Excerpt 2 of Beauty School Blues: A Memoir

A Trade

My parents raised us to live our lives as though it could all change for the worse in a minute. When I was little they had residency, but with each changing election cycle actual citizenship seemed more and more precarious. They made us learn to speak, read and write Spanish. We learned all the states of Mexico and all the history and to name the presidents in order. They taught us to memorize our grandmother’s address in Tijuana should we ever have to give the information to a taxi driver.  They made sure we were always prepared to live a life in Mexico should they ever be deported. Once we teenagers they made us independent so that if we had to stay here without them and live with relatives then we could at least survive. In the desert, this meant being able to drive and having a job that would pay more than minimum wage. This, for us, meant beauty school.

Mom and Dad always told me college is a choice and a luxury, but making a living isn’t. You have to have a trade; something to provide you with a living even if you’re studying for something else, something more than minimum wage. When people asked me what my parents did they questioned my decision to be a hairdresser. “But your mother is a teacher? And your dad doesn’t make bad money as a machinist. And aren’t you going to college?” As if that somehow  pushed us into a middle class status that excluded manual labor. My mother graduated from John Muir High school in Pasadena with training as an airline attendant.

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 This meant she could do any airline job from stewardess to airline traffic control to administrative paperwork. She was in her first year of community college and pregnant with my eldest sister when her boyfriend refused to admit paternity and joined the marines. While he was at basic training in San Onofre USMC base in San Diego, she was working at American Airlines LAX control tower to support a newborn and pay her way through Pasadena Community College. Then when they finally married and he was stationed at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii she became a real estate agent, working also as a housecleaner and a makeup artist because he still was not supporting them.  Being a skilled worker made my mother able to support herself and a baby, eventually enabling her to divorce him.

aaMy father left home at twelve years old, escaping an abusive father and crippling poverty. He left his small town and went to live with his aunt and uncle in Mexico City. Unlike his uncles and brothers, he had no talent for barbering and decided to learn tailoring from another uncle. He made suits for rich men in a garment district factory before leaving for the U.S. at twenty-one.   For years he worked as a tailor in the garment district in Los Angeles. During this time he also worked as a gardener and a waiter before going back to school part-time to train to be a machinist for ITT aerospace.

In 1994, California was hit with a  6.7 magnitude earthquake in Northridge. This earthquake crumbled my father’s workplace. They guaranteed their jobs, but laid them off for six months while they were rebuilding in Valencia. My father was the sole bread winner for our family and without income for sixth months, he sought out other work. Without hesitation, he found work doing alterations for men’s suits for a Chinese shop owner in the San Fernando Valley. After the six months were over and he was called back in to work at ITT aerospace, now at their new location, he said goodbye to his boss who begged him to stay because he was such a hard worker. Those six months we were not without money because my father had a trade. My eldest sister never wanted for anything because my mother had a trade. My uncles, who all trained as barbers, didn’t have to work in the fields for twelve hours like they had in childhood because they had a trade. My parents wanted us to have that kind of security because it was the only security they could offer us in this world.

downloadBesides always being wary of deportation, my parents also  feared the exact kind of political situation we are living now under the Trump administration. Even though they eventually obtained their U.S. citizenship, they feared a war in which we might be rounded up, detained and eventually executed. “Remember what they did to the Japanese? The Jews? They were citizens of their country too. It never mattered to the government.” They always told us that becoming useful was the most valuable exchange for your life. The more skills one could have, the better your chances are of being spared. Therefore, besides teaching us how to do housework, landscaping, construction work and sewing, we were told to take advantage of the Regional Occupation  Program that our school district offered at a reduced rate for high school students. This way, at age eighteen, we could be independent and support ourselves no matter what turns life would take.  After all, during the Holocaust, tailors, blacksmiths, and even barbers were spared the gas chamber — for a while.

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If You Wanna Be My Lover

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An open letter to potential future partners. Terms and conditions subject to change and updates will be posted in a timely manner.

Dear Future Partner,

I write this for several reasons. Because we shouldn’t have to lower our standards. Because we should know our own worth and demand nothing less. Because we should know what we offer in exchange.

