I wrote a little bit about race and motherhood and somebody wanted to publish it!
You can find it here on the ParentMap website: https://goo.gl/c1fiLX
I wrote a little bit about race and motherhood and somebody wanted to publish it!
You can find it here on the ParentMap website: https://goo.gl/c1fiLX
What can I say about my best friend?
Well, first, I want to post a disclaimer…like 60% of my friends are my best friends. I try not to have too many friends at a time, in general, and the ones who have stood the test of distance and time, I keep close to my chest.
But Brittany, she and I have some real relational resiliency. I mean, we’ve fought over money before. I feel like that’s a big deal. That’s like family s**t. And Brittany is like the sister I’ve never had.
Last Friday was her birthday, (THIRTY!!!) and I wanted to publicly brag on her and share what her friendship means to me.
Brittany and I spent an entire summer working at the same summer camp without saying a thing to each other. Some early mornings, we’d sit together, on duty and waiting for kids to be dropped off early. We might gruffly nod at each other, mumble some approximation of “good morning” into the air at no one in particular.
We stayed on at the camp into the fall for the free housing. I think we recognized in each other our best chance of staying sane in that place. That sounds dramatic, but it really was like a Thursday night NBC sitcom in real life. Our ratings would have killed.
I don’t want to say that we bonded at a “low” point in our lives-that’s cliche-but it was weird, awkward, in-between, sweet time. Like middle school. Brittany was returning to WA after a year in China and four in college before that. I had just packed up my little Hyundai Elantra with everything I owned, no friends, just a bit of money, and even less of a clue about what was next for me.
We quickly took to calling ourselves the “sad broke girls”, making a life by consuming whatever food we could get free or cheap, sour patch watermelons, and Redbox movies.
But we grew from that place, graduating from creaky camp bunk beds to mattresses on the floor in a rented room in a boarding house, to the first apartment either of us had every really had to get on our own. We filled it with furniture we’d borrowed and picked up for free from the side of the road. We disagreed over what to hang on the walls and argued over dishes left in the sink. We were frustrated by each other’s quirks and our frequent misunderstandings. We were just two girls who thought they were women, helping each other grow up.
Brittany is one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had; simultaneously able to be objective about situations I need help with and always on my side. She’s let me drag her to lame parties with people who thought they were cooler than they are, just so I could be around the boy I liked (now my husband). She sends me goofy ass gifts just to remind me that someone I’m not related to cares about me. She’s supported me when she didn’t know how to, just by sticking around.
From driving eight hours to Portland on a whim, to sneak-eating Jimmy John’s sandwiches in the bathroom stalls of historic theater, to casually crossing decrepit train tracks over the sea when I’m a afraid of heights AND can’t swim; my friendship with Brittany has helped me tap into a side of myself that’s silly and foolish and brave and human and surprisingly kind. I talk to (and come to care for) people I normally wouldn’t because of her. I’ve walked farther and through harsher conditions-literally and metaphorically- than I would ever choose on my own, because she’s helped me see that I can.
Usually, we make friends with people because we want to be more like them. We should really make friends with people because they make us want to be more like ourselves. Brittany taught me that.
So, Happy Brithday, B. Here’s to another thirty years of exploring the unknown, encounters with weirdoes, and late nights pondering the deep, tender things of life.
Like many girls of my generation; I was raised on a steady diet of rom-coms and teen magazines.
I had small town, conservative Christian, and traditional Latinx cultures all reminding me that it was best to marry young, and that the greatest and most honorable thing I could ever do was be an excellent mother to my (many) children.
In college, my friends and I would stay up late in the night, fuelled by fantasies of these perfect lives with these perfect men who were strong and handsome and could make us laugh and love Jesus and be loyal and provide for us and our families and and and....
All the while implicitly developing expectations for ourselves as wives and mothers : beautiful, wonderful homemakers and hostesses, devoid of ambition, desire, and need outside of the ambitions, desires, and needs of our husbands and families.
