Dear Mr. Hansen

“You’ll never be a good writer.”

When I was in the eighth grade, I was sitting in my core class trying to come up with a speech for our graduation ceremony. Folks who wanted to submit their speeches were free to do so, and candidates would be voted on by the class. (Yay, democracy!)

Obviously, being the shy yet competitive bastard that I am, I wanted to do it. Public speaking scared the shit out of me (and still does), but I felt compelled to write about what leaving middle school and heading into high school meant for me. I’ll back up: Prior to the eighth grade, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about school. The early mornings, the awkward gym class locker room encounters, and being that one loser who always brought bagged lunch in my bulky Kirkland lunchbox. But for the record, let me just say I NEVER ate smushed sandwiches or struggled with cold soup. And my saint of a mother always wrote me little love notes (you know you love that shit and if your mom didn’t do that for you she obviously hates your ass). But really, school was a secondary, even tertiary thread in my life as a preteen. I just…didn’t care. Maybe most kids that age don’t really give a fuck either, or are too cognitively undeveloped to think about that. I was too focused on my wolf drawings, being a badass at soccer, and eating the school lunch snacks my dad bought at Costco on Saturday nights. I was a very busy preteen, okay?

And yet, a flip was switched when I turned fourteen and ended up in Mr. Hansen’s core class. There was a sense of earnest effort and actual interest from Mr. Hansen, and that became very apparent in the way he taught core classes. It caught me off guard, really. Most of the time I would sit in class and check out people’s butts while simultaneously hiding my early developed breasts from leering eyes (yes, I remember each and every one of you douches). Perhaps it was Mr. Hansen’s ability to connect with young teens in a nuanced way, with funny videos, or utilizing pop culture to help us connect the dots. Also, I can’t help but look back and think how fucking amazing history class would be if “Hamilton” had come out around then. And yet. I was still hooked. I became engrossed in the Federalist Papers, and stunned by how much I could relate to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

So there I am, sitting in Mr. Hansen’s class on a May afternoon. He’s handing out edited and reviewedd copies of our speeches, to which I eagerly awaited to read his comments. His input mattered to me, as did his encouragement. I only got one. I looked at my speech, and bit my lip while glazing over the red. So. Much. Red. When he eventually circled back to me for a quick discussion, I asked him what was wrong with my syntax, and why this sentence sounded “irregular.” He loomed over me, and paused with the kind of look on his face like that friend you’ve had a crush on forever lets you down easy, but makes it clear you will never, ever be together. I could tell he was searching for the right way to say it, but there’s really no right way to say the wrong thing.

“You will never be a good writer.”

Mr. Hansen told me that, because English was not my first language, my ability to write eloquently would be difficult, and as a result, I probably wouldn’t be very good at it, ever. That was just the hand I was dealt, and that was it. He walked away and tended to next student.

Sometimes I think the worst part about this entire conversation is that I didn’t say anything. I should’ve lost my shit on him. Slapped the glasses off his face. Or called for his resignation (I’m just kidding you nerds). But the worst part is not that I didn’t argue with him. It’s that I believed him.

You can chalk some of my naivety and insecurity up to being a first-generation Argentine female, sure. You can always try and blame yourself. And I did. For years after that incident, I wrote my words in a humbled manner, expecting they would never be read by anyone other than myself. And that the words I wrote in my journal were an artistic form of expression I would be able to share with my wrinkling, nostalgic self in fifty years. The countless English essays I wrote on Hemingway, Whitman, and Thoreau were filed away for my own personal collection. Maybe I figured I could become the Gertrude Stein of my generation, and edit scripts and speeches and personal essays for my friends and boyfriends and clients. I accepted could love the written word, but never write myself.

Fast forward ten years. I’m sitting in my apartment in New York on a Friday afternoon. A number of my pieces have been published on VICE. I’ve written breaking news for major online publications. I write freelance copy for women’s health and LGBTQ organizations. I’ve interviewed Olympic rugby players, drag queens, and innovators making the world a better place for queer folks.