Let me start off by saying I have a lot of demands and set the bar very high for a future partner. I don’t pretend to be an uncomplicated person, but I do assert that I am a catch. There is a high yield on your investment in me.

I am very smart. I am both formally educated (AA, BA, MA and PhD in progress) as well as several trades and I read everything under the sun. I’m a lovely addition to any dinner party. I can talk the pants off of anyone and discuss any topic imaginable. Intellectual conversation is highly important to me, but I’m just as easily can slip into discussion the latest season of The Walking Dead or Fight Club and all the theories behind it.

I love to cook and I am such a giver when it comes to that. I love to cook for others and make special meals. Now, I’m not just any ordinary cook, but I’m good, like really good: full five course meal good.

I know how to clean and keep a tidy home. Not OCD or clean freak AT ALL! This is a weird, special combination where I may keep my own area really disastrous but communal spaces are kept tidy. In other words, I know how to keep house for myself and hang up pictures on the wall and fix anything around the house. I don’t need a repair person in my life, just someone to hold the ladder once in a while.

I handle my shit. I’ve changed my own tires and oil since the age of 18. I can drive a standard, stick-shift car in the middle of LA traffic. However, I hate driving. Never liked it and much prefer public transport, especially trains. I love it when someone else drives me.

I am a feminist. I believe in equality. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy someone opening the door for me (I thank strangers for doing this all the time!). I love someone holding my hand to help me get out of a car or make sure I cross the street alright. Picking up the check? Love it and I got it next time! Believing I can fix something on my own, but doing it anyways because you know I am busy— love it to the moon and back! 

I love to sew. This means I love creating my own little things as well as do alterations. As my partner you enjoy the benefits of a keen eye for fabrics and ensembles as well as someone who can sew that button back on any time.

I am a licensed cosmetologist. I enjoy doing this work, even if it not my primary entry of money. As my partner you enjoy free haircuts and beauty advice.

I am financially independent and responsible. I love working for my money. Now, I don’t object to  discounts or gifts at all, but I’d never be ok with being someone’s sugar baby. I enjoy my work and hustle very much to pay for my existence, my education and all my little luxuries which include traveling, trips to museums and theatre shows raspberries, fresh flowers and a large wardrobe.

I am low materially low-maintenance. I don’t care about brand names or only having pure 100% silk pajamas or Gucci couture. I love gifts from the 99cent store as much as fine jewelry; it all means something to me. However, I do appreciate the finer things in life, but don’t require it in my life. I love going to a hole in the wall place as much as a fine restaurant.

I am emotional high maintenance, but I am also the most empathetic person. As much as I will ask someone to listen to me rant I will gladly hold you through your worst hour. I am aware of my mood swings and give fair warning when I am not in a good headspace and I expect someone to be just as fair and flexible in their understanding.

I like alone time as much as quality time spent together. I am aware that everyone needs their own space and time alone as do I. I am also aware there has to be a balance. I’m not one to not see or hear from you at all for months and feel ok about that. I need some check in.

I come from a family that values good hospitality and gratefulness. Yes, this means never showing up to someone’s home empty-handed and having all your please and thank you’s in line. Common courtesy is not that much to expect from someone who is going to be in my life.

Even with everything I am doing in my life right now (PhD in Literature at NYU, teaching, writing, creating art) I want to accomplish so much more in life. I have dreams bigger than the desert sky and want someone who has dreams that can align with mine. Someone who wants more than a simple life; who wants a magical life.

I am artistic and creative and need someone who understands and appreciates art. I’m not saying I don’t use rationality, but I need someone who understands and loves the artistic lifestyle. More than understanding, I want someone who loves that kind of life. 

I am open to communication and sharing feelings. I want someone to do the same. You cannot be closed off and not be open to ironing out the wrinkles between us.

I think by any standard I am beautiful. Not just beautiful like in the “damn fine I’d like to fuck her” way, but in the quirky “she’s wearing a donut printed skirt” kind of way. My style is my own and I am confident in that. I like people who dress up and take pride in their appearance. This is not a matter of vanity, but in that I believe my body is my daily canvas. I am my own artwork everyday! Take me anywhere I am sure to make a splash, I promise to turn heads.

