Welcome back to my list. I’m fresh and back from the puke-a-rama that is early second trimester pregnancy and, let me level with you, pregnancy is not a fucking joke.
Forget all the mommy blogs and vlogs that have infested the internet. It seems like every fair-skinned broad with geometric eyebrows and a swollen uterus now has something profound to say on getting knocking up. They pirouette and plié in front of their webcams, demonstrating a darling belly that protrudes delicately across wide-set hip bones and thickening thigh gaps that still yet refuse to touch. And alas, here I sit, prying apart wobbly thighs in order to scratch wiry pubes through an adult diaper because – as these mommy bloggers neglect to mention – coughing or sneezing while pregnant can sometimes cause you to piss yourself. Perhaps I’m bitter, but if you’ve kept up with any of the crap I write about, you’ll notice that I tend to avoid pussyfooting around the delicacies of life.
Granted, this is a far cry from my teens and my life living inside the rodent infested shit-hole my alcoholic father called home. Nowadays, I live in a much cleaner, warmer space thanks to my Third World, workaholic husband.
Still, I can’t help but reminisce on the days when lonesome desperation and under-handedly vague traces of racism seemed to be the norm.
In that vein and continuing on with my list of growing up Mexican-American, I give you:
#4) Too Mexican for the Gringos
In my late teens, I worked in an upscale department store in the hosiery department. Much of my job consisted of refilling the bins of overpriced Calvin Klein control tops and enthusiastically chatting up reluctant drag queens whom just wanted to buy a pair of overpriced leggings in peace.
The work was stupidly dull and all I really wanted was to work the makeup counter. Those Shiseido-slinging debutantes made commission on all of their sales – in comparison to my ZERO commission – and seemed to have an almost Anna Wintour-ish reign over the store. They were always the first in line to clock out at the end of the night, and they pulled in a hell of a lot more coin than us pantyhose pushers. Plus, the girls and fantastically gay men behind the makeup counter always seemed to be making a fashion statement that put those moo moo wearing Sephora broads to shame.
Unjustly confined to my pantyhose prison, I longed for the day when I could Shawshank Redemption my ass over to cosmetics and start slinging Clinique with the big girls. So I untethered the costume closet beast and proceeded to dress my ass off like the little ethnic Cindy Lauper I knew I was. I figured if I dressed for the job I wanted, surely someone would take notice.
My outfits consisted of starchy red petticoats and plastic tropical flowers pinned to my 90’s Drew Barrymore-esque, spiked pixie cut. As I paraded up and down the bins and aisles – smearing my individuality all over the upturned rat snout of retail America – I soon caught the eye of a really good looking guy in the men’s department.
The best part about this attraction was that I had had my eye on him, too. He was cute, lean, stylish, and had an edgy sense of humor. Plus, to my mother’s delight, he was a bit on the Caucasian side. On the twisted side of Mexican racism, marrying into the race that historically oppressed your ancestors is like getting a major job promotion in a company that repossessed your senile grandmother’s house. It may not be discussed openly but, in my family, it’s a legitimately underhanded way to get ahead. Your place in society somehow improves, your kids have a better chance of having blue eyes instead of unremarkably brown ones, and your chances of toting a Louis Vuitton handbag on your wrist rise astronomically. The message from my grandparents was that fair skin was beautiful and that any opportunity to milk down the muddiness of the gene pool meant that your kids would someday be the ones buying the tacos, not making them.
Despite the racial undertones beating down the backdoors of my brain, I was more driven by the fact that I had never had a boyfriend in high school. One year out and still with no prospects, I was not about to let the opportunity of a romance pass me by. I was eager to dump a Saudi prince’s share of crude oil on this flickering kindle of a potential romance and I made damn well sure to let this porcelain cheek-boned man know that I was (desperately) available.
Every day, I would peacock past the men’s department – before and after my shift and for every other reason in between – just to ensure that I crossed his field of vision for a minimum of 4 to 8 times per day. I even started parking my car in the lot that required me to enter and exit through the doors next to his department. Sure, I overdid it, but I was nearly 19 years old and living in a vermin infested house with my alcoholic father. Even the distant, gentle admiration of a ripe young man was a direly welcomed distraction from the madness of pulling back my covers at night and finding mouse turds all over my sheets.
