Have dinner ready – no, just no
If you happen to be married to a man, your husband can make his own fucking dinner, and/or when family dinners are a priority he can cook on some of those nights too. When he doesn’t, he can wait until you’ve gotten home, probably after getting groceries on your way from work, and had a chance to cook said dinner that you wanted to start an hour earlier but couldn’t because your job kept you late. Everyone should be planning ahead for dinner. Your husband should be communicating with you about what needs to be defrosted or bought from the store. Cooking meals for you and your family saves money and ensures healthier eating, but leaving all the planning and prep to one person when both partners are working is just cruel. Planning and preparing meals takes up a lot of psychic energy and the burden should be shared.
Prepare yourself/Take care of yourself because no one else is going to
Take care of yourself. Take off your goddamn bra; take it off in the car. When you get home, if you feel like putting on a loose-fitting house dress, do it. If you feel like going straight into your pajamas fine, but for crap sake, take off that bra, put on some chanklas, cuddle up on the couch with your kid, or if yours is a teen, with a cuddly pet.
Clear Away Clutter
Your husband can pick up his own shit so you don’t have to do it after you’ve worked all day long and plan on cooking dinner too. Make your kids to pick up their shit too. “Your house should be a haven” for you all to rest in. You should also be able to lay on the couch dead tired and not have to look at back packs, soccer shoes, jackets, sheet music, and junk mail.
Prepare the children
Hold small children close, but prepare older children to cook, clean, and pick up after themselves. Teach them not to be total dicks who expect others to do everything for them. Teach them to help others when others are ill, injured, or elderly.
Minimize all noise *snort*
Play whatever music you like as loud as you like, especially if you’re cooking or cleaning. Play X-Ray Spex, David Bowie, Downtown Boys, Adam Ant, Selena, or The Clash. When you have time play you’re your instrument, uncover the drums and play them, practice the guitar. On weekends ( when the neighbors’ children are not napping), turn the amp up to 11.
Do make sure any children understand that they have two parents and both can be called upon to help with homework, discuss school, the weekly schedule, make doctor’s appointments, and sign field trip forms shoved in their face at the last second. And make it clear that you expect everyone in the house to help clean up after dinner before going off to watch their shows, surf the internet, or do their homework
Don’t just do everything around the house because it’s easier than asking for help, because you’re better at washing dishes, or because they don’t know how to operate appliances. Don’t perpetuate gender roles by being unwilling to teach your husband to do shit that he somehow didn’t learn somewhere else along the way.
Make him comfortable
Um, I’m not fluffing anyone’s pillows who is past the age of four years old.
Listen to him *rolls eyes*
I’m sure I’ve never seen a list that urges husbands to listen to their wives.
Make the evening his
What about you? What about your evening?
Take back your life. You are perimenopausal and you are tired of working for free; you want to sit back and relax too, unwind, read a book, sip a glass of wine, renew yourself “in body and spirit” and not have to wait until your dead.
I’m just going to say it—the movie Lady Bird, which will win awards this awards season, is plagiarized. It’s the white-lady Real Women Have Curves — a Latina themed movie that came out fifteen years ago in 2002.
A busy mom, writer, and community college English instructor, I finally got a chance to see Lady Bird the other night, and I sat in a row with two other women who, like me, came to see it alone and late in the season. Even though I laughed in all the places, writer/director Greta Gerwig, would have me laugh, I also felt underwhelmed and I didn’t know why until a near copy of a scene from Real Women Have Curves flashed up on the screen, and it hit me. I’ve seen this movie before and a better version of it. To be fair, I will concede that I might like Real Women Have Curves better because it resonated with me both as woman and culturally. I am a Xicana; I was born in LA where the movie is set, and I rebelled against my mom’s favorite activity sewing, opting to play drums in a punk band instead. However, none of that excuses plagiarism. I’ll still argue that Real Women Have Curves is a better movie and that Greta Gerwig stole it, colonized it, and will get all the recognition for creating something new, something unique, “one of the best reviewed movies of all time.”