I love deeply as tectonic plates. I am probably the most emotional person ever and sensitive as shit, but this also means I am capable of loving people so deeply that it hurts me when others hurt them and I’ll go out of my way to make sure you are happy. Earn my trust, earn my love and you’ll never feel the end of it.

I love to travel and I want to go on so many more adventures. I have no problem going by myself, but I do enjoy going with others. I look forward to seeing so many more places in the world. Living in other places? Yes, I’m also open to the idea.

I am in tune with my culture (Mexican indigenous mixed with European) and speak three languages as well as phrases in five other languages. I love learning about other cultures and languages, but being Mexican is a huge part of my identity and I want someone who can appreciate and embrace that.

I am open-minded and need someone who can jive with that. I want someone comfortable with open views on marriage, sexuality, alternative lifestyles and changes going on in the world.

I believe in a higher power and I am very spiritual. I believe in past lives and karma, but I am respectful of everyone’s personal beliefs. I am also aware that my own views change and are open to changing in the future.

I am high and low art combined. I am just as open to going to a burlesque show as to the opera. I can enjoy a rodeo or a symphony. I am also retro-vintage as  much as I am modern. All levels of things are enjoyable and I want someone to be as flexible since I enjoy both worlds.

I am responsible and expect someone to be the same. I confirm when we are meeting for lunch, I try to make it exactly on time and I want someone to value my time the same.

I enjoy going out as much as I enjoy staying in and am flexible with trying new things, new foods. I am the least picky person.

I’m sexually open to suggestion. I love lingerie, dressing up, dancing, oh did I mention I bellydance? I can keep it fun and interesting and want someone who appreciates it when I wear a corset under my dress and hooker heels to dinner.

I have worked on myself a lot and continue to grow and improve. Overall I am a catch and I’m fucking delightful!

I demand excellence.

I demand the best.

I am worth all this and much more.

 

Muah,

Yollotl Azure Lopez

This is What Anxiety Feels Like

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Left foot,

stomach,

throat,

head,

mouth,

tongue,

 

Left foot aches,

stomach curls,

throat closes,

head pounds,

mouth dry,

tongue heavy.

 

Left foot aches like grain of sand in shoe,

stomach curls like night after drinking,

throat closes with invisible fist squeezing,

head pounds with sledge hammer from the inside,

mouth dry as my pussy on a bad date,

tongue heavy with unreleased screams.

 

Ask me again what anxiety feels like.

 

Left foot aches like grain of sand in shoe that you can’t get out because it’s stuck inside your sock and you’re running errands and have just enough time to finish before they close, I mean who the fuck closes at 10pm in New York City?

Stomach curls like night after drinking long island ice teas because you don’t have much money and you know this will get you hammered quick and you want to feel that floating feeling fast because you want to forget the fact that you are out alone, again.

Throat closes with invisible fist squeezing so you can’t eat, or breathe or even swallow your own bitter saliva tasting of anger that you can’t cause a scene because it’s a good job and you have health insurance for the first time in five years and you’re sure you’ll need that cavity filled eventually and you don’t ever want to go back to that discount hack-job dentist that smells of garlic and knock-off Old Spice.

Head pounds with sledgehammer from the inside every time you replay the conversation in your head where he makes it about you and your uncontrollable sensitivity and besides he was just kidding and you can’t even take a joke, I mean what — the — fuck — is — wrong — with — you each pound hammers into your brain.

Mouth dry as my pussy on a bad date where he keeps talking about battleships during World War II as if you don’t have a Master’s degree in history, but hey, he’d know that if he had asked or read your profile at all and the whole time you already feel guilty that you won’t fuck him tonight even though he’s paying for dinner and you can’t even think of a good enough excuse to leave early and you keep thinking about these three hours you’ll never get back and how you just want to go home and eat Takis and watch House of Cards.

Tongue heavy with unreleased screams that are lodged in the chest and infect your heart with disgust like ketchup exploding in the bottom of your purse or vegetable rot juice in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer that you have to soak overnight to make clean again and yet you can’t release these screams because they will always be the ketchup stain at the bottom of your purse reminding you of how spineless you think you are.

 

Ask me again what anxiety feels like.

Well, like this, but much, much worse.