I have always been a writer. I have always been a good writer. Fuck it: I am a great writer. That is why I write. I write to remind myself, Mr. Hansen, and anyone else in my shoes or otherwise that what you do with your life is never, ever restricted by the hand you’ve been dealt — or what someone you look up to tells you.

How’s that for a pep talk?

 

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Things I think about on the subway

I don’t take the subway to work. I don’t even walk to work. If you count rolling out of bed, maybe putting on half-decent clothes before stumbling to the coffee machine in my apartment, then yes, you can say I walk to work. But for the most part, let’s go with no. I do not.

But I do get on the subway. And when I do, I ride that shit hard. I will begrudgingly get on the subway to make trips to Trader Joe’s or Other Important Places, but those are relatively short adventures. I don’t have enough time to get through an entire Spotify playlist, or read an entire page of my current book and actually absorb the material. It’s a quickie kind of deal. If I’m not paying attention, I’ll miss my desired stop. Which I have done on many occasions since moving to this city. It’s fine. I whip myself at night as punishment. Don’t tell me you don’t get off on public humiliation.

The longer subway voyages are far more mentally stimulating. I’m talking like 45 minutes on the D train uptown on a Friday at 6pm. You don’t need me to tell you how that goes. It’s like everyone is involuntarily planning Sardines and Musical Chairs. It sounds funny, but it’s really not. These are probably the times I actually have time to think on the train. I read a lot, yes, but sometimes I get nervous about not paying attention on a crowded subway (or even an empty one), and sit there like a five-year-old waiting for her Easy-Bake brownies to be ready.

So I think. I ponder. I space-out. I day (subway?)-dream. Whatever you want to call it, I do it. It’s something we all do, particularly when we’re trying to get from point A to point B. These are the things I think about:

Not pissing other people off. Every minute I spend on my phone on the train, I die a little. There’s no damn wifi (even though it says there is), and even if there was, what the fuck would I look at? That photo of my brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s coworker who lives in Maine but used to live in Texas and just got a new golden doodle puppy? How did I even get there? No. No, no. I’d rather stare at the floor or the shitty advertisements on the train ceiling. The problem, though, is that people’s feet are in the way. So now I’m looking at people’s feet. At their toenails, their cankles, their shoes. And I can’t just zone out on one pair of feet — my resting bitch face will probably cause me to get punched or spit on by the next asshole who thinks I’m judging them (I am, you dick).

But really — I spend more time pretending not to look at people’s feet or butts (not sorry) just so I can get lost in my thoughts uninterrupted. This is where dark sunglasses become quite useful.

Whether or not I should give money to the subway performers. Sometimes I feel like a real asshole for not wanting to shell out a buck for someone who’s playing the accordion with their eyes closed, or someone pole dancing. Sometimes I feel even worse when I want to give someone cash because of their dope pipes, but have none. (New York is a city made of cash and it’s the bane of my fucking existence I hate carrying cash ok.) And then it doesn’t even become about the performer anymore. It turns into this selfish self-evaluation of whether or not I am a good person, and how my karma is now totally fucked because it sounds like I’m trying to justify not doing anything in the first place. From there, it turns into some real petty, dark self-observations, and I end up resenting that awesome cover of Tegan and Sara’s “I Feel You in My Bones” cover because I realize I really am an asshole who needs to meditate in the mornings more often. God fucking damn it. This is also where I avoid eye contact with said performers and any one who has a pure enough soul to throw some dollars their way. I am a horrible human.

Playing the “What If” game. Don’t judge me on this one. Or do, I don’t care. This is where I sit (or stand) and think about all the random shit that comes into my brain, completely unfiltered. These thoughts aren’t clouded by anything, and sometimes pop into my head as quickly as people shove their way off the subway. Most of the time the particular train I’m on becomes its own parallel universe, of which I am an inhabitant. I think about the relations I would (or wouldn’t have) with some of the people on the train. Like, if that dude who keeps staring at my rack actually made eye contact with me, would I sock him in the face? Or would I ask out that chick with the cute butt who also has obnoxiously large glasses? And what about that one chick I used to date, would I talk to her if she were here too? Or my mom’s boss who is the sweetest dude ever dealing with a shitty potential divorce — did he really divorce his man? Or my old friend from high school, what is she up to? I think we follow each other on Instagram. It’s not like we ended things on a bad note. Like my ex from college, who really was an asshole. Gross, I can’t believe I let that happen. Why didn’t anyone stop me? Ugh, why do I still make bad choices? And why haven’t I started wearing my night guard again?