Once the movie was over, ending quite similarly than Curves with the protagonist, Lady Bird, having gotten into college in New York even after her mom said that she would only go as far as the local community college. I had time to kill since I was waiting for my son to finish up a gig he was playing at a nearby hotel. I sat down in the movie theater lobby to think more about how I was feeling: confused, guilty for not liking a movie that got a near perfect rotten tomatoes score, angry that it seemed no one else saw what I saw, or worse, they saw it and nobody was saying anything because whiteness still rules in Hollywood. I pulled out my phone to do a search; surely the internet could tell me how to feel. Someone else out there must have seen the similarities, I thought. Someone else must have saw what I saw in that movie theater, a movie written and directed by a white woman who was clearly more than inspired by Real Women Have Curves, a white woman who copied the film written and directed by Latinas, a white woman who is now going to win awards for a movie that I’m sure has many autobiographical aspects, but is basically stolen from the plot of another movie –plagiarized. “A la chingada!” as my grandmother used to say.
Of course, it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who saw it Matthew Rodriguez points it out in his article for Into, and he expresses a thought that was simmering around inside me, “Curves doesn’t get quite the reputation it deserves. It doesn’t get cited like it should, though, at the time, it did something for Latinas — and women, in general.” Rodriguez doesn’t go as far as to use the P word, plagiarism, to describe Lady Bird, but he does urge readers to write about Curves and to tweet about it too to “allow it to live longer.” Enter this critique, only, I won’t be spelling out the similarities because I wouldn’t want to appear plagiarize Rodriguez who did that already in his article, and college English instructors don’t like plagiarism or lack of creativity. I will, however, quote my friend and fellow writer Anna Armstrong who helpfully watched Real Women Have Curves and assured me that I wasn’t being petty or just going mad with the community college English instructor privilege: “You’re not crazy,” Anna wrote on my Facebook page, “It’s the same skeleton of a story. And the characters are so similar – the loving but hardened mother, the spirited daughter who years for independence, the quiet understanding father who mediates – it’s all there. And Lady Bird completely plagiarized that last scene when Ana is leaving for college and Carmen refuses to come out of the room. The fact that Carmen makes an attempt but fails makes the scene more poignant than the one in Lady Bird.”
This kind of plagiarism by Hollywood and the ripping-off of unique ideas by peoples who it continues to largely ignore or only feature in caricature has happened before. One example that comes to mind is Kimba the Lion, the Japanese anime cartoon that Disney seems to have ripped off in the form of The Lion King. And then there’s the caricature in the terrible depiction of Frida Kahlo as narcissistic and self-absorbed in the recently released Coco, a movie that boasted several Latino advisors, advisors who somehow allowed the depiction of the dead to be required to go through border patrol and “show their papers” on their trip back for Dia de los Muertos to get a laugh. Ay, Hollywood, when will you ever get it right?
Had Gerwig only cited her source, I wouldn’t be, as my students like to say, “putting her on blast” nor would I be giving her an F. And in not citing her source she did plagiarize, as according to my college’s academic honesty one generally recognized aspects of plagiarism “is defined as… Overusing the ideas of a source, so that those ideas make up the majority of one’s work.” And by “overusing the ideas of a source” we’re talking about the movie Real Women Have Curves directed by Patricia Cardoso, and whose screenplay was written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo, based on a play that Lopez wrote about her own high school experiences.
Now, if only the film industry was held to the same standards as college students all over the Americas. Until then, I’m happy to serve as the Latina turnitin.com .
In America, we get these months to celebrate ethnic heritage, among other things (dogs, pizza, ice cream). Schools and libraries often create very meaningful programming around these months, but sometimes these celebrations feel like a tourist’s view of a culture. If you didn’t know, we are currently in the midst of Hispanic/Latino Heritage month, a month of Latin American people’s focused literature in libraries, public TV programming, and Latino Heritage month commercials sponsored by Coca-Cola or the NFL.
Since I write about Mexicans all the time, it’s Latino Heritage month all year long on this blog, but as always, I do have a little story to tell.
I wouldn’t say I dread Latino Heritage Month, and I recognize the opportunities (even for me) that the month presents, but I think many Latinos have mixed feelings about why a month to celebrate Latino heritage is necessary in the first place.
About two years ago, I was invited to a reading in San Francisco as a featured reader, me and another Xicano author. As soon as I walked in the door with my Mexican born husband, someone told us someone was going to play music, and that they’d be singing in Spanish, “De Colores,” and would we please sing along. Moments later, someone began practicing their Spanish on my husband. Later, as I listened to others invited to read, I realized there was a theme, one that had not quite been communicated to me. Each poet who read, one after another read about humble migrants, cultural misunderstandings, brown people who who worked the land, picked our food, and one reader pretended to be John Steinbeck and read from “Harvest Gypsies.” I began to wonder if those who invited me to read thought I was or had been a migrant worker, and then they sang “De Colores.” I’m surprised that my husband, who was already agitated, didn’t get up and walk out of the place. Our two friends who came to the event with us watched wide-eyed as the seen unfolded around us, a group of well-meaning older hippie poets, swaying as they sang, begging us to join in.
