I am not interested in your patriarchy

This year has been a very strange year of discovering what I like about writing, and what I do not like about writing. For example, I absolutely love to write in noisy spaces. Noisy spaces are where people gossip. It’s like watching fireworks in a San Fernando Valley back alley – spectacularly familiar and unpredictable.

I am finding it more difficult to write about things that I don’t relate to: like an A-typical family where the man is the head of the home, the mother is at stay at home mom, and the children fall into the 2.5 ratio. I mean, that just wasn’t my reality. I think it is no longer a lot of people’s realities. It doesn’t make me happy to write this, unless it’s to prove a point.

Lately, I have noticed that when I sit down to write – the stories that pour out of me are mostly about women struggles. Specifically women of color, and women with an immigrant background. This is because it reflects my reality and my personal journey. When I write about this, it comes out like a soft song. Sometimes it’s coherent, sometimes it’s just fragments – but I know that’s what it is. It’s me trying to grab onto my voice, my style, my inner power.

I feel as though a lot of women have been silenced and trapped into a corner of the house because of religious and traditional roles. These roles are still valued in our Latin@ communities. It’s history and realities engulf me when I am in family gatherings. I am constantly defending why I have yet to get married or have children. Being in a woman in your thirties, in a predominantly Latino family, is a task.

Once, my mother laughed at me when my boyfriend said I did “not cook enough” for him at home. He was trying to be funny, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. He and I were not jiving that day, and I believe his comment stemmed out of our earlier arguments. It was his jab to me that night. I may be wrong, but that’s what it felt like.

It was an awkward situation. My mother gets told to cook all the time by my younger brother and stepfather. She has felt those pressures and the judgement from other women in her family too. Her laughing at me, was both uncomfortable and sad. I was sad for the both of us because in that moment patriarchy took over our conversation and we didn’t challenge it, we bowed to it by succumbing to what it meant to cook for a man. Let’s talk about it: love, devotion, and etc. etc. etc.

Why should that have to be a factor? And why that task not placed upon the male figure as well? Is my value as a partner only as good as my cooking routine? And what of my mother? She escapes every now and then to go to school, to do some odd jobs. She does it to give herself a little bit of freedom from my stepfather’s paychecks. I know she also longs to detach herself from the stay at home mom role and value system, so why laugh at me? Why not say: “Well maybe it’s because you haven’t cooked for her in a while. When is the last time you showed how devoted you are to my daughter?” Was she laughing at herself too? Or maybe she was laughing at all Latinas as if saying: “Hey guess what? You’re in your thirties now. Pop them babies and put on that apron. Either way you look at it, that’s how your success is valued from here on out.” But women do this, we shoot ourselves down all the time.

I don’t like this. I don’t want to do this. I refuse this.

The more I focus on what women do in order to succeed in LIFE, the more I notice that these inequalities affect the way women relate to each other. In the process of comparing our sizes, what we cook for our man, how well we dress at events, when we should get married, and blah blah blah – I don’t think I’ve ever been taught to stop, look, and listen to other women. Why are we taught to mistrust each other?

This morning I spoke with a religious family member of male gender. In his eyes, I was not being Christian enough. In his point of view, my value as a woman of faith seems lost and therefore, I may not be able to contribute towards x, y, z. I will confess, that I may seem lost at times, but that’s besides the point. My relationship with my faith is none of his business. In fact, I was appalled by his need to break things down to me, as if I had not hear a sermon before. Being raised in a Christian church, I can tell you I remember the laws of the book. I may not be able to recite verbatim, but I know what Love is.

I realized, that Latinas like me, who are in their early thirties, who have chosen to not have a family, who are focusing on their education and careers – can be seen as failures or selfish. I will not blanket the entire American population (and when I say American I mean North and South, because guess what the South is also AMERICA). I know for a fact that progress is bettering the realities for a lot of people all over the world. This morning, however, I felt slightly mistreated. It felt like yet again, I was being confronted with patriarchy. Not the word of God, but Patriarchy.

I wonder how all these years the Christianity and similar faiths like it, have been used to give power to the son, the male, the one to inherit the land. It felt like, for a moment, I was being told that I am not enough for God. Again, I don’t know how that’s any of your business. My puzzling gaze towards his comments ended the conversation. I had no words. I just nodded, and felt as if once again I wasn’t doing enough to challenge this Patriarchy.

