I have just realized that, whereas I created an entire Flickr set for my 34th birthday, there are no pictures from my 35th. For one panicked moment this morning, I flailed around in my memory, grasping for the faintest recollection of what I had done. Thankfully, it was awesome enough that there are distinct memories of that night: a wonderful BBQ party at Chez Amarylis & Gabriel. Thank you guys!
This year around, I don’t know what to expect. So many things have changed, so many unknowns have entered the picture, so many wonderful and new elements (people, places, dynamics, energies.)
This also has meant that all those things I’ve loved from my previous birthdays won’t be nearby . And I will miss them, no doubt about that.
I will miss Bianca’s delicious beer burgers, and our trip to the supermarket, with no idea about how much ground beef to buy, and then realizing we bought too much! …and the ensuing excess burgers, which were more than welcome! I will miss Gabe’s exceptional red velvet cake, his passionate dedication to getting it right, all of it, all his baking, his projects, his enterprises. I will miss both of them sorely. They were my sanity, my stability, my lifeline to my own self, to realizing my life was as awesome as could be, and that I didn’t need anyone else to be a magnificent person.
I will miss Gabriel and Amarylis, their unending hospitality, their unconditional friendship. I will miss how cozy and loved I felt around them. Thank you, guys, for being such lovely human beings!
I will miss Bob and his penchant for drama, be it for little or for bigger things equally. I will miss having him pacing around my living room, cigarette flying from hand to mouth, telling me about his latest personal crisis or the funniest teacher anecdotes.
I will miss Vero, even if she wasn’t able to attend my last birthday. She always strived for my birthdays to be unforgettable shindigs. I still remember the one where I got to wear a princess tiara and I got a Kit Kat bar instead of cake. For things such as that, Vero, I will always consider you my wife <3
I will miss my sister–hell! I already do!–and her ability to get along with just about anyone, how easy it is for her to make me laugh… I will miss our “public theater pieces”, meaning basically how we loved over-performing for whoever was watching us. I miss having those Thursday afternoon coffees with her, our trips to Subway to pick up dinner and then heading home to binge on Doctor Who. I miss all of this to the point of tears. I also do miss Saturday mornings with Mom. Her impromptu invitations to lunch, coffee or simply a shopping spree. I miss making her laugh without even trying. Sometimes it was the stupidest things…
I will miss the crowd that attended last year’s birthday: Alfredo, Pepe, Zuleyka, Cheo, Alejandra S., Nina, Nadya … all of you! We made good vibes that night.
And last but not least, I’ll miss Eze’s selfless gesture of leaving his skepticism and birthday-hate aside to make my 35th a very enlightening and emotional exercise for the group to express how we felt about each other. Between the beers and the wine and the food and general hedonism, I feel that there was a true essence of mutual love and admiration among the guests. That little exercise you made up was key to making it so. THANK YOU!
I know this year will be awesome as well. Different, of course. The friendships, places, dynamics are new, but I suspect no less true and honest. I bow in love and respect to my friends and family. And I welcome this new world that will see me turn from 35 to 36.
Question to just about everyone out there, but particularly women: what do you respond when someone compliments you for your appearance, intelligence or merits? Do you say “thank you” and leave it at that? Or is that “thank you” followed by “but it’s just…”: just shooting down the compliment and yourself in the process?
At what point did we learn to become so critical of ourselves that we do it automatically, without giving it a second thought?
I’m pretty sure it’s not in the womb. When babies are born, they’re almost invariable considered “the cutest thing in the world”, and any criticism towards the child will only be met with horror.
Later on, as toddlers, we become aware of ourselves in the mirror early in our lives, but we don’t really stop to think about appearances in the beginning. It’s later. As we hone our powers of observation, we copy and mimic. It’s animal nature: adults are our models, and our survival instincts dictate that we follow suit in everything they do and say to ensure our own development. Girls learn from their mothers and other female role models in the family. Aunts, grandmothers, big sisters, cousins… And what we observe invariably leads to this: a female adult looking in the mirror and tearing herself down bit by bit. Hair, face, nose, eyes, chin, neck, breasts, arms, thighs, stomach … no parts are exonerated from this process of self-annihilation. We observe this. We copy this.