Later at home over the course of several days, I tried to work out what had happened, why it had happened, and it brought up all sorts of feelings about related experiences that I tried to capture in “What’s Up With White People Singing De Colores,” a piece that has offended/hurt/worried a few friends because it struck a nerve, but also, I guess, because “De Colores” is such a beloved song.
What’s Up With White People Singing De Colores?
What’s up with white people singing De Colores? Do they know it’s a children’s song? Do they know how embarrassing it is for us to sit and listen? Yes, we do know the words. Doesn’t everyone? And no we don’t want to join in.
We don’t want to kiri kiri ki like roosters or to listen to you do it. We don’t want to hear you sing using all the wrong vowels sounds, and we don’t care if the song was sung by Cesar Chavez and the American Farm Workers Movement. Yes, we knew that already.
And we don’t care if you love our culture, all the flavors and colors. We don’t care if you think we are the hardest working people in America. We don’t care if you think we’re the laziest. We are those things and everything in between. We know you love Mexican food. Who doesn’t? We know it’s your favorite. Mexican food is like pizza – it’s everyone’s favorite.
We also don’t care if you’re learning Spanish. Some of us don’t speak it either. Assimilation beat it out of us, beat it out of our parents. But you want a prize for taking a Spanish class, the one where you learned to say pio pio pio pi. Please don’t practice your Spanish on us either. If we’re fluent, we don’t want to hear you proudly mangle every other word, and if we’re not, we don’t want to have to pretend we’re better at it rather than explain because you made an assumption. We’d rather carry on a conversation like we did cuando podiamos ser amigos.
What’s up with white people singing De Colores? Do they know how predictable it is and how grating? It’s like old people saying “bling” or white girls with dread locks. And we don’t care if you celebrate Dia de Los Muertos or make tamales for Christmas. We’ve been buying advent calendars and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas all our lives. We’re glad to see you finally adopt and appreciate some of our ways, but now you want our approval too!
What’s up with white people thinking that we’re stuck in time? Do you think we sit around singing folk songs all the day? Did you know that some of us like death metal, Morrisey, Joni Mitchell (who, btw, never recorded De Colores) Bhangra, The Clash (even though they sang in terrible Spanish too), and Kate Bush?
What’s up with white people singing De Colores? No, we don’t want to join in. Sure, it’s a step up from “La Cucaracha,” “La Bamba,” or “El Jarabe Tapatio,” which you call the Mexican Hat Dance, but is there no other song to represent us, and why just one song?
Yes, De Colores is all about colors and unity, and yes, I get the song makes you feel good about embracing diversity, finally, and multiculturalism, but it’s never as easy as one song, not for us.
What’s up with white people singing De Colores? You can stop anytime.
I got Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk less than 24-hours ago, and I read it in two sittings, finishing this afternoon, crying over the climax at a table in my neighborhood café.
I have never wanted to hold a book in my hand more than my own book The Spitboy Rule, until I learned about First Rule of Punk. The First Rule of Punk is a middle grade novel. I learned about it from Bustle online in February. It got a lot of early buzz months before its scheduled release, I think, because a book about a punk rock Xicana in middle school in the era of Trump gives dems, leftists, feminists, book nerds, zinsters, ex-zinsters, librarians, Xicanas, punx, ex-punx, punk parents, and perimenopunxs hope.
I also cried when I read this summary of it: “There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.”
On February 28, I wrote this on the Spitboy Rule Facebook page: “This book looks awesome and like the middle grade version the The Spitboy Rule!” Twenty people shared the Bustle link straight away, the post reached over 35000 views, and I got excited and reached out to the author on Twitter.
She responded with this tweet:
I was smitten right away and we began following each other on Twitter and Instagram, and we recently became friends on Facebook where she promised to send me an advance copy of the book when she got them. Not too long after, I began seeing people post copy of their books, their advance copies (probably straight from the publisher or a conference), and I began obsessively checking my mailbox. I haven’t checked my mailbox so religiously since I was single and had a crush on my Puerto Rican neighbor who I eventually learned was engaged to be married (but that’s a whole other story!).
