Age Group: Early 30’s
Career: Hospital Assistant
1. Have you ever been told something a man would never be told?
Ah, yes! Some of the most memorable interactions are from my teens, when my parents were coming to terms with the fact that I was just different. Picture an awkwardly timid girl that wore loud and colorful knee-high socks. One could argue that my outfits screamed for attention but speaking up, in general, was a struggle. I had no desire to chase after boys.
My mom panicked.
My 15th birthday was fast-approaching, I had no interest in a quinceanera and I had a practically non-existent list of guy friends from which to pluck chambelanes. She sat me down one day, looked me straight in the eye and asked “are you a fucking lesbian?!”
The other WTF moment came from my senior year; I was deciding between Williams or staying for UC Berkeley when my mom casually mentioned an aunt’s concern.
“If she goes across the country, she’ll loose her virginity and she won’t be able to marry in a white dress.”
2. Has anything changed about your idea of what it means to be a woman since you were a teenager? In your 20s?
I was your burn-the-bra and dont-shave-your-pits girl. Who am I kidding? I still go weeks without shaving. I grew up between two brothers. Getting dirty, scraped up and bruised was standard.
Nowadays, I have a drawer full of makeup. I dress up and brush my hair occasionally but I still despise wearing stilettos. Am I still a strong woman, a feminist? My husband gave me a resounding yes. “Your favorite word is SO. Nothing stops you and you do as you please.” Ha! He’s right!
3. As a woman do you feel like you have certain expected family responsibilities that your brothers never had?
L: My mom dreamed of having an army of kids. She wanted at least five but settled for three, two boys and a girl. She had high expectations and pushed us to be self reliant. But I was her girl. I became her right hand in domestic chores. She taught the three of us to cook but I had the extra task of learning to forge her signature so I could take over sending out the bills every month. Little did I know this was only the beginning of a mountain of responsibilities my brothers never had.
When I became a levelheaded woman in her eyes, she opened up to me about her affair and the heartbreak she overcame when he left her for another woman.
She bought a house in the peak of the housing bubble. She called me panicking from across the country when she finally realized she was in over her head. I wasn’t invested in saving that house. The numbers were absurd. She gave me a disappointed glare, I had always helped her fix the fuck ups, why hadn’t I tried hard enough with this one?
Shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer, she asked my opinion on whether she should get liposuction or try for a fourth child. I always wonder how that conversation would’ve gone with my younger brother, the one that always wanted to burst into jealous tears when she hugged other people’s babies.
And the hardest one of all came in the days after learning of the terrible prognosis for her pancreatic cancer. She popped the question. “Luz, why should I have this surgery if it’ll only give me a year or two? Tell me what I should do.”
4. What does being a strong woman mean to you?
A strong woman confronts what she fears.
Both of my grandmothers did laundry for the town prostitutes in order to feed their kids.
My aunts immigrated to this country with no money and no family .
My mom divorced against the advice of her older sisters.
I am overweight. I fear full-body pictures. I had to pass a basic swimming class in college as a requirement for my degree. The fear of having to wear a normal one piece swimsuit consumed me. And then I showed up for the first class and fell in love with the sport. I love doing laps. How does the girl that can’t take full body pictures enjoy swimming? I have terrible vision. When I take off my glasses, everything blurs. When I swim, all I can literally focus on is the line at the bottom of the pool. This counts as confronting my biggest fear, right?