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Turning the Page

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.)

 

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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.

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How We Learn To Put Ourselves Down

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.

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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.

Today I found this:

 

 

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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.

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Verónica

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Back in 2009, my life was entirely changed by this woman. Thats me, on the right. Not my best shot, I agree. Also, that would be my  Hot-Topic-Employee attire, not a complete departure from my usual style, but I digress. The girl on the left is Vero. We met at the end of 2009. She was hired to replace one of the assistant managers that quit to go live in Miami. I remember her first day clearly. It was a Black Friday, and I had been assigned to be seasonal keyholder, starting that week. She came in at about 9am looking all nervous. We immediately clicked. I showed her the ropes on how to work around the documents and cash register. In return, she stole my heart. A week later, she was calling me ‘wife’. Three months later, she was moving in with us. For all intents and purposes, it was a torrid romance–without the sex.

 

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We shared some things: our love for Harry Potter (which brought about a huge weekend-long marathon of all 7 parts that were out by then), our love of food, Caprica, art, smoking … We spent countless hours just shooting the shit in our living room: me, pouring my heart out over a cigarette and a Coke; she, drawing her soul into countless lines and dots on paper, while a watery Coke and a half-burnt cigarette waited on the sidelines. I finally got in her what I had yearned for in so long: a close female friend, someone I could go places with and make fun of stuff and just be generally silly together. We did all that stuff: tandem supermarket visits (including some light thievery), visiting Walmart to drool at the bikes (and then unhooking them and riding them around the aisles), brunch (and mimosas!), weird dates (hers) in which I was the third wheel (and surreptitious chaperone), the Kitty Kitty Dinosaur podcast … Tons of things I never thought I’d be able to do with a girl friend. But she came into my life, and we did.

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We shared an unparalleled love for coffee. I used to brew coffee every morning, just for her: a tall take-along mug she would finish off throughout the day (well, in the first few hours, actually). I didn’t share her obsession with sunflower seeds, carrots, or broccoli. We saw eye-to-eye in our love for queso del país and bacon (and Colombian sausage, oh! those were the days…)

 

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We also shared our love for Bob. And the three of us became quite inseparable. Trips to the beach became silly photoshoots, long drives to Mayaguez became a shortbus of strays on the way back … and through all the thick and thin of it, we stuck together. In spite of my (back then) unmanaged mood swings (later diagnosed as PMDD), in spite of her habitually short temper and tolerance (which she stuck out and worked with just for me) … we remained friends and living partners.

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She also did wonderful things for our home. Our walls became the perfect canvas for her to bring life to some of the things she had in mind: a blue-haired cry for help in her room, a redhead dreamer in our kitchen, and an unfinished tree-sprite in our hallway. Constant reminders of how much she suffused herself into our lives.

 

 

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Then an odd thing happened. Vero fell in love. She had been looking for it in all the wrong places, suffering all unwanted advances, rebuffing guys that would’ve been good to her, wallowing in her own misery when the ones she did go after treated her like shit … And through it all, the one thing she thought she’d never get kept her spirits up, I’m sure, at least a little. And then the coin dropped …

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…and Julius came into her life. And it was inevitable: she moved away.

I’m glad for her, for them. She’s happy, they both seem to be. Parachuting, living in the woods, getting a corgi … all the awesome stuff she wanted to do for a long time (and some extra awesome stuff she probably had NO idea she wanted to do) … all of it came into fruition. And she looks happy. She has looked this happy ever since they finally got together. It’s good to see.

From a slavery to retail (ended mainly by an unjustified firing from Hot Topic, complete with an acrid denouement of a lot of the relationships that had been established due to her work) to an absolute freedom and rein over her own life …. It’s been a hell of an era for -veedot.

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This is the last picture I took of her. She had come back after practically having moved to Boston, just to celebrate my 34th birthday. And she baked one of  her delicious beer-can chickens for me. She was always that thoughtful.

They say hindsight is 20/20. This is true. The more you learn with the hard knocks of life, the more you can contextualize your past. For example: I’ve learned in the last few months about the many people I came to love, but never came around to telling them because I myself hadn’t noticed. It’s been oddly liberating, finally understanding where my feelings stem from and how they work.

And I’ve also redefined my way of loving. Loving not to do with sexuality as much as knowing that you’d do whatever in your power to make that person happy. In this sense, not many people remain in the list of “loved ones”. But Vero is one of them. What I have come to define as “people I’ve fallen in love with”. She may not know, and it’s okay. She already gave me what I never thought to ask of anyone: her devotion, her friendship, her love… and her happiness.

Those were fun times, and now we’re having our fun times apart. But to adapt what Rick Blaine once said to Ilsa Lund: “We’ll always have the supermarket.” And that is that.

Still… I miss you, Vero. And I hope you’re always as happy as you are now.

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I Wish I Had Been Born a Boy

Sometimes I wish I had been born a boy.