Yesterday, I checked my mailbox, hoping to find some stickers that I ordered, and out popped a recycled manila envelope, book-shaped, and with Celia’s name and address. I tried to open the envelope carefully, so as not to rip the book, but I was excited. Out flew the book, a FRP book mark, a FRP button, and two Sherman Alexie zines!
“Move,” I told my 15 year-old son who was sitting on my spot under the reading lamp on the couch. “Don’t anyone bother me until dinner time.”
I turned the bright yellow book over in my hands, looking for things you can’t see in picture of the book online. I saw pan dulce, a sugar skull, an anarchy symbol, and a quetzal wearing a Walkman.
I read the back cover, and then I took a deep breath, and opened the book to Chapter 1. I cried twice in the first fifteen chapters, once because I was touched, and the first time because I simply could not contain my joy over the existence of a book written about a girl like me. I am 47 years old, 48 in October, and not once in my life have I read a book (fiction) about someone so much like me. There are books by Xicanas about Xicanas who have had many of the same experiences and feelings that I have had, like Teresa in Ana Castillo’s Mixquahuala Letters. Still, last winter on Facebook, it was a thing to change your profile photo to a character from a children’s book character who was most like you, and I wanted to play along, but found I couldn’t think of any character who was like me or who I identified with. I posted a photo of Speedy Gonzales. It was all I could come up with and I wanted to make a point, but it was the first time that I realized that something seemingly trivial on Facebook could make me feel so sad.
Growing up, Speedy Gonzales was literally the only children’s character who was anything like me. Kids at school used to scream, “Arriba, rriba, andale, andale,” when I walked by.
But now, at nearly 50 years-old, I have Malù, but most importantly, kids all over America get to have Malù too – brown kids, comic book or zine nerds, punk or rock music fans (since electronic/digitized music has taken over the airwaves), budding activists, kids who break the school dress code, tough girls, and unladylike girls who want to pour drinks over the school mean girl’s head (I actually did pour beer over a trendy girls head at a party, which Malù would never do because she doesn’t drink beer).
Since you probably haven’t yet read the book, you might be wondering now what else it’s about, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I will say that Malù makes zines and is keen on lists, like the one on the back cover. You might also be wondering how I’m like Malù besides the Xicana punk connection. Here’s my list:
Thank you Celia C. Pérez for writing a book about someone like me, for making it happen in my lifetime, and for giving me a character to use in my profile pic next time I need a children’s book character to identify with, for making us visible – you’re my hero.
If it weren’t for cruising, car culture, and Whittier boulevard in East LA, I wouldn’t be alive. At seventeen, my mom was an East LA ruca, dating a part-time delinquente, Michael Cruz, who skipped school and cruised the boulevard, hung around Chronies, a hotdog and burger joint, and avoided the Lincoln Heights area because it wasn’t his territory. Mom went to school most of the time. She was even there during the walkouts, the day many of the Garfield high kids got locked inside by school officials. Some who got out were battered by police.
Like a lot of Chicano kids back then, Mom’s heart wasn’t in school. School was a prison, a place that that didn’t teach you anything about yourself or your own history, a place that made you feel bad for having brown skin, for speaking Spanish, a place that didn’t allow Latino kids to use the bathroom during lunchtime for fear of vandalism and fights. It’s no wonder the streets, cruising, and cars represented freedom.
It was on those streets where they would, for better or for worse, define themselves: Chicanos, pachucos, vatos locos, soto street, city terrace. Mom and Michael weren’t in a gang, but they lived in Boyle Heights; that was their territory. Their families had crossed the border to make their lives in America, only for their children to close the borders around them. Cruising Whittier, put them at risk for getting to close to other territories, and fights, and violence, but cruising the strip and hanging around Chronies was also a social experience away from teachers, and parents, and rules, some that only applied to them because they were Chicanos and to no one else. So in response, they carved out a piece of freedom and made more rules at the same time, a sort of futile using the master’s tools approach to their discontent. Writer Audre Lorde said that you can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, wise advice, but still the kind that young people, especially car loving, street-smart kids disregard because they think they know better.