Collateral Damage

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I was naked on the bed. I moved my hand to remove his shirt— the navy blue one with Mickey Mouse on the front. It was the same shirt he wore that first time he came to the house when I made him his own pumpkin patch for Halloween. I felt his soft skin over his ribs and then I felt nothing. He pulled away so quickly and turned away from me.

“Cover yourself up!”

“What?”

“Get dressed!”

He left the bed and sat on the floor against the wall, rocking back and forth shouting at me to get dressed. I pulled the sheet over my naked body suddenly remembering that one night years before with Chad, the devout Jehovah’s Witness, who had taken off my sweater and then my bra and after putting my breast in his mouth pulled away and accused me of seducing him. That night I had pulled on my sweater over my chest still wet with his kisses and told him ever so quietly to get out of my house and never call me again, to stay away forever this time. I ran into him a few times over the years, once only two days before his wedding. Oh yeah, that’s right, he’s happily married.

I told Isac to calm down and that we didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to. Somehow I was clear-headed enough to still comfort him as I got dressed and took my birth control pill as he asked because he had pre-cum on the sheets and was afraid I’d somehow get pregnant from that. This was the UCLA honor roll graduate.

We had been dating almost a full year at that point. This was our weekend away in San Diego before his big move to New York City. Two years later I would run into him on the street on my way to school, first semester of my PhD program at NYU. He seemed surprised to see me, there, at that moment on the street, but not surprised to see me in NYC. I suppose his mother must have related the news that I was also moving there, because yes, I still had some contact with his mother through the grapevine of our small community. I had also gone to see her when she had injured her back and couldn’t walk. She had reiterated how much she had always liked me and that the final and last fallout argument with her son had probably been a misunderstanding.

He had put his arm around another girl at a birthday dinner we had gone to for a friend of his. He walked eight blocks with her like that, his arm around her shoulder while I walked with the group. Supposedly she was cold and I had brought a sweater like I always did. So he had put his arm around her. “I think of her like a sister,” he had said when I got upset and didn’t say a word the entire ride home from Pasadena to Palmdale. He berated me and said I was overreacting and that jealousy was not a good look on a woman. That night he dropped me off at my house. Didn’t walk me to the door, didn’t even wait to make sure I got in safely.

Months later, at his going away party he had danced the first dance with that same girl. That night she posted on Facebook a photo of the two of them saying, “I love you and I’ll miss you.” He had prohibited me from ever posting any photos of us together. I had been the one to host his entire family at my house for a summer pool party while they visited from Mexico. I had stayed up past midnight helping his family decorate for the party. During the tequila toast that night he held up the bottle and looked at Ally, the supposed friend-sister who never carried a sweater and said, “Look I got your favorite.”

I felt invisible.

I look back at photos of that time and I always feel stupid, vulnerable, sad and ask myself over and over again, “What was so terribly wrong with me?”

This past December I decided to cruise his Facebook page, a semi-annual traditional, like going for a dental cleaning — once in June, once in December. This time I saw his profile picture: a button from Disneyland saying, “Just Married.” I clicked on his page and there in the background photo a picture of him and his husband kissing on the Brooklyn Bridge. I started to laugh hysterically. Everyone, including my own instinct, had been correct. His page, and that of his husband, were littered with pride posts and rainbow Mickey Mouse insignia. That night I cried.

I’ve heard it all, “Maybe he is actually bi and did love you to a certain extent.” “You know, it’s hard for a Latino man to come out.” “Everyone’s journey is different and he didn’t quite have himself figured out yet.”  I didn’t want to hear it. It’s like telling someone involved in a car malfunction that newer models are now equipped with air bags and safety locks to prevent the very injuries you suffered. That doesn’t take away the pain and scars still adorning your body and mind. What the fuck do I do with my pain? Where is my apology? Where is my emotional settlement check?

It’s hard to write all this, even now. I know how I sound. Funny thing is that I am the biggest supporter of LGBTQ rights. I was the one, at age 16, who delivered a speech in favor of gay marriage for the speech competition in our extremely conservative community. I was the one confronting relatives about their views against gay people. I am the one creating a safe space for my students, LGBTQ or not. I’m the one who outed myself as bisexual to my students when they were gay-bashing in class. And on and on and on. Examples abound.