I grew up believing the following: (1) Man is made in the image of God, (2) women would not be here were it not for man giving us a rib, (3) women bit the apple, so it’s our fault there is suffering, (4) the pain of childbirth and our moon cycles are punishments for this betrayal. Is it for this reason, the man believes he can speak down to a woman? That men are raised to believe their word is final? I call BS. Whatever it is you think God is, God may not be that for me. I may be wrong about it all, but you also may be wrong about it all. Either way, I don’t believe that super power over the feminine figure (body, mind and spirit) was in Jesus’ mind when he died for us.

My voice and writing is becoming clearer. I am not interested in your patriarchy.

Note: I am discussing something that is more of a personal experience and relatable to me as a Latina Immigrant myself. I focus on a heterosexual relationship when writing about family roles. 

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Honesty

I joined this writing workshop recently and was like – okay, this hasn’t happened since 2011. Like a real writer’s workshop with a circle of people reading your stuff out loud and giving you feedback. It’s been interesting. So last Tuesday I shared a piece I had revamped but written before. I prefaced everyone with it’s a dialogue practice and what not because I was really nervous. So anyway, the whole thing went fine and people laughed at the parts they are supposed to laugh. And that was fun and all but then something really awesome happened.

Our facilitator decided it was REAL TALK time and gave us a group exercise that went something like this.

Answer the following questions:

1. Write about your best writing experiences
2. Write about a time when writing made you feel like an Insider? Outsider?
3. What advice practice would you share with someone else?

Then after we all wrote down our answers, he made us go into groups of two and share these truths about ourselves.

Blog Land, I kid you not – we all were laughing, and getting emotional over stories from high school, elementary school, childhood. Someone talked about how her single dad couldn’t handle talking to her about her school dramas, so he made her write down her feelings on paper and promised her he would read the paper in a time when he could. He would read it and then go to her room and talk to her about it. It was the most amazing thing! We all had really wonderful stories like that to share. The person I spoke to is a first time writer, but she’s incredible hilarious and only found out she loved writing through a theater group. So okay, I hope you get how great it was to share our honest true stories about why we do what we do – EXPRESS OURSELVES ON PAPER.

Then we talked about these thing with the larger group. Our facilitator informed us that this exercise was so that we could find out more about ourselves, share knowledge, and write down these stories that are incredibly valuable for anyone who writes.

He said that we as writers need to know what we love about writing, and what we fear about it. It’s invaluable.

I just wanted to share this exercise with you. Maybe you could do it with a group of your writing friends, or at a workshop. I learned so much about why I may lack focus or drag my feet at times. We have small little traumas attached to these stories. It’s good to dig a little deep to get some real results.

And with that, I say BUENAS NOCHES!

No journal, no gold

Well Blog Land, I did not have the heart to NOT talk to my mother on Father’s Day – as it seemed she was having a hard time telling from one person to the next due to her already peaked anxiety of, you know – being brown and with an accent in this country. So, yes, we did speak but mostly at the table as we passed food to each other. However, I made sure she know I did not forget about my journal. She promises she doesn’t know where it is, but I know that promises don’t mean crappadoodledoo in this crazy family.

I politely sat beside her during Father’s Day breakfast, asked her to pass the yogurt and strawberries in a calming voice. Lucky for her my aunt’s boyfriend was there. He annoys me beyond all reason. He pretends to be an all knowing God-Man who is the epitome of class and karaoke competitions. My aunty loves him for some reason, and being that I am now thirty – I can’t simply sabotage a relationship based on weird vibes I get from people. No, no – that’s the eleven year old inside of me. Now, I just make sure I battle him on strictly Feminist issues, as they also pertain to my aunty’s role in his kitchen. She doesn’t mind, it makes her laugh actually. Thanks to him, my mom did not receive my anger to the fullest of its capacities that day. Thanks to the boyfriend, I only got to see my gramps for 1 hour on Father’s Day. What a d*ck.

Anyway, after my aunty left with my gramps and God-Man, my mother asked me if she had left her golden earrings at the house two weeks ago. I have not seen any golden earrings, but if I do — that will be my ransom.

“You want your gold? Give me back my Ireland journal, mother.”

She hates it when I call her mother. It always reminds her of the first part of the curse word. She nods nervously, and walks away to the living room where my stepfather sat alone. After Mexico lost, he has little interest for soccer.

Rebellion, long overdue

Maybe I will become her someday. Maybe in 2027/8 I will enter my teenage child’s room and think — What the hell? I will read her diary!   Then I will shamelessly sit on their bed and read the passages of their most private thoughts for my entertainment. Maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to understand my mother that day. I will be in my forties and feel justified because i had birthed this creature, and their writing would somehow reveal things about myself. Maybe…

…OR MAYBE NOT!