Go ahead, judge me. But you and I both know you do it too.

 

The apple vs. avocados

Avocados aren’t even from California. They don’t even go here.

And yet, that’s the shit I miss the most from my sunshine state. (And my dog, obviously.)

I know living in America means having every literal fruit and vegetable available to purchase and for my consumption, but ordering tacos with guac ain’t the same here in New York City. It’s like I gave up avocados as part of some permanent Lent I unknowingly signed up for.

I will say, though, there are many other qualities of New York that I only dreamed about in San Francisco. Like: Dollar slice pizza, not getting kicked out of clubs at 2 am, and experiencing actual summer. (Yes, the first thing I did here was walk my sweaty self to BB&B and buy an AC — who says you can’t buy happiness?)

I like big cities. Correction: I love them. Having the chance to live in Buenos Aires after growing up in the Bay Area is what likely spurred me to consider moving to New York. I didn’t actually make a plan to do it until I realized and experienced a couple things, all of which included your cliche shitty life moments: having someone tell you they don’t want to see you anymore, hating your job, and consequently getting rear-ended while on your way home from therapy after discussing said rejection and job loathing. I was in a rut, car-less, and needed a change. So I bought a white board, and made a plan.

About a month before I flew out, my mom said to me in passing, “You know, your problems are going to follow you where ever you go.” If you’ve ever watched any “Austin Powers” movies, then you definitely remember those sexy robot babes who shoot bullets out of their tits, but whose heads explode on the account of being unable to handle Austin’s hip gyrations. That’s probably the most accurate account of how my brain felt when she said that. Why? Because I knew that. I wasn’t running away from my problems, or romanticizing New York. Contrary to my poor memory and space cadet tendencies, I knew exactly what I was doing in buying that one-way plane ticket.

I moved for a plethora of reasons, some of which I’m even figuring out along the way. But one of them was to tackle my issues head-on, something I just couldn’t do in my hometown. I knew damn well my problems would never “go away,” and dealing with them didn’t mean fixing or ridding myself of them. Apart from my unhealthy obsession with kombucha and running into Broad City bitches a second time, most of my “issues” are what make me, me. So it’s not a matter of banishing my flaws, but accepting them. It’s the least I could do for myself here. And yeah, maybe I don’t have local avocados to smother my salads or face in. And maybe I have accidentally ended up deep in Queens because I was too busy queuing my Spotify. And yes, maybe I got suckered into trying over priced hand scrub in a fancy gold foundation. But it’s part of my process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Also, if you’re steal reading this shit, here’s my latest on VICE.

Yoga pants and shit

So let’s talk about the latest airline scandal and girls.

In case you haven’t heard, United’s been getting some shit for prohibiting a couple of preteens from boarding a weekend flight re their leggings/yoga pants. Anytime I see the airline United, I typically cease reading — I have unfinished business with them (more on that another time). Anyway, I thought the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” policy was reserved for beach towns like Santa Cruz or my alma mater Isla Vista. Because, you know, those are fucking beach towns where that shit is actually applicable. Unless United now has portable beaches on their planes, I clearly missed the memo.

Anyways, back to the girls. Yeah, these two kiddos were initially barred from boarding their flight because they were wearing leggings. Some argue the plot thickened when it was revealed these gals were flying under “pass travelers,” which then gave United the right to inflict particular dress code.

Here’s what United tweeted:

“In our Contract of Carriage, Rule 21, we do have the right to refuse transport for passengers who are barefoot or not properly clothed. There is a dress code for pass travelers as they are representing UA when they fly.”

I know I simplified, but if you really want to bitch about that, go ahead and read some reputable coverage here.

The ordeal ended with the girls putting on additional clothing and eventually boarding the flight. But damn, that just got the party started, y’all. If you haven’t read Seth Rogen or Chrissy Teigen’s tweets on the matter, treat yoself and take a gander.