In the best of cases, this lesson of self-hate runs counter to what our parents tell us (you’re beautiful, you’re smart, your worth does not depend on others…) This is usually not the case. When I turned 8, my body started storing what they call “baby fat” (why “baby”? this is an ailment that plagues us in our puberty, more than a few years too late to be described as “baby” anything … ). Soon enough, the females in my family started treating my weight and appearance as a problem. They started marching in with food scales and Weight Watchers programs, grapefruits and yogurt, measuring tape and modeling classes… The tearing down of me was a coming-of-age ritual filled with criticism and self-hate.
This was a ritual that never let up. ‘Til the day she lost her memory to Alzheimers, my grandmother had a one and only topic of discussion whenever we met: my weight. At some point it was too low, then too high… I was never asked about my studies, my career, my interests. As a matter of fact, I was never asked anything. Every family reunion was an opportunity to pass judgement on me. Well, in our family, it is always an opportunity to pass judgement on one another. My mother meets with her sister (whom she hasn’t seen in over a year)? First and foremost topic when telling me about it: her weight. Same goes for any poor lost soul who may pass her on the street. Weight, clothes, hair, demeanor… all are torn down systematically by my mother and her kin. My sister and I have lived through this. No wonder our way of rebellion has been to not give a fuck.
But ours is close enough to a worst case scenario. What about the rest? The euphemism for the destruction of the female psyche and self-image: humility. We’re taught to never praise ourselves, lest we be thought of as conceited. Compliments and commendations should be met with a gentle rebuttal for the same reason. It all stems from I don’t know which fucked up Rules Book from the 50s, and it reeks of patronizing bullshit. We have assimilated this conviction so well, that we even shoot each other and ourselves down whenever we have the audacity of thinking something kind about ourselves. Case in point?
Me. Ninth grade. After P.E., girls would swarm around the one full-length mirror to apply makeup, gossip and examine themselves destructively in front of each other. You know the drill: “my thighs are too fat,” “my hair is so bleh,” “my shins are so skinny”… etc, ad nauseum. And yes, guys, these comments are a fishing pole for compliments. That’s the only way we have learned to actually get a little bit of positive feedback on ourselves. Of course, the cycle goes like “oh, no, your thighs are fine, but look at my stomach! it’s sooo flabby!” We profer a compliment and pour some more shit on ourselves, expecting others to take it upon themselves to build us up a little while they tear themselves down. We never take it upon ourselves. And if we do … I dared take it upon myself one day, when one of the girls asked me why I didn’t wear any makeup. My response: “I don’t like it. I’d rather let my natural beauty shine through.” The general reaction was mockery and derision. My own effort of loving myself a little was shot down collectively by the pack. I was brought down to my level, in a sense.
So it follows that there is no place in society for people with a healthy self-image. If we so much as insinuate that we entirely approve of ourselves, someone somewhere will inevitably try to challenge that. So our way of coping: beating them to the punch. Even the healthiest of egos will put themselves down over one tiny detail or another. We all do. This is what society expects from us.
And I realized some of us DO notice the vicious cycle of self-hate taught upon us by our mothers, grandmothers and so on. “Never love yourself too much,” is the lesson. Akin to the shaming we go through regarding our own sexualities, masturbation, our yearning for more knowledge (if it is deemed sex- or age-inappropriate), etc. We are kept in line to fit in with society.
How about let’s not? How about we decide to fuck it all and start loving ourselves as we are? Fuck the media and their message that our bodies are not good enough, that thinking outside the box is undesirable, that deviating from the standards assigned to our sex is an aberration. Fuck that shit. And fuck them all: society, the media, the powers that be, our families, coworkers, friends… fuck EVERYONE for telling ME how much self-love is enough! How about we finally arrive to the conclusion that we’re worthy of ourselves more than anyone else will ever be? Be your own lover and admirer. Cherish yourself today.
¡Tan dramática! Pero no miento: el “abismo” es ese hoyo negro llamado “maestría”, la cual comienzo este semestre que viene. 30 de agosto: esa es la fecha en la cual la academia me va a tragar.