Blog Land, earlier this week my little brother (who just turned sixteen) sent me a picture of a journal I purchased in Ireland in 2011. It was a journal to keep me on track with my novel, to write down my feelings about my weirdo roommates, to go into my deepest corners of my brain and ponder – logic vs. art and possibly even sex. And all those things that happen to a young woman when she is an older student stuck with a bunch of people who have just graduated from their nine-teens.

My journal, which I wrote in religiously when I was studying abroad was now in the hands of the most frustrating teenager in my life right now. Today while visiting my mother, I sat on the couch happy as a clam as I had forgotten the entire incident (thank you forgetful brain). My brother leaned over me and whispered in my ear, “So Lis, just to let you know. Mom found the journal. I caught her reading it out loud in the living room one morning. I tried to get it back. Then sat there and proceeded to read it for the next thirty minutes.”

Blog Land, my skin crawled from head to toe. I was in complete disgust with both my brother and mother, but (also) slightly impressed that my brain had somehow pushed the fact that my brother was in possession of the journal out, to make room for the huge plate of spaghetti I had just downed moments before.

Okay – so one thing you should know about me is that for most of my life, I was raised by my father. My mother and I have hardly had a real mother-daughter during my teenage years. Meaning, I was never rebellious with her, really. I was a pretty good kid because, well, I rarely saw her.

So there I was, trying to watch the Peru vs. Venezuela Copa America match and my brother tells me this. I face him and ask, “Where is it?” He doesn’t know. She took it away and accused him of being creepy — then in turn become creepy herself by reading my work.

Mom had just stepped out to the garage to say bye to family, I went out to meet her.

Me: You read my Ireland journal?

Mom: What? He’s making it up! I didn’t!! (In a Peruvian accent)

Me: Oh, really?

Mom: I couldn’t get through most of it anyway, you write like a three year old!

Me: A-HA! You did read it! You read it!! This is why I DON’T LIVE WITH YOU!!!!

I stormed back into the house like a rattled child and realized I was having a rebellious outburst. The pseudo-therapist living in my brain spoke to me: Your delayed rebellion is a direct outcome to the fact that your mother was absent during your teenage years. 

This thought interrupted my walking back to the living room. I shook it off. I had a goal and no pretend psychobabble was going to get in my way.

This means war.

I continued to the living room and walked into my brothers room. He was quickly behind me.

Me: Where is it?

Him: I don’t know, she took it from me!

I grabbed two of his favorite video games and disconnected a chord.

Me: Where IS IT? (I began to look through his drawers.)

Him: Why are you doing this?! (He blurted out nervously eyeing his discs.)

Me: This is what it feels like to invade someone’s privacy, but at least I have the decency to do it right in front of YOU!

After being able to get more information out of him, I returned his games one at a time as means to get out of his room — for he had eventually held me hostage due to his babies being in my grasps.

I tried to look for this journal in nooks and crannies to no avail. I go to my mother’s room, but no luck. My boyfriend yells from the living room, “Perú made a goal, you missed it!”

My blood boils.

My brother walks into the room, “Do you have my chord?”

Yes, I did. I had it stuffed in my pocket in case I had more questions. He called me sneaky and said it wasn’t fair that I was punishing him for mom’s creepiness.

Me: Listen to me right now, I have this to get information from you.

Him: It’s not fair.

Me: Lesson one: this is called ransom. (I held the chord up high.)

Him: Not fair…

Me: Like I said, it’s called ransom. I need you to deliver a message to Mother.

Him: Will I get my chord back?

Me: Yes.

Him: Okay, then…

Me: You tell her, that I am vowing not to speak to her until I get my Ireland journal back. She needs to present it to me at the Father’s Day Breakfast this Sunday. If she doesn’t have it with her, I will NOT talk to her the entire time. And I capable of this, she knows I am because she did part-raise me as a child. I know crazy.

Him: Oh man! Mom’s going to hate me …

Me: Not my problem. Will you deliver the message?

Him: Yes…

I handed him the chord.

Him (Continued): You’re so sneaky.

I walk out and watch the rest of the game. My brother goes to his room and continues to play his video games again. He always underestimates how incredibly bored I am, but I work from home – I have time to scheme!

I waited for him to be out of ear shot and started laughing. My boyfriend sat there and just stared at me. You want another teenager mom? You got one.

More on this journal story on Sunday.   Let’s see if she has the guts to deny me my literature. This rebellion, is long overdue.

#mysoapoperalife

Get off my lawn!

