Wishing Her True Girl Body Pride

Photo by Pauline Campos

She was two when she first asked me where babies come from. Without knowing where I was going to go with it, I pointed up and watched her her head tilt up for her eyes to focus on the night sky above.

“The stars,” I said.

Her entire being lit up upon hearing these words and she snuggled up against me “Tell me more, mama.”

A wish sat upon a star, looking down at the world below.

A woman sat in the cool night air, her head tilted up at just the right angle for the wish to watch as she closed her eyes and began to move her lips, speaking words the wish could feel but could not hear. When the woman stood up and went back inside her home, the wish smiled in that way that only wishes do. If the woman had come back out and looked up at the sky in the exact spot where she’d been looking just moments before, she would have been awestruck to see how brilliantly the star now twinkled against the night sky. For it’s a little-known fact that a star’s ability to shine is directly related to the happiness the wish sitting upon it is experiencing.

I don’t remember not knowing that my mother was a senior inb high school when she got pregnant with me. Or that she got married right after graduation and had me instead of letting her parents talk her into an abortion.

I don’t remember not thinking I was an accident. That I was never meant to be. That her life could have been different.

I hold my daughter close and tell her that she was meant to be.

 

The wish’s star was positively glowing.

It was finally her turn.

The wish had lost track of how long she sat upon her star, joyously watching as other wishes were called upon each night. When it was their turn, each wish would smile and wave to those still waiting to be called upon. And then, once they were, in the moment just before they stepped off their respective stars, they’d shine brighter than any other in the sky. And then the wish would fall, leaving a trail of light in its wake as it made its way down to the earth, ready to become someone’s something.

 

I wasn’t planned. I wasn’t wished for.

I just…was.

Maybe a wish would become a playful little puppy for a sweet little boy, or perhaps a wish would imaging what it would become as it fell, purring to its heart’s content as its dreamer got fitted it with a pretty pink collar. Or maybe a wish was meant to be a rainstorm for a thirsty flower, or maybe a wish trailed off into a beautiful nothingness, its only calling from its dreamer being the precious opportunity to see a falling star.

 

I’ve never felt that accidentally coming into existence gave me the right to feel worthy of the air I breathe or space in which I reside. Keep in mind that my mother never made me feel guilty for being born. She loves me and the four surprises that came after me. We all know that. I just can’t shake the feeling that I never should have been and that’s not her fault. It’s just the way my brain works.

 

 And while all the forms a wish might take once breathed into life are great and noble, this wish was making her star positively beam from the happiness radiating from within, for hers was a very special journey.

 “What kind of journey was it, Mama?” the little girl asked her mother, already knowing the answer and smiling a sleepy smile as she began to fall into a dream.

Because once upon a time an accident purposely wished on a star and a miracle happened. I thank almost every day for being my wish. usually as I am tucking her into bed at night. She thanks me for wishing her true. And then she smiles as she drifts off into dreams.

 

 

 Not-so-fine- Print.

I’m here. I’m just not really here, here. In an attempt to buy myself the illusion that I’m ahead for the next five minutes, what you are about to read was a favorite in the archives. I dressed it up a little and made it Shiny New But Not Really and that’s okay, I think.

In lieu of thanks, just leave a comment at the end. My therapist is begging you.

 

Five Ways to Jump-start Your Platform (or Not)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to resort to drastic measures to increase my writing platform to the size necessary for a publisher to like my writing and think I’m worth a book deal. Seeing as how my current plan for world domination isn’t quite working, I believe it is now time to resort to drastic measures.

Idea #1: I need to rob a bank (and get caught)

Go with me on this one. In my other life, I was a newsroom reporter who somehow always was assigned police beat, business, and those feature stories you read about how another kid was awesome enough to reach Eagle Scout. I’ll tell you right now that every time, it was the asshole who decided to do something Incredibly Stupid and then get himself arrested after tripping and falling over the pants that were already down at their ankles before they started running that always made the front page. Why? Because it’s funny.

People remember funny. People hone in on the funny in a newspaper because the rest of it is usually depressing as hell. So imagine, if you will, me trying to rob a bank and getting away with it. Me, the woman who sprained my ankle making a sandwich and broke my baby toe so many times I’ve lost count. Imagine me making a clean getaway and living the rest of my life in luxury on some remote island I bought myself after carefully putting my loot in the washing machine. That’s not funny.

Living the high-life is not the way to go with this one, y’all.

But if I got caught? The headline would probably read something like Woman Holds Up Bank, Arrested While Fumbling Through Purse for Keys to Getaway Car.

Idea #2: Become a reality TV star

Snooki. Really, do I have to explain this one, people? Didn’t think so.

Moving on…

Idea #3: Become a really popular blogger (Shut up)

Dooce, Scary Mommy, The Bloggess, The Pioneer Woman…the masses flock to their sites, and rightfully so. Hell, I’m a card-carrying member of The Masses, so I know what I’m talking about here. But achieving that level of fame and notoriety and page views and unique visitors would require me to, you know, not be an Unpopular Blogger. And therein lies my dilemma.

