Things That Were Hard for me as a Brown Girl

My cultural identity is on a  constant Kinsey scale  continuum–some days I’m exclusively American, some days I’m exclusively Mexican (*Some of us, like my friend, who I’ll call “Tiffany News”, are not Mexican. Tiffany is Salvadoran*). One day, I’m all about listening to Selena, and the next day, I’ll say something super-white like, “hell yeah, I love 80’s music.” Truthfully, the whitest things that has ever crawled out of my mouth has been, “Yes, Frasier is funny.”  Culturally, I’m always DTF…Down To Fluctuate.

Although I am able to stand my ground as an adult, it was hard for me growing up. I’d try to pick up a hobby, or like certain music, and I’d be accused of being, “too white,” or “too Mexican.” There was no winning! Weird Brown girls that love Dawson’s Creek and Telenovelas get no love!

I’d like to also note that there was an underlying class issue here. My parents were poor, therefore, I was poor. I didn’t have access to many things because of this. For example, I get accused of being too white for being into yoga.  Yes, people practice yoga in Mexico, but of course just like yoga here in the United States, people with money can afford yoga classes. Yoga is a luxury. I just hear George Lopez white-voice saying, “OMG, LMAO, BFF…”

Venturing into unknown territory is extremely frightening. I would throw myself into things without knowing anyone who may have pioneered the way before me. Various questions run through my head like, “Am I going to look stupid if i fail miserably?” or “Do they see me and automatically think about how different I look?”

Below is a list of things I have forced myself to conquer, regardless of what anyone else thought– including myself:

Yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga sporadically since I was 18 years old, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I decided to get a little more serious. Since I’m still a beginner, I had to self-talk myself into taking a class in the Pearl District. I was afraid of walking into a class full of ripped housewives that took yoga and pilates classes on their husbands’ dime. I remember standing in front of the yoga studio, taking a deep breath, and thinking, “You are privileged enough to do this for all the weird brown girls that can’t.” And I did it. It was like pulling a mental band-aid. Sure, I walked into a class full of hard-bodies that casually said, “Oh, I’m taking this class as a warm-up to my Ashtanga class after this,” but I was there to do my thing. Namaste, mija.

Sushi

I was introduced to sushi in high school. My best friend at the time really enjoyed it and taught me how to eat with chopsticks. Of course because I was a newbie, I ate wasabi like it was candy and instantly regretted it. It was like eating 1,000 jalapeños at once.  I didn’t know what wasabi was, but now I know what to do when I want my sinuses cleared.

Red Lobster

Since we are on the subject of seafood, its only fitting that I incorporate the Red Lobster story. Stefanie  Tiffany and I were extremely broke after college, and were collecting money to leave her sister’s house.  One day, we decided to splurge on some makeup and a delicious meal. Neither of us had been to Red Lobster, or had lobster, so we decided to boldly go forth into the world of fancy seafood. Because we are both wound up like corkscrews, we both began to panic because we didn’t know to actually eat the lobster. My mind raced back to an episode I had watched of Queer for the Straight Guy; the one where the straight guy looked like a moron in front of his lady friend as he used pliers to eat lobster.  When we sat down to eat, we YouTubed “How to eat Lobster” on our phones. True story. Below, you will see a how to eat lobster, because I love you enough not to make a pendeja/o out of yourselves. I like how the guy in the video calls the lobster cracker, “ubiquitous.” He’s like, “Oh, this old thang? pfff no big deal. I ate lobster Gerber as a baby. I’m about this life.”

College/Advanced High School Courses

My only window into the world of college was the show Felicity. I was twelve years old, and I thought that everyone’s college experience must be universal. Everyone gets a job as a cool barista in between classes, right? Her biggest problem was switching from pre-med to art, and going back and forth between two guys (Team Ben), sign-me up! What I didn’t realize was that Felicity was a white girl with money. Felicity didn’t have a dad with a pick-up truck that helped her move into her dorm, and a passerby never called her a “country bumpkin” as she was moving her shit into her college apartment. Nope, that didn’t happen to her, but it happened to this girl.

Felicity had the luxury of looking like her classmates, and partaking in the collective cultural atmosphere. It is the loneliest feeling in the world when you notice you are the only person of color in your classroom. It’s like being dropped into the sea with only your floaties. Unfortunately, the journey to actually get into college was so daunting, my classes then intimidated me. I figured if it was so difficult to get in, the classes must be hard! Nope. Everyone’s kind of an idiot. I always had to self-talk myself in class sometimes before I realized: I am just as smart as everyone else, and I have a lot to contribute. By my fifth year (See, felicity didn’t even have a fifth year) I was not contributing my opinions in class, I was barking them. It was very DMX, not so much Felicity.

DMX

Traveling/Airplane Etiquette/Fancy Hotels

Stefanie and I will forever be the two old ladies that arrive way too early. We’re like the two old muppets, Statler and Waldorf. When we would travel in a big group, we’d be the ones on time before anyone else, with our purses on our lap like viejitas. Everything has to be perfect to avoid delays, missing flights, and looking like a total idiot. Our parents immigrating to the United States doesn’t count as “jetsetting,” or “globe trotting,” so we don’t know how to travel without having our butt cheeks clenched the whole time.

My favorite part of traveling with my friends is the reveal of the hotel. Its like we were all part of the Make a Wish Foundation and our dying dreams came true. Immediately, one girl will be taking in the view, another will be walking around with a plush white robe for no reason, and then there’s one girl who will ruin it with, “you guys, I have to go to the bathroom…”

As you can see, I dive in head first to these new experiences, sin miedo. I’ve had to adapt as best as I could.

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