…aunque ya me tiene tragada. Hacía tiempo no actualizaba en el blog, y la única excusa (mala) que puedo ofrecer es que he estado más pendiente a los asuntos de la matrícula que otra cosa. Ha sido un poco sobrecogedor por las siguientes circunstancias:
– Yo recibo exención de matrícula gracias a que mi pareja trabaja en la UPR
– La fecha límite para someter la solicitud de exención para el próximo semestre era a finales de julio.
– La fecha en la cual yo habría de hacer mi matrícula sería el 10 de agosto – esto debido a que soy estudiante de “nuevo ingreso” en cursos graduados. Nos recibieron con orientación y toda la cosa, y obviamente con recomendaciones acerca de los cursos a tomarse en el primer semestre. Podía hacer mi prematrícula, pero no necesariamente iba a hacer el mejor escogido.
– Intenté orientarme con el personal del Departamento de Traducción, y me dieron un ‘la’ acerca de los cursos que debía tomar. Intenté hacer prematrícula antes de la fecha estipulada, y ¡claro! de los 3 cursos que quería tomar, uno salía cerrado. El detalle es que todos los cursos que voy a tomar deben aparecer prematriculados cuando voy a someter la solicitud de exención. Si no aparecen en la pantalla whatever-they-call-it, no otorgan la exención. Si sometía la solicitud con cursos de más (preemptive strike), tampoco me otorgaban la exención. Estaba en un impasse con el sistema.
– Pero hablando se entiende la gente: la oficial de Beneficios Marginales en el Departamento de Recursos Humanos me dijo que, dado mi caso, llevara la solicitud de exención tan pronto lograra hacer mi matrícula, que ellos la trabajarían con prontitud.
De todos modos, la incertidumbre (que ha lugar, porque el sistema administrativo de la UPR ha demostrado ser de todo menos eficiente) me tenía los nervios roídos. Asistí a la orientación, me pompié con el prospecto de empezar el camino hacia mi nueva carrera, solicité matrícula para los cursos que había escogido… luego llevé la solicitud de exención … y “color me surprised”, ¡la exención bajó en cuestión de un día! 😀 Tengo todos mis cursos y no tuve que pagar sino cuotas de mantenimiento y tecnología. ¡Hurra!
Así se ve mi programa de clases:
Voy a estar tomando Sintaxis de español, Conceptos Básicos de Traducción, y Semiótica … la última es la que me tiene especialmente nerviosa. Sé lo que es la semiótica, y sé que una clase equivalente (en la facultad de Comunicación) logró reducir a Ezequiel a las lágrimas (casi … sí, exagero un poco).
De todos modos: ¡9 créditos! Whoohoo! Voy a estar hasta las cachas en lecturas. Lunes, miércoles y jueves han sido arrestados por mi deseo de hacer una maestría. Wouldn’t have it any other way…
Ahora, hay poco wishlist para este semestre (aparte de la costosa Gramática Española de la RAE, que cuesta un ojo de la cara y abarca dos hermosos volúmenes. Y un carnoso diccionario de etimología, sólo porque sí). Pero lo que me tiene la cabeza comida es esto:
Un nuevo bolígrafo de Sharpie: Liquid Pencil. Espero que no sea tan mierda como el Eraser Mate de los ’80… pero si escribe tan bonito como un lápiz (lo que me enseñan en la foto es más o menos eso) … bueno, definitivamente está en mi To Shop List. Sólo falta que salga. (Tanta cosa por un BOLIGRAFO)
¡Aprendí a hacer arroz! Para aquéllos que me conocen bien, probablemente les corre un “¡Por fin, puñeta!” por la mente. Pues les cuento que efectivamente, por fin. Y aparentemente, me queda muy bueno. Ya he hecho arroz con cebolla y tocineta (ése fue el primero, con la ayuda y guía de Eze), arroz blanco, arroz con coco y arroz jasmín. ¡Enhorabuena!
…yyy, para mi familita que en ocasiones vive en nostalgia por las artes culinarias de mamá (y que todavía no nos ponemos de acuerdo a ver quién se aprende cuál receta), les cuento que también hice hoy, por primera vez, el fabuloso bizcocho de ron. Yup, Bacardi Rum Cake, que acaba de perder – a mis manos – todo el caché de los ’60 porque lo hice con Ron Barrilito y Palo Viejo. ^_^ Bizcocho de ron pa’ la recesión del nuevo milenio. Luego les cuento cómo quedó.
