of us have just isn’t good enough. And quite often, they’ll pick one of these four ways to express their complete bullshittery to you.
#4. Native Blood
I happen to live near several First Nations reservations and know a good number of Native people. Never once have I met one who boasted of being one-eighth Swedish. However, a lot of white people are pretty stoked that their great-great-great-great-grandfather may have had an illicit affair with / raped a Cherokee princess, and that’s why they could probably handle a bow and arrow if a zombie apocalypse ever shows up.
In 2000, about 729,000 Americans identified as Cherokee. By 2010, that number had risen to 820,000. More than any other tribe, Cherokee is the one people are pretty sure they have an ancestor from, despite not being able to name the ancestor or show any proof of such an ancestor, because such an ancestor never existed. It’s not just guys who squint in the sun and look like Steven Seagal who think this way, either. Celebrities like Johnny Deep, Johnny Cash, and Miley Cyrus have all been pretty sure they’re Cherokee as well.
A heritage they have always treated with the respect it deserves.
So if your boss isn’t Cherokee, why does he keep telling people he is every Thanksgiving? There’s a long, robust history behind this bullshit that first stems from a hint of reality and then gets shat about by idjits, as is the case with most things. Cherokee Indians had been living in the southeast U.S. for about 600 years by the time Europeans showed up. And being a savvy people, they started marrying Europeans to solidify trade deals and other such business relationships, the way people did back in the day.
Then one day the Trail of Tears happened. The government didn’t want any Native tribes just wandering around doing as they pleased, and tried to usher them all together in a forced upheaval. The Cherokee, as it happens, were some of the most educated amongst the tribes at the time, and were also some of the most resistant to their forced displacement. Now picture this idea of an educated group of individuals and businesspeople, in the South, being told by the government that they couldn’t stay in their homes and fighting to resist it. In the South, the Cherokee became heroic figures — fighting the government that tried to take their land and tell them how to live. Combine this with their openness to living with and intermarrying with other cultures, and they were just the friendliest, coolest kids on the block. Who wouldn’t want to be part Cherokee?
Probably these guys, right about then.
White Southerners began claiming Cherokee ancestry as a sort of social status. They had a Cherokee princess grandmother who fought against the meddlesome government, despite the fact there’s no such thing as a princess in Cherokee culture.
A more sinister motive lies in how, after the Trail of Tears, members of the Cherokee Nation were entitled to compensation from the federal government. And if people exploiting tragedies in modern times have taught us nothing else, it’s that people love exploiting tragedies. If you could just claim to be Cherokee and get some cash back in the day, why not? Of course, most false claims were rejected, because the Cherokee have impeccable records about bloodlines and ancestry. But that’s not going to stand in the way of confused white people. Because since the Cherokee are the perfect mixed of oppressed, light-skinned, and “civilized,” they really appealed to those who wanted a little exotic flavor in their family tree, but didn’t want to resort to seeming unsavory in any way. So next time someone claims to be part Cherokee but can’t accurately detail their family tree, which they should be able to do, feel free to point all of this out.
#3. Changing Eye Color
Ever met someone who couldn’t tell you what color their eyes are? Not because they never look at their own face, but because, like an ocular chameleon, their eye color changes from green to blue to aquamarine to puce at the drop of a hat? Because they have Gandalf eyes, and no mere stable color can be applied to them? It’s not an unusual phenomenon; a lot of people claim their eyes will shift all over the spectrum based on mood or time of day or whatever. You know, real science stuff.
As long as you’re an insect.
As near as I am able to figure, people who claim to have mood rings for eyes just do so because they feel it adds a layer of mystery to them. You can’t nail them down with a single eye color like the rest of us schlubs, oh no. They’re fancy-free and oozing pantones. You’re more unique if you don’t have a single eye color. But unless you’re a husky or David Bowie, chances are your eyes do not change color. Because eyes don’t change color. You get about a solid year after you’re born during which time the pigment in your eyes develops and settles, and those are the eyes you’re stuck with until a tragic melon baller accident robs you of one.
Also, Bowie’s eyes got that way because someone punched him in the face, so maybe think twice.
Ophthalmology says that hormone changes in puberty or pregnancy can slightly alter your pigmentation for a little while, and as you age, if you have very light-colored eyes, they may fade a bit. But your blue eyes will never turn green, or vice versa.
If this news ruins the day of any free-spirited pottery majors or cryptozoologists, know that it is possible to alter the perception of your eye color with things like lighting and clothing changes. Wear complimentary colors or eye makeup to make those peepers pop, and you’ll be looking like the fictional character you think you are in no time!