This is where I tell you that I think United fucked up and is completely in the wrong. So yes, United fucked up, and I’m going to tell you why.

The multi-faceted and layers of issues here are something that should not go undiscussed. To begin with, it seems rather sexist on a superficial level to block two 10-year-old girls from boarding a flight because they’re wearing leggings. Leggings. We’re not talking a Sasha Baron Cohen speedo or Ri Ri’s notoriously bad@$$ Swarovski dress — and as a side note, anyone should be allowed to wear whatever the fuck they want on a flight so long as it’s not a damn swastika or threatens or harms another individual. I’m pretty sure there’s some legal shit that bars airlines or companies or whatever from discriminating against customers. But I’m not a lawyer, so (don’t) sue me.

Back to the point. No airline, — or any company, period — should have the power to keep a customer from boarding re their attire. Secondly, a company shouldn’t even be discriminating or censoring people’s clothing. If you really love and respect your customers, you’re going to love and respect them as they are — and there shouldn’t be a dress code that determines that.

And honestly — if you’re going to use the bullshit excuse that travel pass flyers represent your company, then you need a reality check. Really? You really believe two little girls in leggings are going to be the poster children of your airline? I get that United wants to stand their ground. Good for you guys. And sure, maybe people flying under the traveler pass — which seems like a privilege — need to adhere to some common decency and ethical standards; everyone should. While I certainly think United’s travel pass policies are a grey area for issues like this, I seriously doubt two tweens in leggings qualifies as United’s definition of indecent or immoral.

This brings me to my next grievance. These weren’t any two 10-year-olds. These were two girls. Who got called out for their clothing as they stood next to their father, a grown-ass man, who was reportedly wearing shorts that were several inches above his knees.  So I’m wondering, what was it about this dude’s daughters’ fucking leggings that were worse than their father’s short-shorts? In what universe is this not sexist? If so, I’d love to travel there and become their queer Latina messiah.

Seriously, this United fiasco isn’t about simply barring customers from getting on a flight. It’s about a company that inflicted some real patriarchal, hegemonic heteronormative rationale (not sure if you can call that kind of shit even logical) in their ruling. It is never, ever okay to write off a preteen wearing skin tight bottoms as indecent, immoral, or suggestive (and if you think leggings actually do that, I implore to reconsider hypersexualizing the female youth and females in general). And I know United didn’t literally say anything about these two girls being provocative or pulling a Britney “Oops I Did It Again” moment. But they didn’t have to. That’s the thing: our assumptions of what females wear — young or old — is tied to their morality or what is socially conservative enough. That’s the problem. We set women up to be knocked down in situations like these, because we gauge their decency and moral standards based on the clothes they wear.

And for the record, I do wear yoga pants.

Girls, caught up

I have an addictive personality. So when I started watching “Girls,” I knew I was fucked.

Yes, I did watch the entire series in a week and a half, and yes, I did eat a shit ton of dulce de leche while doing it. For reasons unknown, I had been resistant to watching the show since it came out. Maybe I wasn’t in the right place in my life. Or maybe I just didn’t have HBO or the will power to binge watch the show through other means. Maybe I was just being a difficult little brat. I’ll never know.

Anyway, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I suppose it was rather peculiar watching the show from the beginning as it’s currently airing its final season.

I’m not sure I can sit here and say it’s a life-changing show and that I feel utterly inspired to have heart and pursue my writing career while making a bunch of messy, shitty, and stupid mistakes. There were plenty of moments where I could empathize with Hanna, as she sat alone in her apartment, or with Jessa, each time she fell back into whatever binge. There were also moments were I fucking hated every one of them for being incredibly cunty in their own way. (As much of an idiot Adam is, he just may be my favorite, for the record.) I guess that’s the point of a good show — you become invested.