Idea #4: Put Some Actual Effort into Building My Online Presence

I really should start to take advantage of the whole world of connections that social media offers with Twitter and the Facebooking and Fan Page Liking and the the Linking on that In thing and the Pinterest and the Instagram and the StumbleUpon and the making sure I always keep my iPhone in my bra as to not miss an opportunity to feed what The Husband now lovingly refers to as The Addiction.

Wait a minute…

Idea #5: Being Famous

As in, for the sake of simply being famous. Like Paris Hilton or Kevin Federline. Or the Kardashian sisters. That kind of fame might not result in interviews on CNN, but it sure as hell feeds the paparazzi hiding in their garbage cans. I’m thinking a few cover shots on The National Enquirer will start to peak the public’s interest. Especially if the Unattractive Cellulite Shot with Black-Barred Face image is of me being led off in cuffs and in an orange jump suit.

Which leads me right back to where I started. If I want to get a book deal, I need to become Paris Hilton’ Bestie just long enough to make her disown me…because I robbed a bank.

 

I know how this is going to sound, but life was simpler when my BFF and The Husband were the only ones aware of the blog. I promise you I’m not crying because I seem to have magically fallen into a giant pot of Exactly What I Wanted, because I know how incredibly fortunate I am to have made it here. I’m a columnist. I get paid to give solicited advice and don’t even have to put a bra on to go to work. Sure, it’s hard to separate Life from Everything else– not like when I worked as a newspaper reporter, anyway. My work schedule was unpredictable because murderers like to keep the rest of us guessing, but I could actually tell you what days of the week I was working — and which days of the week I didn’t have to answer to an editor.

It might not be like this for everyone, but life is as crazy and it is beautiful as a freelance writer. The beautiful comes from the aforementioned Bra Optional policy (don’t worry … I maintain a strict Bra Required in Public Situation Policy. It’s kind of  no-brainer with DDD’s.) I’m doing what I have always wanted to do and get to do it when I feel like it. As long as I turn my work into my editors on or before the deadline, no one asks why I waited until the day before it was due to start a piece I had four weeks to write. I get to homeschool my kid, run errands, and take vacation to visit family and friends — all without having to bank vacation time or worry about getting someone to cover my shift.

I have to make up for it, though. If I want to watch a movie with The Husband tomorrow night, I’m going to be hauling ass tonight to make sure I’m as far ahead as I can be to make up for time lost. The same goes for conferences. I know I’m going to be insanely busy with the Social part of the Media world, so I am always trying to get ahead. The problem is…I never really am. At least, not for long. All I need is one week with a sick kid, three deadlines due back to back, and everything goes to hell. That’ when I’m back to where I started.

The crazy, if you can believe it, is an entirely separate (but totally related) category. Also, this is the part where I tell you how I’m Sort of Psychic.

Let’s jump in the Figurative Tardis and it’s 12 or so years ago and a younger me is explaining to a younger The Husband that I’m working on being Reverse Famous. He’s looking at me, confused, and trying to determine in I’m jut crazy, or crazy and cute and making sense. My theory went like this: Blog Publicly and Keep it a Secret Privately.

It was that, or not bothering at all to begin with.

“I’ll know I’m famous when both sides of the family start getting pissy because I’m writing,” I told him. “The icing on the fame cupcake is that they only start paying attention when the rest of the world is already watching.”

To be clear, when I say “writing,” I don’t mean the by-lined pieces on the front page of the local community paper about the latest boyscout to make it to Eagle Scout — in which I always had to mention how few actually earn this honor — because those were the pieces they could be proud of. Those were the stories that got clipped and handed to co-workers. No, I’m not talking about that kind of writing, at all. What I’m referring to, actually, is the kind of writing many would equate with taking random pages of my diary and slapping them up on the internet for the whole world to see.

To you, that’s maybe…weird. At best.

To a non-fiction writer (a memoirist, to use the Fancy Nancy version) it’s called a fucking essay.

The Husband didn’t ask me why I planned on reverse psychology-ing my way into making my dreams happen. But for the purpose of showing and not just telling, let’s pretend he did. Here’s the pretend answer I would have given had he asked what I was smoking and why I wasn’t sharing:

“If I start out writing with their eyes on every word, I’ll censor everything I say. I need to establish my voice first and be confident in where I’m standing before I have to answer to the peanut gallery. Basically,” I said, “The cat has to be out of the bag before anyone who knows me in real life knows I’ve got a cat to begin with.”

And he totally got it. His ten-year-anniversary gift was a switch to a platinum wedding set because I had said I wanted gold before we got engaged (well, what I actually said was I want gold because that’s what my family wears because heaven forbid I think for myself, so it all made sense.) Don’t forget that I come from a very traditional Mexican-American family and my hyphen is shiny new, being first generation, and all. That saying about the village raising the child is less a saying and more of a cultural commandment.