Eventually, all of my friends got married. So I moved. Admittedly, to find a husband somewhere else. It's all I knew.
By the time I got married, four years after leaving home and four years before today (well, last Thursday, to be exact), I had no real idea of what saying that particular "Yes" would mean.
There were moments when it was brutal; the uncharted territory of trying to learn someone, after two years, I barely knew, the loss of complete control of my own life, the loneliness that gnawed at me still. And, not to be forgotten, the overwhelming fear that because our marriage wasn't "working" the way I was taught it was "supposed" to, that we were failing--that I was failing.
It took another two years and a baby for me to loosen my grip on these things. Well, maybe two and a half years. The first six sleep-deprived months of motherhood made me a raging heap of hormones and paranoia. But after that things were fine.
I mean, they weren't just magically fine. Maybe for the first time, Ryan and I started functioning as a pair, instead of individuals wrestling over where and how we spent our energy, money, and time. Those resources, obviously, were being gobbled up by our baby.
And we were left behind as two bedraggled, exhausted people somehow able to see, through the spit-up and sweat, each other more clearly.
It took parenthood to make me realize that Ryan wasn't just some prize that I got for being so "good and faithful" and for "saving myself" for marriage, or even a prize for "sticking to my convictions" and "not settling." He suddenly wasn't a prize at all, he was just a human with flaws that are harder to hide without a full night's sleep. Just like me.
I don't think that Ryan would mind me telling you that, for most of his life, he's been fixated on being "perfect", on being exactly what you need him to be, on being "good." He wouldn’t mind because he's open and honest and true. But I never really would have known the extent of that if he didn’t have to give up on being perfect after becoming a father.
In the past two years, I’ve learned more about my husband than any before. He has unconventional (read, generous and un-American) ideas about how to spend our resources and live our lives. He embraces limitations and failures and human-ness, including his own. He has healthy, realistic expectations about life. He’s the most gracious person I know.
And that grace has brought me freedom. Freedom from the expectations I had of marriage and motherhood, expectations of what I should look like and how I should act. Freedom to be funnier and smarter and more skilled than I am beautiful and polished and domestic. Being with Ryan has freed me from the grip of the woman I thought I was supposed to be, and ushered me into the burgeoning fullness of who I am.
A good love will do that to you, I suppose.
The Latino mayor of a city just south of me was physically attacked by one of his residents, the man claiming that he wouldn't let the Mayor bring any more of his "kind, illegals" into "his city".
A middle-aged Latina in Colorado was attacked by two white women simply for daring to live in their neighborhood.
An elderly Mexican man, in his early nineties, was violently beaten with a brick by a black woman and several young black men who shouted obscenities at him and told him to, surprise, surprise, "go back to his own country."
And the latest I've heard was a story shared in church a week ago. A young man, who we'll call Manuel, was a leader in his church in Eastern WA, active with the youth. On their way home for a summer missions trip, the youth group stopped at a McDonald’s in Idaho where Manuel was beaten by a White Supremacist to the point of hospitalization. The last I heard, he was still in the hospital and not doing well.
As I hear more of these stories, I find myself wanting to bear witness to them. Growing up, I was well educated by my family on the existence of racism, the dangers of it, but it was always an isolated evil. “Some People” had it, maybe even most white people had it; but we didn’t think of it as something active and present in our day-to-day lives.
And stories like the ones that I just told, didn’t exist. Well, not in the world created for me by my family. They were sensationalist headlines, stories whispered across a kitchen table, isolated events.
But obviously, they aren’t anymore. And these stories need telling. They need to be grieved with shouts and angry tears, and they need to be stopped. I think growing up, no one told these stories because they were afraid of the monsters they contained, and they believed that eventually these monsters would go extinct. But I’m not and I don’t. With the president happily spewing his hateful rhetoric like gasoline on a dumpster fire, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, skin heads, what have you, are boldly attacking POC. And it seems like more than ever, they’re coming after people who look like me.