Apart from being an incredibly impatient human, knowing the series will soon come to an end left me with some anxiety. You know — when you’re in a relationship and you know the end is coming, but it’s not quite there yet. But you just know. Or when you say goodbye to someone and promise you’ll keep in touch, but you know you won’t. I hate when things end. Ending things blows so fucking hard. It’s not even about the TV show ending. Because the show is meant for you to internalize your own shit, and consider your own life. Who you’re fucking, or who you’re not fucking. Which friend you’re talking to, or not talking to. Whatever it is, you become weirdly selfish and project your own shit into the show. Or fuck, maybe that’s just me.

The point is, TV shows — good ones — are supposed to make you feel that way. You become invested. Not in the show, but for your own selfish reasons. And perhaps that’s why the finality of some series can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Because the show is over. It’s not real. It never was. But you are, and you’re still stuck there on the couch wondering whether you made the right call in whatever scenario you’re thinking about. At the end of the show, the characters cease to exist — how freeing that must be.

So, I wonder what Lena Dunham has planned for the finale of the series. I’m betting she’s already figured it out and knows exactly what happens. So what should happen? And what do we want to see happen? Do we want Hanna and Adam to end up together? Do we want Marnie to really, really become selfless and help Desi? Do we even want Jessa and Adam to be together? Do we really want Hanna to have this baby?

The romantic in me obviously wants Hanna and Adam to be together and raise the kid. The subtle hints are certainly there. Adam’s deep commitment to looking after Sample, his pet name for Hanna, their soul-crushing talk in the hospital. I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything more powerful than unrequited love, and if you disagree, go fuck yourself. Hanna and Adam’s relationship, and the potential for them to reconnect, forces you to apply that same sense of possibility into your own life. Sometimes, things don’t work out.

So you wonder, what if? And I can’t help but wonder if Hanna and Adam could actually work — and I know Dunham is fucking with my emotions. But I know the chances of that reality are rather slim. It’s too predictable, it’s too easy. It gives you a mental break and a sense of security, and I don’t think that’s what this show is about. I’m not sure I could call “Girls” a romance show. Sure, that’s disheartening. Because you want it to work. But maybe you won’t ever see that person again. Maybe you won’t get your work published. Maybe you won’t get over your obscene addiction to kombucha and Pringles. Maybe you won’t find the answers you’re looking for. Sometimes, audacity does not always favor the bold.

But what if it does?

Death of a soccer coach

I never knew what it was like losing someone from your past until it actually happened.

I recently learned that my soccer coach passed away from lung cancer. The last time I saw him was a year ago at the gym. It had probably been five years since we spoke. I knew he was battling cancer, and in a selfish form of denial, I didn’t reach out earlier. I wish I had.

His hair was thinning and his clothes were baggy, but my militant, kind-hearted coach was still there. Naturally, I gave him a bear hug and brought him up to speed on my life. Then we went back to our gym routines. That was the last time I saw him.

Harry Tom was never a man of many words, but the ones he did speak carried so much weight, you’d think the world would shake with each syllable he uttered. This was true from the moment I met him, when I tried out for his soccer team at age 13. I wish I had the chance to tell him how deeply his faith in me — when I made the team — would shape me for years to come.

Camila at age 13: A slightly overweight, painfully shy teen, who spent most of her time on NeoPets and posting her wolf doodles on Deviant Art. I was weird as fuck (and I still am). By the pestering of my mother, I decided to try out for a competitive soccer team. I had noncommittally played soccer and softball since the age of 5, and my mom dared suggest my potential could turn into something better than wolf drawings and painting my NeoPets (I’m so sorry I abandoned them, truly).

So I tried out. And fuck; it was the most nerve-wracking, scary, and embarrassing thing my pubescent self had done. I severely doubted I would make the team — everyone was so much more with it than I was. And there was Harry — who probably spoke all of ten words during the two-day try out. His silent, stony gaze was unnerving. I figured this would be one of the many failures of my life. But Harry had other plans for me.

I did indeed make the team, and over the next five years, I upped my skills, competitive nature, and most importantly, my confidence. I credit that to Harry. And I learned the hard way.