Nowadays I see posts of Ricky Martin as part of the “10 Out and Proud Celebs” and in my mind I say, “Yeah, now he’s out.” I wonder about the women that dated, fucked and fell in love with him. I’m angry for them. I’m angry at his silence. I’m angry at our society for creating an environment where you can’t feel safe enough to come out or simply be able to live “out” from the beginning. And yes, I am angry that I am the collateral damage. 

Beauty School Blues: A Memoir

Truvy

“There’s no such thing as natural beauty.

You remember that or we’re all out of a job!” 

                             —Truvy from Steel Magnolias

 

The following is an excerpt from my memoir Beauty School Blues: A Year, A Month and A Day in the Beauty Industry. I graduated this day, July 14th, ten years ago — Bastille Day! Enjoy these excerpts as they are released every week.

 

Packing the Essentials

“Nene, don’t you want to pack your scissors?” Mom asks me.

“Not really. What for?”

“Well you never know if some job will pop up. People need haircuts in New York too.”

“Mom, my license is for California. You know thy can’t legally hire me in a salon in New York.”

“I know, but you know like you’ve done it here, you can do hair cuts at home or—”

“Mom, I won’t have to. I have a full ride and a stipend. For once in my life I can go to school and not worry about money!”

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“Hey, you never know what life brings,” she says slowly as she hands me my shears, my two-hundred dollar professional pair of haircutting scissors with special grip rings I bought once I got my license eight years ago in order to pay for college.

Oye, you’re mother is right,” my Dad says from across the room, “But before you pack those, do my hair one last time?”

“Sure Dad.”

I sit my father down on the little stool and open the garage door. He’s loosened up on the rules over time. He lets me open the garage door now for fresh air while I cut, color or perm his hair so long as I keep his back turned so the neighbors don’t see. He’d still like everyone to think he’s just naturally this youthful looking despite being fifty-nine.

“What would you like?” I ask in Spanish.

“Haf eeench all overrr. Como siempre.” Like always, he says. It’s a private joke by now. Eight years I’ve been cutting his hair, but I always ask and he always says the same thing. Somehow though, I’m never bored doing this haircut. I am a Taurus; habit is reassuring, calming. Same haircut, same stool, same routine, same house, same room. New York will be such a change from this.

“Did you finish packing?”

“Almost, just settling the last boxes that you and Mom will mail to me once I’m there.” 

He stays silent as I cut away the curly fluff from his head.

Que va pasar con mi pelo cuando se vaya mi Yoyita?” he asks. It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself. Who will cut Dad’s hair when I leave? Will he try to trust my cosmetologist sister again? Or will he go back to my barber uncle? 

“You’ll just grow out your hair until you come see me in December Dad.”

Ay si, como no?” the Spanish version of “Yeah, right!”

A sad feeling comes over me all of the sudden. I want to freeze time. I want to keep this moment alive forever. Dad sitting in the glow of the desert sunset, eyes closed with complete trust and a rare peace.

“You gonna miss me Dad?”

He doesn’t answer. He gives me a small “Umm hmmm” when I ask again.  After we finish, when he’s not looking, I pick up a small curl and put it in my pocket.     

My Woman Warrior

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This piece is dedicated to my Woman Warrior, my mother, my eternal study buddy. The woman who showed me through her own example of grit and perseverance that it is possible to achieve all your dreams no matter the situation, your age or background. This is for you Mom. Love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

Hey Mom, you up? Good. I need to talk out some ideas for my paper. Yeah the usual drill, just listen. Let me know if something seems really confusing. My paper is about this book I read this semester; it’s a little memoir that gave no fucks. It’s called The Woman Warrior.

Though there has been a lot of debate about the genre of autobiography vs. fiction vs memoir, the title itself and the fact that it is open to all of this is precisely what makes it wonderful. I argue that the genre of memoir is precisely what allows this to be part autobiography, without the limits of time chronology like Adeline Yen Mah’s book Falling Leaves

What do you mean “who’s that?” Mom, you bought me that book! How can you not remember? We were at that book fair at school and you bought me her book Chinese Cinderella. Yeah, ok so this is the full-length memoir. Ok, continuing on.