When the Puerto Rican bitches running the hosiery department decided they didn’t need another dramatic Hispanic alphabetizing their high-waist control tops, I scrambled for a department transfer. In a stroke of luck, I was transferred from pantyhose purgatory to a seasonal register position in the men’s department. Granted, it was temporary, but still closer in proximity to my dandy little Caucasian candy and his deliciously Paleolithic cheeckbones.
I no longer needed excuses to parade around and look cute. Now, I could stand like a pretty little lotus amidst the overpriced Tommy Bahama shirts and just glimmer and glow for the boy of my late-teen dreams. As expected, Cheeckbones and I got closer and came to realized that we both loved Japan and Japanese culture. I told him I had a kimono, dabbled in Japanese tea ceremony, spoke semi-fluent Japanese, and had even visited Japan once before.
From the gaze in his eyes, I felt like I had finally nabbed him at konichiwa. Very soon, it felt like he and I would be all over each other, violently tearing one another’s ginger packets asunder while rabidly guzzling the sticky, sweet and sour duck sauce that frothed and roiled within the dark, pink folds of our aching loins.
Then, one day, during one of our conversations, he asked if I was Japanese. It’s not a complete stretch since I look a little Asian but, seeing only the innocence and curiosity of the question, I casually told him that I was actually Mexican-American.
At that moment, you could almost hear the air in his dick-balloon deflate. It was the long death-squeal of a pinched party balloon as it makes that pppllltthhhhtththttt sound before clapping against the wall on the other side of the room.
The next day, he barely spoke to me. I didn’t even exist anymore except to ring up his customers or bring out their tailored suits from the back room. After no more than a week or so, I saw him making coffee runs with one of the lanky Puerto Rican girls I had left behind in the pantyhose penal colony.
So what the fuck happened?
My best guess is that I probably lost that air of exotic mystery. It’s the kind of mystére that many Asian women posses in the eyes of horned-up sex tourists. To the average otaku, Japan is the land of anatomically incorrect anime and giggling school girls with adorably hairy vaginas. Mexico, on the other hand, is the land of tacos and drug cartels and stereotypically short, fat, hairy women who watch Cristina while hot rolling their massive bangs.
Granted, I was still young enough to be picking womb goo out of my hair, but I wanted a relationship so badly that I didn’t even bother to understand the obvious faults behind this potential pairing. Perhaps my mind was too cluttered with the old world racism that led my grandparents to put “White” on the birth certificates of their fairer-skinned children (my mother included). It also attests as to why my father fought me so adamantly when I dared to check the “Hispanic” box on any official forms or applications:
Ridiculously Dark Mexican Dad: “We’re considered Caucasian so you check the White box.”
Mildly Tanned Somewhat Asian-Looking Daughter: “But we’re not White, Dad!”
Ridiculously Dark Mexican Dad: “We are of the WHITE race!!”
Mexican Mom Cooking Beans in the Kitchen: “Listen to your father. Check the White box, Mija.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware of the fact that we here in the fancy United States of Holy-Shit-Did-We-Just-Elect-That-Guy-President still very much have our own complicated set of race issues. There are still many folks whom consistently try to incubate new offspring within the it’s-all-white-people’s-fault species, but that’s just as silly as trying to define the hierarchy of which lives have the most value – black, blue, yellow, red, fuschia.
The truth is that racism derives from both external and internal stimuli. When you grow up in a self-loathing Mexican family, but attend school in a part of town where the grocery stores stock your basic food staples in the “international” aisle, you start to internalize all the racial survivalist tactics inherited from a time when speaking Spanish in a public setting could get you killed.
It eventually took me leaving my family and hometown to see all the racial baggage and anger that I had carried around for most of my teenage years. The life experience that I had accumulated further taught me that not all white people saw me as their cool bilingual friend whom could teach them curse words in a language different from their own (although they seemed to know most of the good ones already). Most just see me as the girl they like to have a conversation with over pumpkin spice lattes.
And yes, while there are still people who would look at me and see a confusingly Asian-looking brown girl who enjoys gender-bending haircuts, it’s still no excuse to blame all of my racial hardships on the white people whom don’t respect the value of my contributions to American society.
Instead, I’ll just take the chickenshit way out and let Samantha Bee do that for me.
Tune in next time for #3: Too Gringo for the Mexicans.