Getting used to Harry’s coaching style took a minute (an entire season). It’s difficult to not take it personally when you see your coach  repeatedly hit himself in the forehead with his clip board on the sideline of a game, or when he verbally assaults you with harsh — but valuable — words at practice. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t return home from practice or an unsuccessful tournament crying. But I digress, Harry’s intense, albeit short-tempered demeanor wasn’t a reflection of judgement, disdain, or doubt. I think many people jumped to that conclusion, and threw in the towel. His coaching style isn’t for everyone, and I know I wouldn’t be the first to admit that. For 13-year-old me, learning to accept constructive criticism — at a very high volume — wasn’t easy.

It’s not that his words and coaching — no matter how harsh — were invaluable. It’s because they came from of place of belief. Harry didn’t insult you because he doubted you — it’s because he believed in you. He cared. In hindsight, I’m overwhelmed by how much faith, support, and guidance Harry gave each of his players in his own way. He actually gave a shit. And he pushed us during every practice, game, and tournament. His unwavering emotional investment was always, always there. And apart from obviously wanting to win games, I genuinely believed he had an intuition for recognizing the potential in each and every one of us — and I do not think that is something you find in many coaches, let alone humans.

This past week I was added to a Facebook group message with all of the females who played on Harry’s team. So many of us are spread out across the world, and do not keep in touch. But with each response, everyone noted Harry touched our lives so deeply — and years later, long after many of us stopped playing soccer — that sentiment is still shared amongst all of us.

So it pains me that I never took the opportunity to thank him for the gift of confidence and audacity. The regret will fester in me for a while. But what I do know, is that even if I did thank him, he’d tell me I had it in me all along.

Being a white Latina

I am pale-skinned.

The color of my skin (apart from it literally being the skin I live in) has been a pillar of my identity. But it was not until recently that I grew a pair (of ovaries, obviously) that I dared write about it. Skin color, and in turn, race, are rather touchy subjects and the last thing I want to do is piss off the wrong audience. But I know that’ll happen regardless, so fuck it.

I’ve also avoided discussing this issue because I did not want to validate the ignorant statements made by people regarding my skin and culture. Let me be clear: this is about my identity as a pale-skinned Latina. This isn’t a pity party, and it sure as hell isn’t a blog post where I play the victim of racism, because that would be real fucked up.

What I do want to talk about, though, is an already marginalized group of people who encounter a peculiar set of assumptions that tie their skin color to their culture. Again, I am talking about pale-skinned Latinas.

Yes, I was that one “white girl” in my friend’s quinceañera and yes, I have Argentine citizenship. But neither of those things should serve as proof or validation that I am actually Latina.

To be fair, on a purely objective level, I am white. My skin is pale. Hence, I am a white woman. But culturally, I am not that “white girl” — which I should mention is a term in itself riddled with contradictions and poorly justified assumptions. However, for the purpose of this post, I’m running with it.

I’m not here to list my grievances of being mistaken for a white woman or a white person — who the fuck wants to listen to a pale-skinned person complain about their pale skin? I’m very aware of the privilege that comes with being white — that sentiment is not lost on me. But another thing: I’m perfectly content with the skin I live in.

What I’m not content with, is having to justify, disclose, and even convince people that I’m actually Latina. I get that society functions under a certain set of assumptions and shit. I can’t fight that. I can’t help it that my skin is pale. I’m (not) sorry I don’t have a fucking Argentine sun tattooed on my forehead as a constant PSA. But I am not going to pull a Kylie Jenner and force myself to fit what society deems Latina-enough. I won’t tan myself and I definitely won’t let you call me mami, either.

And I’m not the only pale-skinned Latina out there, in case you haven’t figured that one out. We’re here, we exist, and we’re queer (okay, maybe only some of us). But really, we exist in a grey area of cultural assumptions. We’re not totally “white,” and yet, we aren’t always accepted as  entirely “Latina” either. God forbid you find yourself in Mi Pueblo listening to the Mexican mother and daughter talking shit about your whiteass in hushed voices. And I hope you never have to sit through a terrible date with someone who loves “spicy Latinas.” Don’t even get me started on the general hypersexualization of Latinas (other other WOC). At face-value, these experiences are  slightly comical, and I am happy to exist as an anomaly. It thrills me to watch someone’s reaction while I speak on the phone to my grandma, or how well I can salsa dance (hips don’t lie, bitches). I love challenging people’s understandings of what the Latina identity is. Even if I am a prickly pear, soy rellena con una dulzura que ni pudieras imaginar si tratabas. I, and so many others, will never, ever fit into your boxes of categorizing Latinas (and women, tbh). And we don’t want to, either.