So now I have my own little office here in this home my boyfriend and I have. Pure luck. Don’t ask. I no longer have an excuse to not do something. I met one of our neighbors today, his name I cannot repeat online because frankly, I cannot remember. He was walking his dog, and when I asked what breed it was he named about seven different genres…that’s what you say, right? Genres? I really don’t know right now. My brain is fried.

Well now that I no longer live in an apartment building, but in an actual (neighbor)hood – I will be supplied with endless stories about the weirdos all around me. I count myself in that total. Already one of the people next door was walking on my lawn like a skinny Big Foot sighting, I saw him in the corner of my eye and followed his gaze like a cheetah waiting to pounce. I walked to my front door, opened the door, the gate, and followed him with my eyes until he disappeared down the street to the very convenient restaurant bar a few blocks up.

I held the urge to scream out, “GET OFF MY LAWN!” Though part of me really wanted to do it. I cannot really blame the man. The house had been empty for a month, so our lawn had been serving as a short cut for most locals. We are letting the grass brown, because you know – California. And the final reason why I cannot get angry with the man is because…well, the house looks slightly abandoned on the outside.

But hey! Fixer-uppers are my kind of thing nowadays. I’ve done it with relationships and now with a home. Time to get to work. Plus, with this little office I can literally shut the world out and escape in my own world and not worry about…well, much of anything.

The trick is, pretending I don’t have wifi. I’m obviously failing at this rule right now.

Tootles writers of the world. May the keypad be by your side…always.

PS – I think the next door neighbors own a peacock. Is that legal? :/

back in los angeles

The world trip turned out to be a difficult and wonderful one. I would like to say that out of all the places I was able to visit, Paris was the most productive in terms of writing. I think it has to do with the history of it just being a tremendously inspirational place for writers. As is Fresno, I’ve recently heard (grin towards all my Latinos in the house). Maybe it’s time to explore some California writing nooks.

After all that lugging around with hard drives, notebooks, tee-shirts and jeans dragging me down from stair case to stair case throughout the various cities I visited … I have to stay, it’s nice to be home.

Back to applying for television writing. Oh, and apparently – improv classes too. Because improv helps you with television writing. Did you know that Blog Land?

Me either.

Here I go.

Journaling Turkey-Paris

I managed to fit some writing into my Turkey travel. Most of the time I was talking to my cousin about our childhood traumas and helping her watch after her baby. I honestly felt like a straight up aunty while I was there. I was able to write, but it was mostly journaling about the dynamics between the men and women in Turkey. I have to say, most of the men I encountered in Turkey are remarkably handsome. Part of me wondered why? Part of me enjoyed the view.

Now I am in Paris, trying to get some work done but finding it hard to focus. Had a spiritual conversation with my friend today and it was very intense.

But do I have tons of writing material? Oh yes. Plenty. My journal is full of mini-stories and encounters I’ve had with people and or environments.

Here’s one of my favorite ones thus far:

I went into a garden store and asked a man if he could let me wander and take pictures. He said of course in his mannerisms – I walked in and found a lighthouse clothes hook and instantly fell in love with it. I asked him how much on a notepad, and he wrote down 30 L, then I wrote down 25 L? and gave him a goofy smile. He laughed and said “Okay!”

I am sure he overcharged me. I am sure it was a restaurant with lots of plants, and I just grabbed one of his ornaments to take home with me. But it was his graciousness that was absolutely wonderful to be around.

The lighthouse now will live in my luggage until I reach the states later this month.

I arrived in Paris yesterday, and wandered the streets with my friend. She got flirted on by some waiters as I stuffed a crêpe into my mouth. But overall, it was a magical night.

Now onto some plain working time. Then maybe tonight, some serious writing inspired by my journaling travel stories.

Writing when you travel, it’s freaking hard!

I am having a creative meltdown … or just a massive case of traveling itch, Blog Land. I’m off to Turkey, then jumping on a plane to Paris and then maybe doing a weekend trip to England. I have no idea what I am doing — I mean, technically some of it involves videography and art — yet I am concerned about managing my writing time. I barely did any when I went to see family for 2 weeks in March.

I head over to my laptop or bring a small notebook with me, the BLAM! – something happens. Sometimes I have to lock myself in a room, but then family or friends get concerned because I should be relaxing or in vacation mode…and they don’t understand sitting down to write. It’s quite impossible with Peruvians who want to feed and get you drunk all the time.