I never told my whole prom story (in blog form). I mentioned it in passing in one entry about three years ago, but I never went into detail about the whole tragedy of it. A few weeks ago we were talking about this among friends and I told them the whole story, and one of them – bless her soul! – said: “Everyone’s entitled to a prom night!”. Prom night was a myth I pursued after my own prom had passed. I insisted in participating in my brother’s and my sister’s proms, seeking to capture whatever I thought I had missed in my own. Some would call it pathetic, but I know I was desperate.
My brother’s prom came a few years after my own. I had already graduated from college and had one of those temporary office-clerk jobs after a disastrous stint at a computer systems corporation. I jumped at the opportunity of spending the night at my brother’s hotel room with my then-boyfriend, Oscar. It wasn’t half bad: we scrammed early off the dance floor and beelined to the hotel room, we ordered room service, we got drunk, we went to sleep, and I woke up a few hours later when my brother and his friends came in with a bottle of rum. I had my rum shot, and then it went up my nose. Epic. Hilarious. But not my prom.
My sister’s junior prom was epic too, for all the wrong reasons: I got a flat tire and I had to change it. Imagine that: a girl bedecked in a spectacular, long evening dress full of glitter and satin… changing her car’s tire with great effort, getting all sweaty and dirty (and bloody knuckles too). Yeah, some may see it as a sexy fetish. I won’t judge you, guys, but I beg to differ. Her senior prom was a disappointment too, although I did see one of my elementary school ex-classmates attending the same prom. Maybe this disorder isn’t so strange after all. The Prom Vampire Syndrome.
So what went so wrong that I had to go stealing my siblings’ prom? I’ll tell ya…
It all started on the planning phase, I suppose. Back in 1995, merengue was all the rage (I think it still sort-of is, you won’t find a party in Puerto Rico without its merengazo long set). The artists of the moment were Olga Tañón (complete with pre-op nose) and Tony Vega (where IS he now?), and the class president would simply NOT have prom night without ‘em. These merengue divas were fucking costly, so the budget had to give somewhere else. I’ll tell you where it got cuts: the yearbook (it never got printed. Instead, each of us got it in digital form in a CD-ROM… about 8 years later), and the location for the prom.
It’s important to think about the size of our graduating class: each grade was composed of 9 – 10 classrooms, each classroom had at least 20 students in it. Being conservative, the number would be 180… then take off about 10 (dropouts, people that chose not to go, etc) … 150 – 160? Okay, let’s go with the 150, it’s nice and round. Now add parents and prom date for each one of those students – let’s say, to compensate, that each student brought only one parent and one date – and you get the sheer number of 450 souls to attend the event.
Where was my prom being held?
Parque Julio Enrique Monagas: it was a fucking tiny room at the top of a fucking tiny mogote (flat-topped mountain). The place is perfect for a small wedding, a business meeting … something small. My class prom was not small. I’ve seen hotel ballrooms filled to the brim for a prom of a graduating class of 60 students. My class was NOT small. But they HAD to have Olga Tañón and Tony Vega. I hate merengue, so you can guess where that left me and like-minded people: very, VERY upset and resentful. I wasn’t gonna enjoy Olga Tañón! I definitely wasn’t gonna enjoy Tony Vega!!! Why did I have to lay low and accept this decision? Well, maybe ‘cuz I was way stupid!
Now, on the personal front, you’d think I had more control of the variables. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted as a prom dress:
(Something like) this, of course, paired with my dearest Doc-Marten-style boots… And I also had a very precise picture (as in: “I had a magazine cutout”) of the makeup job I wanted… minimalist, sweet, just a bit of attention to the eyes, nothing fancy. I was never a huge fan of makeup.
The gown was the first let-down. Money was short, this much I knew, but I was never told. So, when the time came to choose a prom gown, I was painfully aware of the price tags over anything else. I didn’t dare to go over $100, and I ended up choosing an $80 dress in the kind of slinky fabric I hate (you know the one! sticking to all the wrong bulges and seams…) It didn’t even look like a prom dress: slinky black little number, long but only down to my ankles, with a double row of silver-colored buttons down the front, with a ruched section of fabric in the middle, criss-crossed with thin bands of the same fabric … sort of going for classic-greek, but not quite getting there…
Then my mother thought it wise to get me some control top pantyhose AND some control-top panties …
oh, yes! The same! So you can guess how many muffin-tops I had … about a THOUSAND! And I couldn’t do anything about it because I only thought of trying the whole thing out the same fucking day of the prom! Stupid stupid me!