I’d be lying, though, if I said there weren’t moments of frustration, isolation, and depression regarding that grey area I exist in. It’s a shit feeling when other Latinos feel they need to talk to you in English instead of Spanish. It’s also shitty when Latinos tell you that you speak decent Spanish for a gringa. Sometimes I feel like a toy for my non-Latinx friends who ask me to translate or “say something sexy.” There are moments in the day where sometimes, I don’t know what the fuck I am. And I imagine there are countless other human beings who feel the exact sense of alienation I am talking about — Latinx or not.

I’m not here to whine about the way I turned out. I’m not here to bag on white people. But I am here to document and publicize a group of individuals who are often unseen and overlooked. My identity, like so many others, is worth being noted. It is worth being seen.

It’s a confusing upside-down that I’m still trying to navigate, but hell, it’s there.

Dinner with divorced immigrant parents: A meal time horror story

I’m not a great story teller.

Most of the time, I just let the memory of whatever ridiculous shit (which has been a lot lately) happened to me be regurgitated through funny photos, eye witness accounts or mortifying Bart rides.

So in the spirit of embarrassing myself on the Internet, here is my latest bit. If nothing else, I hope this validates any other first-generation or children of divorce’s experience.

My parents divorced around two years ago. Both of them are from Buenos Aires, and somehow managed to find each other in California. My dad was on a work visa as a computer engineer, and my mother was a nanny in Redondo Beach. My father turned out to be my mother’s room mate in the Bay Area, so when she came to visit him, the rest really was history.

They eloped after dating for five months in the Chapel of Love in Lake Tahoe. My mom wore a black wedding dress. It was an accident, she says.

Fast-forward 25 years later. I’m at a dinner table with my two brothers and parents at a Cambodian restaurant. After finally being convinced that I was a professional writer, my parents wanted to celebrate. It was an incredibly kind and humbling gesture, so naturally, I accepted.

Dinner was peculiar for a number of reasons. My parents had a pretty amicable divorce process, although I don’t really think any divorce is painless or fun. I was fortunate enough that the two of them, in their own weird way, are still friends. No one fought over my shitty paintings or the graduation photo of definitely drunk me. No one was an asshole. Like I said, it could have been worse. Which is why dinner was an oddity in our family gatherings, because no one ended up stabbing someone. Since my parents split, the only time the five of us are in the same room is for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are in itself weird encounters, too.

So instead of my parents taking passive aggressive shots at each other over coconut rice or preaching about their new partners, my parents were acting normal. I still can’t tell if that “normal” was really a facade for the sake of putting on a good face for the kids, or if it was genuine. I’m not sure. They were trying, though.

What I do know is that there was a deep sense of love filled with a lot of pain. My parents clearly still have a lot of love for each other, which I think is beautiful. These two people left their entire lives behind in search of something better. Along the way, they met each other, and built a life together. They bought their first home together. Their first car. They even got their citizenships together (it took them eight years, for the record). And somehow, they managed to raise at least two functional kids (I am definitely not one of them).

What I’m trying to say is that these two humans built their lives together in a place where they had no one but each other. This is the immigrant story, the American dream of making something of yourself. And even though I think my dad secretly works for the KGB, I’m so proud and privileged to be the daughter of immigrant parents. But I am also aware that divorcing the only person you knew in a foreign county isn’t easy.

In a lot of ways, my parents’ connection runs so deep because we’re all we have out here — everyone else is on another continent and time zone. Breaking up with that person can be real fucking lonely. Who else do you have? Who else do you lean on? What do you do when your diaspora isn’t your diaspora anymore?

Like I said, I think divorce blows for everyone, regardless of who and how things go down. But it wasn’t until dinner with my family, that I realized how their divorce was one of many layers. It wasn’t until all five of us were sitting there, plates empty, and with nothing to say, did I realize how their split hurt them on a national, cultural and social level. What the hell are you supposed to do when the only other orange in a room of apples doesn’t want to be with you?