In fact, I’m convinced the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation, were modeled off of my family. All of my family. The young are raised to think with and as the group does for the good of all. For the uninitiated (or for those with actual lives), the Borg are a fictional alien race made up of beings who’ve been forced into the “hive mind” and turned into partially robotic drones.  In one episode, a young Borg is found wounded by the crew and nursed back to health by Dr. Beverly Crusher. When asked a direct question pertaining to his person and his person only, the Borg answered with “We do not…” or “We will…” until Jordie and Dr. Crusher explained what the first-person singular is, and why individuality is so very important to the human race. The Borg was named Hugh by Jordie. When asked what his name was previously, his response was Three of Five.

I won’t lie. I kind of wanted to hug him, right then and there. And when Hugh made the choice to return to the hive to protect Captain Jean Luke and The Enterprise? You guys? I may have gotten misty. Because — minus the destroying entire races and planets and playing Dr. Fankentstein with the lefotvers — I could totally relate. I once broke up with a sweet boy in high school because he was African-American and Greek (You guess which part was the problem). I lied and said The Husband gave me permission to get an ankle tattoo when I was 28 to stop the criticism and wouldn’tyaknow, it actually worked. (And yes, The Husband thought this was hysterical. He gets sex on the nights he doesn’t pretend that story is a turn on for anyone other than himself.) The Hive is real, y’all. And it’s as lonely and stifling as it is beautiful and complex.

It’s hard to think for oneself, let alone realize that you aren’t, until you wake up one day, disconnected from the Collective. Suddenly, we becomes I and My family wears becomes I prefer.… Eventually, I could never write that turns into Maybe I can allude to… and Okay, I wrote it, but I can never publish it… becomes Fuck it, I just hit publish. Maybe they’ll never see it? Then they do and sometimes it’s okay and other times it’s not and that’s when I realize that I did something right when I started, because I’m pretty sure becoming a porn star and awkwardly steering the Sunday family dinner conversation away from the damnation of my soul is a walk in the park compared to the non-fiction writer’s reality.

Perspective is as complicated as it is simple. You see the glass half empty and I see it half-full but maybe it’s half empty because you already had your fill and I see half-full because it can never be full enough.

To-may-toeTo-mah-toe…yada..yada…yada.

Maybe I’m sharing too much, you think. Maybe I’m making you look bad, you think. Maybe I’m making me look bad. I’m not writing to make dinner conversation awkward. I’m writing to get it going. By sharing my words, I’m putting them out there for those that are searching for them and fully expect those not interested to let them float on by, for the most part, unheard, like a television left on for background noise.

 

 

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Okay, Internet. I’ve got a deal for you, so pay attention.

The short story is you need to ask me for more solicited advice so I can be witty and sassy in my answers while fixing your life and entertaining the rest of the world.

Fine, maybe not your entire life. But at least the part you’re getting ready to ask me about.

So here’s the deal. For those of you who don’t know, the big glossy mags have huge lead times between putting an issue together and the actual date of publication. I turn my own work into Latina months in advance, which is actually pretty standard in the industry. So, maybe I’m ahead on paper, but next month’s deadline is still giving me the stink-eye.

This summer is going to be insane for me with conferences (like that BlogHer ’14 Me Speaking on a Freelancing Panel because I suck at self-promotion and totally forgot to blog about that when I found out forever ago!) and a few new projects I’ve got brewing. That’s not counting the novel I’m still trying to write, the ChingonaFest workshops and retreats I’m in the planning stages for, and remembering to feed my child, or the times I write “Sex with The Husband” on my To-Do list so I have a visual reminder to step away from the laptop every now and again.

To make my life Slightly Less Insane, I need  you to talk to me. I need my inbox full of questions and to keep it full of questions. Topics include (but aren’t limited to..)

  • * love
  • *sex
  • * relationships
  • * cultural issues
  • * body image
  • * dating
  • * parenting
  • * Crazy Ex stories and related drama
  • * or variations on how to respond the next time someone says you don’t look/sound/act Latina enough. I have found that replacing the U in Fuck with an * totally works for spicing up a glossy mag page.

Email me at dimelo@latina.com.  All questions are confidential and if used, your name is replaced with a sassy secret identity. So basically, ask me for solicited advice and I’ll turn you into a super hero for free.

I know.

I kind of love me right now, too.

 

 

 

** Have you sigedn up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter yet? (Look at the sidebar, y’all)! It’s the best way to stay up to date with my Crazy and the latest #Chingona and #ChingonaFest news! Can’t wait to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page!

 

 

 

I’m taking a minute to share a great essay contest for my Latina #Dimelo readers I just learned about from Latina and SheBooks.

 

From the SheBooks site about the I am Latina Essay Contest

Win $1,000 and publication in Latina and Shebooks!

With over 52 million Latinos in the U.S., it’s easier than ever to keep our cultures alive. Latina & Shebooks, a new e-book publisher, want to read about the moment that you felt the most connected with your culture and were proud to call yourself a Latina. Starting January 10, 2014, you can submit your essay up to 1000 words, and you’ll be entered to win $1,000 and publication in a future issue of Latina.  Winner and runners-up may also be featured in a future Shebook.

 

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And I love what I’m seeing about SheBooks, a new e-publisher of short books written by and for women. I’m also excited to see my column about raising a chingona as one of the many listed as examples of essays Latina loved.  Click here to get the full details on the essay contest and get to writing!

 

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