Or the limits of political advocacy such as salve narratives.

Salve? Shit, I meant slave. 

This is a memoir that explores about the stories that shape our lives. For her specifically yes it is about being a female Asian-American subject dwelling between these worlds, which is resonant of many people. Other works that have these same elements but they are fiction, poetry, which as Audre Lorde said is “not a luxury.”

I am not downplaying the role of fiction because lord knows I love that more than anything. It’s right up there with my love for you and chamuy. But what I am saying is that for those of us looking to recover the past, whether global, ancestral or personal, this is a good honest model of just how to do that without following the rules of the western autobiographical guidelines.  Ok, that sounds good. I should write that in there.

First, lets look at use of linear time in this memoir. There is no David Copperfield “Chapter one: I Am Born.” The strictness of time and linearity is suspended. There is no introduction of the self as in Moby Dick with: “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse.” Instead, she begins with a story of a family aunt who drowned herself in a well. Skips time and never explicitly states age, only sometimes mentions the grade in school which gives us a vague idea. This models the exact oral/verbal telling we often do in real life. We never begin an anecdote with the Sofia Petrillo “Picture it: Sicily, 1928, a young girl leaves her village to seek fortune in America. That young girl was me.” No we don’t go around saying, “In 1978, when I was five, in Seattle, Washington, there was a city ordinance that stated there were to be no loiterers in parks after 5p.m” No, we simply say, “So, when I was like five, no maybe seven. I can’t remember exactly, but we couldn’t play in the park after 5p.m. There was some law or something, but point is, we didn’t exactly obey.” That is the orality captured in Maxine Hong Kingston’s work.

Orality? Ha ha no not kind of orality Mom. Geez! It means oral storytelling. Like what you’ve done all these years. You tell me a story and you know it’s the same story over and over, but you change it sometimes or you tell it out of order. Yes, you do! And you exaggerate like crazy. Ok, fine I won’t argue right now. This thing is due at midnight and I have fifteen more pages to read you. Ay, because that’s the page length that’s required Mom. Ok, I go on.

Kingston announces to the reader —

Yeah, this is the author I met back in April. Mom, of course she speaks English. Yeah, I did18034032_10213191185802762_8128226757569722224_n say she was Chinese. No, not like that. She’s like Amy Tan Chinese. Ok, ok, let me go on.

—when something is made up, albeit after the story is told. First, Kingston narrates in the third person omniscient point of view about how her aunt arrived to the U.S. in search of her husband and daughter and goes crazy after seeing her husband with a new wife.

Yeah, I know right?! Like something straight out of Cazos de la Vida Real or a novela. No, well he was sending her money, but I guess he never expected her to come to the U.S. I know, desgraciado.

She ends that chapter saying, “She had a new story, and yet she slipped entirely away, not waking up one morning.” Then, the very next page comes the new chapter “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe” that starts with “What my brother actually said was” and then later follows up with “In fact, it wasn’t me my brother told about going to Los Angeles; one of my sisters told me what he’d told her. His version of the story may be better than mine because of its bareness, not twisted into designs.” So not only is it revealed that the narrator was not present for this whole ordeal, but that she also did not even hear it firsthand. Rather then pass off her fluffed-up version of the story as the truth, she exposes herself and acknowledges that her version is “twisted into designs.” This is a kind of transparency usually never given to any reader for any kind of text. Anything in print is taken at face value and deemed incontestable from our history books to police reports to so-called true stories. Here, in exposing her own creative input, Kingston shows the constructedness of stories and challenges the reader to question other works of writing.

Yeah, you like it? I don’t think a paper like this would ever make it into the PMLA. But you know Mom, this is enough for me. For you to hear this and learn just like you always have asked me about the books I read and I share what I’ve learned. Maybe I’m wrong or a bit off in my interpretations, but somehow I talk it out to you and I figure out what I am saying a lot more than if I just write. I mean, ok this is a little different. Back home I’d be sitting on the sofa reading and talking out my ideas to you as you cut up papaya or muted your TV show and cut coupons while I talk. Ever since I moved here to New York, it’s more like a phone call and I read and talk from 3,000 miles away. Seems like we’re getting more distant, huh study buddy?