But like most Argentines, my parents use humor as a buffer between that pain and awkward sense of loss. It may not have been exactly horrifying, but it was weird, uncomfortable, and slightly disheartening. It was probably the first and last time I’ll ever not finish my curry.

So yeah, divorce sucks. And divorce between your immigrant parents sucks, too. You’re not really sure where to go from there, or how to go anywhere — at least at the dinner table. And maybe you don’t have to know. Maybe it’s another trail your parents will build along the way. And I suppose that’s the best you can do. I mean, your family is your family. You can’t really break up with them, and that’s something worth noting.

Dinner may be awkward as fuck, but only until your brother shows you the mussel he’s eating definitely looks like a vagina. As long as you chose to continue to sit at the dinner table, you and the people you love will be there too.

 

V-Day, D-Day, Me-Day

I am in a dream. I am on the streets of New York City, and I pass a homeless teen with a sign that read, “All I have right now is twenty bucks. I’m just trying to get by.” I walked passed him, but not before I turned around and offered to buy him lunch at In-n-Out (ha). My best friend from college was suddenly there, and the three of us wandered into a subway stop. We were dancing, the three of us, when everything started shaking. I fell to the ground. Everything started to vibrate and I couldn’t hear either of them yelling at me.

I wake up. It’s Saturday. 8 a.m. I crack my eyes open to see a slew of notifications on my phone, none of which I want to read. Especially the text from an “ex best friend” informing me she’s traveling to South America with my ex-boyfriend. I roll over and go back to sleep. Hey, it was either roll my eyes or roll over. I know you’d pick sleep, too.

A year ago, I may have reacted differently. I’m an explosive mother fucker and you will know if I am pissed at you (may the odds ever be in your favor). So I may have responded, and not vey nicely. I may have told her she’s a terrible human being and has literally the worst taste in men. But I chose not to.

Why? Two reasons. First, because I don’t care. Secondly, because I care. I could care less about the ex. But I care that I lost a friend. I care that I lost someone who I had lived with, traveled with, and cried with (over this particular ex, I might add). The hardest pill to swallow, in all of this, is that my friend was no longer someone I recognized. That may seem harsh — fine. And yet, realizing that maybe you and another person are no  longer meant to be friends, or are compatible, is tough. Losing friendships suck.

How do you carry that around? How to process losing a friend? Nobody tells you about the trauma that comes with losing friendships. It fucking sucks. “Every year, you have more to lose.”

So when I scream “fuck” at least once a day in my car, it’s not always a byproduct of my dating life (a whole other can of worms). Sometimes, it’s because I remember all the people that are no longer in my life. That can be a slippery slope toward nostalgia, I know. But I never go back.

My only other option is to continue yelling profanities inside my car at varying volumes, drinking cocktails at bougie bars and always pulling Irish goodbyes at parties. How else am I supposed to deal?

Everyone talks about their break-ups with partners. It is a known part of dating and falling in and out of love. We learn from a young age that this happens all the time, and it will happen to us. Heart-break is part of the process, they say. And that someday, you’ll be rewarded with finding “the one.” But I’d argue no one tells you that you’re going to lose friends, even when you don’t want to. And that will break your heart, too. That sometimes, it’s not because you live in different cities or countries, or that there’s some other external force responsible. Sometimes, you don’t like the person they’ve become. Or your interests shift. Or something changes between the two of you. Sometimes, it’s nobody’s fault. You change. They change. It happens. That doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

Carrying around all your hurt can be lonely. From being unable to pick a safe word with a partner to desperately  trying to forgive your friend for fucking up, it’s a cluster fuck. No shit I’d rather sip on mimosas in my backyard than go to that Tinder party (yes, this was a thing).

But I digress. If it’s going to fuck me over either way, I’d rather do it. I’d rather be let down over and over. I’d rather drink that whiskey-ginger, even if I can’t tell the difference between Jim Bean and Jameson. Because I’m doing it for me, not anyone else. Try breaking up with yourself — I dare you.

So get @ me.