Lua Harmsen Howard

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WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE “NORMAL?” –

She had to be different. She couldn’t just be “normal.” Whenever Lua had to make a decision, she just couldn’t follow the crowd.

“That girl, she always has to be some sort of a rebel! Who does she think she is?” That’s what she hears people say.

Even as a kid she just couldn’t do it. Other little girls wanted pigtails. Lua boldly stated she wanted to cut her hair as short like a boy. This made her look more like she felt, not at all a girly girl but neither a tomboy.

It might have been her family’s fault. To begin her parents were an interracial couple: her father, American, and her mother, Brazilian. I guess as bi-racial kid growing up in suburban Pennsylvania she just decided that she wouldn’t fit into either group, so she would make her own, a hybrid group that gets to do it all.

Her parents also decided to name her Lua. That didn’t help her on the ‘normal’ front very much. How many kids do you know named Lua? I’m not sure how many people are used to telling someone they meet their name and having them always exclaim “what?” but she’s used to it. It means, “moon” in Portuguese, but that’s not exactly why they decided to name her that. Lua Getsinger, the original, was an enthusiastic and theatrical early nineteenth century woman who dedicated her life to teaching people about the Baha’i Faith, the third point that made little Lua so different from her classmates.

The Baha’i faith is a fairly recent religion based on the values of unity in diversity. Being a part of this group brought Lua in contact

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with all sorts of people. For as long as she can remember, she met black people, white people, Arab people, Native American people, Hispanic people, all sorts of people. She was taught to treat all of them like family. She also met lots of kids who, like her, were mixed. She learned that people who were different didn’t have to reject each other and being different from someone else wasn’t bad.

Now, Lua attends school in Puerto Rico. Nothing has changed for her. She is still not hard to pick out of a line-up. She is tall, for starters, peering over the heads of a lot of Puerto Ricans her age (and older). Her brown hair, the pride and joy of a young lady, is short like a boy on one side and longer than her shoulders on the other. Her features are somewhat exotic and hard to place; her ethnicity could be confused with a number of different countries. Her style doesn’t exactly fit in with any specific style. I think they call that eclectic.

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If you asked anyone to describe her, the first thing they would mention would probably be the ring, the ring that is such a small aspect of who she is overall. It’s the ring she only sees maybe once or twice a day as she glides past a mirror but it still manages to shock three or four new passersby in a day. The small hoop ring in her nose is called a septum piercing, and it’s just like those used by many African, Asian and American native tribes. She forgets about it all the time but loves the symmetry and flash it brings to her face.

A rebel would be someone going against the rest for that purpose of being different. Lua is not a rebel. She doesn’t care about what is current among most people. She knows that there is nothing wrong with being different, with being who you are. We’re all different already, why do people fight it?

5 Comments

  1. I think a lot of us can identify with your story Lua, that’s why it is so effective. What’s most impressive of all is the fact that you managed to find a solid identity where it seems like there would be none, thanks to issues with cultural mestizaje.

  2. Lua is brave. I enjoyed this story because I can relate to it and I too was looked at differently for doing things that made me comfortable but for everyone else was abnormal.

  3. The thing i liked most about this story is that Lau redefined what meant to be “normal” in her time. She wasn’t satisficed with what she got in life and she demanded more. That’s an awesome quality for a person. Great read.

  4. Lua sounds like she is something else! I can feel like she is one of those people you meet and will mark your life forever.

  5. very cool and interesting story

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