My mother also thought it would be a great idea to have our personal stylist (of that time, she’s long gone, thankfully! Dreadful woman!) do my makeup for me that day. To be honest, I thought it would be a great idea too – I’m less Michaelangelo and more Pollock with my makeup brushes. The woman arrives and I show her the magazine cutout I had saved for months (!!!), told her “I want something like this!” … and to this day, I remember her words “¡Ay, no! ¡Esos ojos de vaca cagona!” (translate for yourself, if you don’t speak Spanish, but … yes, something to the effect of a cow shitting … enjoy!) Then, she proceeded to do whatever the hell she wanted to my face.
And I swear, to this day, that the woman did what no other living creature has dared: she made it look like I was wearing another woman’s face as a translucent mask.
Nothing has ever been more unbecoming ever again.
(and let’s not even talk about The Hair, although, to be fair, I only acquired peace with my own hair within the last few years)
So, feeling completely unlike myself and very self-conscious about my general appearance, we set out to the prom. The first warning flag of All The Things That Would Go Wrong was the line for the elevator: long, serpentine… The ballroom was on top of the mountain, and the only way to get there was a single elevator. Now, why it was taking so long would be a surprise. We were first supposed to walk in one by one as a few words on each student would be read over the mic. I don’t know how in the world they were keeping the order straight: 150 students arriving randomly at any given moment would not make it easy. However, for me, this would be a highlight – or so I thought.
The wait was long and tortuous. My feet were killing me: no boots for me, my mother wouldn’t have it! So instead, I was wearing shiny black high heels. I have flat feet, so you can imagine. I never wear heels.
After more than an hour’s wait, we were finally at the top, albeit still at the end of a long line that ran from the ballroom all the way across a hallway that led to the elevator door. Then I saw it happen: the diva Olga Tañón whooshing past us in a fucking hurry. And then the line started to move.
As I pranced into the ballroom, I realized they had completely skipped the idea of reading anything other than the students’ names as they walked in, so it was “Diana Campo”, quick picture with my father, and that was that! Later on, I learned that Ms. Tañón was in such a hurry that she gave the ultimatum that she either started within 30 minutes, or she was gone (with full pay, of course!). So, any glory that dissenting students would have at least walking into the room was foregone in favor of this fucking bitch.
Moments later my father pulled me apart and told me my mother was feeling sick, so we had to go. I don’t blame her: the ballroom was small, its ceiling was quite low, and by 15 minutes in, I was feeling like fried fish under the spotlights. It wasn’t a nice place to be. I bid my adieus and went home for the night.
So, does everyone deserve a prom night? Maybe.
I was thinking about this today and I realized that maybe I should have taken better control of the variables I could control: the attire, the makeup, the hair. I didn’t have to accept what was being handed to me right off the bat.I could have gotten creative, like sewing the dress or look for bits and pieces off older garments from home or the Salvation Army. I could have practiced the hair and the makeup at home, maybe raid mom’s makeup box. I could have taken the whole thing into my hands and run with it. It was my prom, after all. If it were today, that’s what I’d do.
But then I remembered what was really going through our minds back then: mom was surviving cancer. Plain and simple. There was no time nor energy for anything other than that. My involvement in school issues was limited, competing with my other escape (boyfriend, sex…). The whole teenage-side of my life, I think, was sort of a cardboard facade waiting to peel off at any moment. It was gone long before my senior year, but I kept up with the motions of being a graduating brat. My heart wasn’t into it, though. Had I really been into it like a normal teenager, I would have gotten a $200 dress like my step-sister’s (2 years down the road):
… oh, wait, I did wear that one … to fuck some other boy in his car… jeez, I’m such a smutty fucker. Nah, I don’t deserve a prom. 😉
I just recently realized that most of what I am – the rebellion, the unwillingness to conform, the mental allergy to business suits, the outright refusal to “grow up” – is a direct effect of my aunt (of all people!).