When I turned 11 years old, I had my first boyfriend. Nothing incredibly serious, or at least not any threat to my livelihood (regardless of what my mother might have thought at the time.) He was best friends with the first boy I ever had a lasting crush on. In the process of trying to get closer to boy #1, I ended up being close pals with boy #2, until one day I realized boy #2 was way more interesting, charming and compatible with me. So the inevitable happened: little notes got exchanged in between classes, and we became “and item.” For three months I was living in a pink-cloud dream, like any preteen girl would. And then we broke up… and got back together the year after… and broke up again… and then something interesting happened: he came out to me. He told me he was gay, very gay. I don’t know why we ended up giving it yet another try as a couple. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t interested in changing his sexual preferences. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t about sex at all. I guess I just thought it would be cool to hang out with him for a while. This last time happened during my sophomore year in high school, and the breakup was so definitive, that we lost contact with each other for the following 7 years.

We reconnected in my early 20s, and the coolest moments of my youth ensued. And among the many things we talked about during our catch-up conversations, he said “If only you had been a boy, we would have been so happy!” And I agree. Our friendship is the longest one I have: 24 years and still going, still seeing each other whenever we can. We get along fabulously, and I’m pretty sure, just as he was, that if I had been born with XY chromosomes instead of XX, our story would have been different.

For a while now, I have been reminiscing about past romances, and I’ve noticed that a few of the other guys have also turned out to be gay. These are the ones, almost exclusively, with which I still keep contact. I’ve also noticed that, as of late, I’ve been more compelled to surround myself by people with flexible sexualities. The gay men I’ve met lately have been far more fascinating than any others I may have met before. Coincidence? Maybe. But there’s something about an alternative sexuality, a propensity to go against the grain of our conservative society, that makes me go gaga for people. It won’t come as a surprise then that, after having spent a year-and-change adapting to certain unexpected policies in my main (open) relationship, the latest crushes I’ve had are with gay or non-conventionally-sexual men. …of course, me being a girl and all that, this makes my chances of actually being reciprocated pretty close to zero.

So, sometimes I wish I had been born a boy. I know relationships are complicated no matter the sexual orientation, that “the grass is always greener…” etc. But given my current propensity to being caught in the webs of charm of gay men… well, it would have made things much more viable, huh?

But I have no regrets about being a girl. I like being a girl. Sometimes … And sometimes … Well, I guess that’s what makes me–my sexuality, my identity–not quite heterosexual, not quite bisexual, not quite polysexual, asexual, pansexual … queer? And maybe not quite, or maybe more than that? I’ve come to the realization that sexuality, just like all other aspects of humanity, is fluid, a scale of countless shades of gray (DAMN that fucking book!), changeable, mercurial, ephemeral. Labels be damned, I’ll just do my own thing.

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PS: Nothing against women, of course… Truth be told, women intimidate me. I would make a cowardly lesbian, definitely single until death do me part from my herd of cats. Any psychoanalyst would have a holiday with me…

 

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Acerca de descargas, huelgas, podcasts y oficinas

Han pasado ya casi 3 meses desde la última vez que escribí aquí. Está un poquito cafre empezar estas cosas así, pero hay que decirlo, tengo que decirlo, so pena de que se me quede nada adentro.

Algunas personas se ofendieron por mi post acerca de los hombres casados. No, vamos, algunas personas se ofendieron con el timing de mi post… Lo triste es que algunas de esas “algunas personas” eran personas cercanas a mí, y terminé cogiendo agüita a nombre de quien no valía la pena tener que cogerla. Me dejé amedrentar. Dejé que me metieran un miedo estupidísimo de escribir y herir sentimientos y sensibilidades.

Esta pendejá ya no pare máaaaaaaaas....

Tres meses son más que suficiente para dejar caer todo el peso de mi espalda y decir “YA BASTA”. Lo lindo de ese proceso es que ya una vez uno comienza a mandar a uno pa’l carajo, los manda a TODOS… o por lo menos a quienes se lo merecen. Es uno de esos procesos de cambio que antes los mistificaba, ahora simplemente me dejan atónita. Una nunca termina de conocerse, ah?

So … febrero. Hasta febrero 23, mi único trabajo había sido en la cueva de los góticos, el fabuloso, el inigualable, HOT TOPIXXXX!!!! (añada aquí manitos de metal y mucho eyeliner).

Un homenaje a mis queridísimos ex-clientes! Tan originales...

Más de un año metiéndole caña al asunto, haciendo un trabajo que estoy bastante segura que fue bueno, metiéndole “berraco”, como diría mi papá. Está un poco desalentador entonces que después de un año, nada pasa y te encuentras de nuevo en la posición de saltarle encima a las sobras de los horarios de los demás. Un año de meterle duro, y honestamente uno se cansa de fajarse y perder hasta la sanidad y dignidad mental para que no te dé siquiera para comer. Así que me tocó tragarme el orgullo y regresar a las oficinas.