So, I’m wearing my dragon shoes. Ha, ha yeah, the ones that were supposed to be here in April. They got accidentally shipped to New Jersey, then to Tennessee. They finally got here today and my refund got canceled.  You’re right, they should give me a discount for the extra wait time. But maybe these little dragons will inspire me in this paper. Yes, I am wearing them. No, just around the apartment. Yeah, as you always say, “What if I die and I never got to wear it?” I might as well wear them now. Yeah, ok maybe I’ll cross the street later just to say I took them outside.

Ok so back to my ideas.

So, in conclusion I’d like to state my positionality to the reader. My personal stake in this project is influenced by my own family history which informs every aspect of my academic work. I come from a family whose primary way of transmitting history and information has been through oral storytelling. In fact, my mother is the first in her family to learn to read and write. This does not mean she was the first to tell stories. We can trace back our family history two hundred years on each side of my family because of the oral storytelling that has been passed on in each generation. However, like Kingston, we have little to no written documents because of every reason from floods to miscegenation laws preventing marriage between Europeans and indigenous in the Americas thus preventing the father’s name to be on the baptismal record. Therefore, for people like me, the oral becomes of the utmost importance for tracing personal history. The question as a scholar, and as a creative writer, then becomes, how does one translate the oral to text and retain the essence? How can one go about telling the story of our lives without the physical evidence of photographs, certificates and archives? How are we to build the archive of our lives? I turn therefore, to Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts as a model for both scholars and creative writers to be able to translate the oral into text and distill truth from the lived experience.

I mentioned you Mom. I mentioned all of you. You know, maybe this paper is not academic enough, but then again neither is Kingston’s book. Academic essay or not, I think if Kingston has taught me anything it is that you have to give no fucks! Just write it! Let the world spin and think what it wants of your work. Our job is simply to write it out. Because if this is the little memoir that gave no fucks, then neither do I!

Ok well that’s the best I can do. I haven’t slept in two days and I’ve eaten nothing but chicken pot pies and red bull. I’m done. It’s the best I can do and I’m sure even my best right now will not be as great as I think it is, but it’s done. Thanks for the talk Mom. Call you tomorrow after I submit this? Cool. Love you! Good night. Or good morning? Fuck, what time is it? 

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Never Had a Virgin

bwhands

 

I know absolutely nothing about having sex with a virgin. True, I have had my share of men and women, but somehow I have come in second place more than once. With G, he was my first boy and I thought I’d his first girl as well since we had been together for a year and a half by then, except for a brief period when we broke up for two months. Enough time, it seems, for him to drive six hundred miles from Irvine to Santa Cruz, CA and lose his virginity to girl who had been in love with him for years. So that was disappointing. Then there was D. She was smart and funny and sweet. She pushed me away for years and then finally one night we had our moment. Afterwards she told me, “I wish I had waited for you.” I had never been with a girl before. I had hoped we’d be each other’s first girl. Somehow, I ended up being “Up Next” and never “First in line.”

Now, I know plenty about being a virgin having sex for the first time, both because of my actual first times and because somehow I have been mistaken for a virgin more than once. The actual first time wasn’t anything I’d find amusing, but somehow each subsequent time I was mistaken for a virgin, I found hilarious.  I’d lay there blank faced and my partner would pump away moaning and groaning. Afterwards, and sometimes in the middle, they’d ask me if they were being “too rough for my first time.” I didn’t mean to giggle that much, but the thought that I was a virgin simply because I hadn’t orgasmed was too funny. “No,” I’d giggle, “This is just special enough for a first time” and I’d laugh as I got dressed.

I know I shouldn’t be hung up on the idea of having a virgin. After all, virginity is a social construction designed by the patriarchy to assign value to the female body in its exchange between men. Yes, I know. What I don’t know is the sweet tremble of inexperienced fingers on buttons. The anxious lips on erect nipples discovering the sweetness of areolas. The unsteady lowering of the body onto a bed, or a couch, or a back seat, or a chair. The surprise and delight of encountering another’s soul through their inexperienced flesh. I don’t know any of this.