My aunt is only 9 years older than me. You could say our initial dynamic was closer to that between sisters than bewteen aunt and niece. She played dolls with me and I borrowed her Barbies, inherited her toys and some of her clothes… As time passed, she became what an older sister usually becomes for a little sister: a role model. As she filled out and became a woman, I admired her fashion sense, flair and style… mind you, her style was this:
Yes, my aunt was a child from the Summer of ’69. If you do the math, you’ll realize this makes her an 80s teen. Her adolescence was spent teasing her hair to inhuman volumes and collecting rhinestone brooches to pin to her denim jackets. She wasn’t a trashy, punk 80s girl – that would have been outrageous and too forward for our family. My aunt was a perfect ringer for Molly Ringwald (sans the red hair): spiffy blazers and glam jewelry, bangles riddled with charms, bright-white hi-tops with pastel-colored leg warmers, pouffy hair-barrettes … everything you hate about the eighties was in my aunt’s closet.
Her pasttimes and preferences left nothing to be desired! She was a full-on eighties girl: a fan of Wham! and John Hughes movies, she loved hanging out at the mall … a regular Robin Sparkles.
That is what I looked up to when I was an awkwardly budding kid. I even developed tiny crushes on her boyfriends. The extent of her effect on me could be exemplified by one incident: our first shopping spree. She had just gotten her first office job – and after a few failed attempts at getting a career (and then dropping out), hell, that’s the best she could do! We went shopping for shoes to go with her polyester, shoulder-padded suits. She spent around $100 on pump shoes of different colors. Right now it seems like no big deal, but for 9-year-old me, $100 was a LOT of money. After that, she spent the rest of whatever allowance she had left on music, she even bought me a Nelson Nelson cassette (omg, this last phrase just dated the whole episode and made me a whole lot less cool).
I wound up crying in my mother’s arms because I couldn’t wrap my head around so much money spent on shoes and music.
But, for all that blind adoration, little by little, I came into my own. I think it all started the day she got married: a few weeks after that, I visited their apartment for the first time. Keep in mind that my aunt’s first marriage was when she and her beau were both just 20 years old. They had met at the mall store they worked at, and they dated for barely a year before tying the knot. A month or two beforehand, he had moved in with us at my grandparents’ house. Those few months were so fun for me, but I’m guessing my grandparents were less than thrilled to have their youngest daughter’s twerp of a boyfriend living in with them… during a hurricane event … with his computer crap and his stinky oscar fish… yeah, didn’t think so.
So I wasn’t at all surprised to find that their whole apartment was sort of like walking into a disaster area, or a college dorm: trash and dirty clothes strewn evereywhere, a flea-ridden kitten trampling all over the place, a huge black cat glowering in the corners, a white poodle dog – I’ll never understand what crossed my mother’s mind to hand the dog over to my aunt! – I mean, the place was a veritable ZOO… without the keepers. I was particularly appalled that I couldn’t even see the floor in their room, the trash and dirty laundry were packed that tight. And as I walked into the bathroom, the first thing that caught my eye was the little diaphragm box, and with that, the magic was gone. I fell out of love with my aunt.
Some years after that, at the age of 14, I agreed to spend the afternoon with her. She had asked me to help her out with a few tasks at her workplace (little fact: she worked at a law office at La Milla de Oro, inside the Banco Popular building to be exact). That evening I had plans to attend the graduation of my boyfriend’s little sister, so it added to the feeling of anxiousness to make the day pass faster.
I hated the whole thing. I hated the feeling, the ambiance, the tasks, the EVERYTHING of what I realized working in an office would feel like. This was the day I vowed NEVER to work at an office or at a bank, EVER!
I failed SO MUCH at keeping this promise to myself…
And so it began: an age of change, defiance, disillusionment with all that the 80s had sold to me through my aunt. An age of grunge, plaid, thinking for myself, questioning society, defining my sexual identity, discarding my religion … yeah, all those things that made a teenager out of the bumbling idiot of a tween I was.
So you have it (and to simplify): godless, sarcastic little me is a direct reaction to my aunt, who’s now a conservative Christian wife to an accountant/lawyer, living in a posh condo in one of the wealthiest areas in Puerto Rico – why am I not surprised.
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