En el 2008 juré – después de zapatearme de trabajar en el último círculo del infierno de informática – que NUNCA MÁS volvería a trabajar en una oficina. Me equivoqué un poco: debí haber dicho que NUNCA MÁS trabajaría en un puesto de informática. Era más accurate. En el 2010, después de un vuelo de regreso a casa más amargo que un tamarindo verde, decidí que era el momento de dejarme de mojonerías y buscarme un trabajo donde por lo menos, si me iban a pagar mierda, iba a ser mierda con la que pudiera contar. Así es que he terminado de regreso en el escritorio, vestida de muñequita semi-corporativa, atendiendo teléfonos y cobrándole a la gente. En verdad, no está tan jodido como estar metida en un cubículo jalándome las greñas porque no entiendo UNA PUÑETA DE SQL!!!! (ay, que lindo ser programador … not…)

Por qué carajos estudié esta mierdaaaaaaaa?!

Por un breve tiempo mantuve ambos trabajos, pero… no entremos en detalles, simplemente dejémoslo como que “me causa mucho estrés tener que estar del tingo al tango entre dos trabajos distintos” y que “me equipararon la suma de las horas en la oficina” … Le he cogido el gusto a revolcar la mierda, pero aún no me encanta que me caiga en la boca.

Así que con un trabajo que paga por lo menos una mesada regular, la llegada de un ingreso adicional a la casa ha sido la gota que colmó la contentura. Tenemos roommate nueva, y como dijera un amigo nuestro el otro día, “andamos de party todo el tiempo”. Aún cuando estamos apesta’os de la vida y odiando a la humanidad, lo increíble es que nos da con hacer eso los tres juntos en la sala. Definitivamente ha resultado ser un acuerdo sumamente especial y favorable para todo el mundo. Now my family is complete. El día que se nos case la nena :'( no sé qué vamos a hacer. Me va a dar empty nest syndrome a los fókin 40 años y sin haber parido, qué cojones.

Mira que estoy tan orgullosa de ella, que hasta a su primer sensor le saqué fotos.

También tengo el asunto de las clases – quiero decir! de la HUELGA – no, no, de las clases … whatever. El punto es que se supone que haya clases, no las hay, y eso me está poniendo los pelos de punta. Apoyo 100% la huelga, pero mi apoyo a ella no tiene nada que ver con el performance anxiety que me ha provocado ESPA4252 con la Prof. Luce López-Baralt. La cúspide – y a la vez liberación – de esa ansiedad hubiese sido una monografía que propuse y fue aceptada: un paralelo entre Don Quijote de la Mancha y The Neverending Story. Alucinante! Y aterrador! Y ahora que la huelga va para los 20 días, ya yo no sé qué va a pasar con la clase, con la profe, con la monografía ni con mi sanidad mental. Estoy que lo churreteo todo pa’l carajo y escribo un ensayo acerca del Gallito Polito. Colgá! El Gallito Polito no tiene nada que ver con Cervantes ni con el Siglo de Oro. De hecho, yo no sé quién es el Gallito Polito.

...jodío cabrón!

Aún así, la huelga también ha tenido su lado amable. Sirvió de catarsis, o por lo menos de punto afianzador para dos proyectos que me parecen “acojonantes” (estos españoles son la changa cuando se trata de describir cosas gufiás).

Está el podcast de En Profundo (unh?), que empezó con unos cuantos, y en el momento más alarmante, ocupó toda una esquina de nuestra barra favorita. Y yo usualmente me pego al corillo, y le llego, y me siento y me acomodo con ellos, y … no digo ni JI. Fucking ansiedad social…

Pero no me pasa lo mismo con el podcast de Kitty Kitty Dinosaur! (rawr rawr miau!), que como somos cuatro anormalitas hablando mierda, me siento en mi elemento… deberían chequearlo, btw, aunque sea simplemente por el ejercicio antropológico.

Aparte de estos dos proyectos, que han sido los más sólidos entre toda la ráfaga de actividad que ha habido recientemente, también intenté llevar a cabo un proyecto en el cual iba a dibujar algo todos los días por el espacio de un año. Mi musa es mi peor enemiga, eso te lo aseguro. La cabrona se fue de vacaciones a mitad de abril y me dejó puyúa.

…pero, como a mí no me gusta quedarme dá’, decidí que si no dibujo, no prob… coso. De nuevo. Y por lo menos esta vez voy con más ánimo. Lo que necesitaba era el descanso y reorganizar mi espacio. MUCH better, ahora que tengo un gaveterito rosa peptobismol con escarcha. Me siento más nena y to….

Y ahora esto… escribir de nuevo. Me hizo falta. Tanta emoción embotellada por dentro no ha sido saludable, y ya que estaba en las de soltarme como gabete (perdón! como “agujeta”), decidí darle un fuckit a toda la mala vibra que había permeado la idea de escribir aquí y finalmente HACERLO!

No quiero prometer que nunca más volverá a pasar, pero sí voy a hacer el intento de usar este espacio más a menudo, aunque sea para mariconerías mías.

Apropiármelo.

Porque sí, porque es MI espacio, y no el de más nadie para que decida qué le parece bien leer aquí y qué le parece mal. Se pueden cagar en sus lindas madrecitas como regalo tardío del Día de Hallmark si no les gusta el asunto, ok?

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