Also, when I travel – there are wonderful mundane things happening all around me. If my brain could produce bubble thoughts, it would be ongoing and non stop with – sunsets, dance classes, brunches, conversations with people who are not tourists, me trying to order croissants at a bakery, Metro riding, or seeing the moon from a different part of the world. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a man’s face…like in Perú, for example, the moon looks like lips blowing you a kiss, for example. And I want to write it all down, but sometimes just looking at something is enough. Other times there are no ways to describe the atmosphere, and you have to LIVE.

So how do I focus?

I don’t know. This is an experiment. I will try to make it my prerogative to not be such a creeper on this trip and actually try to make friends with the interesting people, I tend to just write about. Maybe some of them will be writers. Maybe some of them could give me tips. And then I can share these tips on this blog.

Only time will tell. Leaving in April, coming back in May. I should have something to share.

And to answer your question (the one I am assuming you are asking), I am going abroad because I am running away from responsibilities that don’t involve writing or art. You know, growing up, getting a real job, and etc. etc. etc. I think a workaholic who has been sitting behind a desk for a little over a year should be allowed to have a meltdown at least once in their lifetime – or at least once per decade. Here is my thirties meltdown!

I’m just lucky enough to have my meltdown be a creative one, and not…like…heroin. I’m also lucky I have family and friends in these places to house me. Otherwise that would suck. I’m going to destroy my savings and eat with my credit cards. Bring it on world!

#WritingAbroad

Karaoke with Family

So yesterday I braved a karaoke night my family. I had not hung out with them since…2011 or 2012? I mean, not the way we did last night. We started with Cards Against Humanity and worked our way up to karaoke singing after a few drinks. It was awful. I mean, I could tell we had a little too much to drink when I sung “Redneck Woman” and my cousin swayed side to side like she was hearing some Celine Dion ballad. I was like, how did I get here?

Anyways, I look around the room and I realize that we are all at least in our 30s; except for my sister who is hanging on to her 20s by a thread and a small cousin who I grew up with but babysat when she was 5. She was glued to her phone.

And I thought to myself. Is this it? Is this what fun amounts to now for people my age?

One of the old family friends fell asleep on the couch while her husband butchered Ol’ Blue Eye’s “Come Fly With Me.” She snored, and my cousin explained that she works as an accountant and has been doing people’s taxes all day.

I held onto my beer, and silently sat in the corner thinking…wow, we’re here now. This is where we are. And you know what? It feels damn good. It feels good to be this age. And for this reason, more than any other, it is at this age when you stop giving a crap about what people are thinking or saying about YOU.

I don’t know if you’ve gone through this Blog Land, but in your 20s — man, it can be a pretty awful sometimes. You want to make sure people are having fun. You stress about every little detail. Oh, what am I wearing tonight?! Do we have enough dip for the chips?!  On top of everything else, you have to smile and pretend that the world is your oyster, when maybe you’re holding in a fart, or your secretly trying to stuff a brownie into your mouth because you were too busy putting up decorations to eat a proper meal all day.

In your 30s — you can get away with flipping off your family after their comments about your weight. You can wear yesterday’s t-shirt because it’s game night, not a freaking single-mingle party. If you crash on the couch because of exhaustion, you can be assured that someone won’t be drawing a mustache on your face. Actually, I think that depends on what your family is like and the average maturity level in the room.

But it just felt nice. It felt nice when around 2:30am someone said – Oh my God, it’s 2:30am! Freaking out because we stayed up past midnight. It was like: we did it!

Hilarious. Most of my cousins now with children and jobs, high five each other, hugged, and relished in the off chance that maybe they weren’t all that old, after all. And we’re really not…we’re just tired. At least I hope that’s what this feeling is.

We put the games away, cleaned the bottles off the counter, and made everything look like a regular house by the end of the night. We sighed in relief when we realized, tomorrow is Sunday.

Family, they always provide good material. Try it.

#chaosisgood #ignoranceisbliss

reporting from peru

I´ve been staying in Peru these past few days trying to figure when I can find a writing hole/escape in Lima, and so far Barranco seems the most fun. Why? There´s a cluster of all types there, thiefs, rich, tourists, weirdos, sex addicts, various generation, denominations, immigrants, artists, clowns, and finally damn good sea food. I found a hut on a hill, and I think maybe I will try and do some research online on how I can find me a two week getaway to focus on the novel next time I am down.

I don´t think one should wait to get invited to a retreat to start working hard. We must be proactive and Peru is pretty inexpensive.

It´s either Barranco or my grandmother´s house in Callao…but frankly, that place is full of nut jobs and I hardly have time to think.

We will see.

Returning to the states in two days. What a world!