Eventually, too much cutting school and cruising, got mom kicked out of school, which didn’t much matter to her because Michael wasn’t there and she was in love. Mom was in the kind of love that caused sixteen year olds to jump out their bedroom windows at night, the kind of love that caused sixteen year olds to steal their fathers’ Oldsmobile, and forget to put on the hand break, parking it on one of those Boyle Heights hills, where it rolled away and into the neighbor’s fence, the ones who sold drugs, who didn’t want any trouble, so they let it slide. Mom was in the kind of love that got her pregnant at seventeen by a guy with a quick temper and a Napoleon complex. Cruising should have meant freedom for my mom, but instead it meant a shotgun wedding in a knee length white dress, that sort of hid her growing belly, long enough to smile and pretend she was sure it would all work out, even when she knew it wouldn’t. Michael may have had a job and a Mustang, but he would hurt her and she would have to set herself free.
And so goes my lowrider legacy. I rode home from the hospital in Michael’s Mustang, down Whittier from General Hospital, only they weren’t cruising anymore. I had stolen their youth, and Mom and Michael were on a crash course to divorce. Still, I have to honor my East LA-vida loca-Whittier Boulevard-cruising legacy because it set me on the road toward real freedom ever since.
**Originally published in Joaquin Magazine
This summer, as I spend most of my time working furiously on my novel, I will be reposting some of my favorite pieces.
About this piece, when I told her a version of this story, Alice Bag, said, “You really broke up with punk rock didn’t you.” I realized then that I ought to write it down. This piece was originally published July 16, 2016 on my PM Press blog
In 1998, I broke up with punk rock. It was not a good boyfriend. It liked fucking me, but it wouldn’t introduce me to its mom, worried she’d notice that I wasn’t just punk rock, but that I was something else too, something/someone it didn’t quite understand. I feared I had aged out too. Standing around at 924 Gilman hurt my feet, the cold, hard cement floor. All the young people, seeming to get younger, as I got older didn’t bother me. I quite like young people. I gave birth to one, and I teach at a community college.
I broke up with punk rock, but it appears I’m back, having never really left at all. Still, I feel I have some explaining to do.
For me, punk rock was always about participation. I starting listening to punk at thirteen, was in a band, Bitch Fight, by the age of fifteen, and in 1987, by the age of seventeen, I had moved to San Francisco with Bitch Fight, and we began playing shows with bands like MDC, Operation Ivy, Frightwig, and Crimpshrine. When Bitch Fight broke up a year and a half later, I did a stint in Kamala and the Karnivores, and started Spitboy. After Spitboy broke up in 1997, Karin (guitar), Dominique (bass guitar), and I stayed together, and formed Instant Girl, a band we knew that would be short lived because Dominique was headed to Yale to study architecture. No longer hungry to continue participating in this way, I figured I should finish school too, and I got myself accepted, and a large scholarship, to Mills College. I wanted to study creative writing and English. My feet hurt from standing around on cement in my job of fifteen years as a preschool, and Gilman, and my back from hauling around drums all those years. My band days were over, and I was fine with that. I had said a lot through the band, made a contribution, traveled the world. I wanted to study. I wanted to write. I got married too – I felt like traitor, but I was happy.
Punk rock has a way of making you feel like a traitor when you decide to grow up a little, go to college, get married. At least it did back then, but after years of dating men in the scene who liked to pretend they didn’t have families, didn’t come from somewhere, let alone introduce me to their parents, I married a Mexican. I had finally been true to myself.
For about ten years, when I was in my thirties, nursing my son, going to graduate school, I hardly ever mentioned to anyone that I had been in a band that traveled the US, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. A band that put out records, did radio interviews, and for fanzines, a band that got fan mail. I didn’t want to be another boring adult talking about her glory days. Everyone wants to be rock star. Everyone wants to write a book too, but as a wise professor once said, you can’t, especially the later, standing around at parties talking about it. The cool thing about punk rock is that you actually start a band by standing around talking about it. That’s how bands start. Someone says let’s start a band, you think of some cool names, you decide who’s going to play what, you learn to play your instrument if you don’t know how already, and you write your first song. It’s what attracts people to punk rock in the first place – you don’t need to go to Mills College or Yale to do it.
While some people get into punk rock because they just want to fuck shit up, many of us call punk home because of its access to radical politics and people who hold them, people who question authority, people who question their own thoughts, people who read books, and attend demonstrations, and now discuss white privilege, people who don’t believe we should give up our basic privacy rights to protect ourselves from actual, or so-called terrorism, people who aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists. And it’s for all these things that I’m back, lending my voice, participating, now, in the best way I know how.