I don’t live in an active state of fear, but I wonder if sometime soon, I’ll need to. I don’t really worry about my family, but every time I hear stories like the ones I just shared, I think “That could have been someone I love.”
I don’t have a strong, encouraging, rallying message here. I just want these stories to be heard, I want people to be outraged and moved toward action. And that includes me.
I woke up this morning, half expecting to write about race and MLK. Last year, I posted a picture of him, his mug shot from Birmingham. I listened to his letter from jail. I cried. I wanted the world to see that he wasn't some sanitized Saint, but he did what he had to for justice.
This year, this morning, I didn't wake up feeling so moved or inspired. But a little raw, a little sad; bitter.
I was going to write about how disappointed I am that after this man fought for the rights of so many, was killed just because he demanded that he and all people be seen and considered human, we are saddled with a president who makes racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and flat out stupid comments on a daily basis.
And more so, in so many ways, he is a reflection of the state of our nation.
Our cities are still segregated.
Our people are still harassed, assaulted and killed because of the color of their skin.
There are still places that I, even with my light skin and racially ambiguous appearance, and other people like me will never really fit, because someone will always be there to remind us that we "don't belong".
So much of what Reverend Dr. King had to say then, still resonates now.
I scrolled through my feeds, slightly irritated by and occasionally rolling my eyes at posts cheerfully boasting personal facts without any thought for why today is any different from yesterday or the day before. Or worse, posts celebrating the "day off" without even a mention of Dr. King.
And then, I saw this image. And I was filled with pride, patriotism, even.
Reverend Dr. King was not just the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, some topical subject that we talk about during Black History Month.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great American hero.
Maybe not the America of the Revolution or the scrappy, “anyone can make it if they try hard enough” America.
But MY America; the America of the POC, the underrepresented, the “marginalized” (who by the way, don’t “come from” and weren’t created “by the margins” but were shoved there by colonialism, capitalism, and empire).
Because my rights didn’t come from the Constitution, they came from Dr. King’s fight. My right to free speech, my right to be married to my White husband and mother my bi-racial child, and even my right to grow up in the house I was raised in, the deed for which requested that the house not be sold or rented to “Hispanics or Negros”.
Because of his fight, I don’t just get to be seen as an American, I get to be seen as a human being; if not in the eyes of everyone, at least in my own.
And thank God for that.
So today, I honor and hold deep, deep, deep gratitude for Reverend Dr. King, his wife, Coretta Scott King, his children, and all those who fought and marched and sacrificed and prayed and wept and dreamed alongside him.
We haven’t gotten to the Promised Land yet, but America is better because of you.
This is 19-year-old Cecelia. She’s a sophmore in college, avid concert-goer, and hater of the cat that she’s holding. She also HATES her body.
At 19, I was roughly 130 pounds, a size 6, and clearly, adorable AF.
But I thought I was fat. I thought I was ugly. I thought that I needed to do 200 (not kidding) crunches every morning when I woke up and every night before bed. I thought it was necessary to spend over an hour EVERY SINGLE DAY slathering my young, young skin in makeup that would cause breakouts that left scars that I still see in the mirror now, 11 years later.
I grew up poor, brown, and chubby in a tiny town, in a tiny school, in a tiny class of about eight. And when you’re in a class of eight, you’ve got to make fun of somebody to keep the heat off yourself. And, you guessed it, I was that someone.
That narrative stuck; poor, brown, and chubby. When I was in high school: poor, brown, and chubby, in college: poor, brown, and chubby. In my mid-twenties, while I was living well, and independently, so far from where I’d come, it was there: poor, brown, and chubby.
And wanted to be beautiful more than ANYTHING. I had it in my head that if I was beautiful, that it would get me whatever I wanted: a good paying job (really), a husband, likability. Ultimately, I thought being beautiful would give me security.
And never for a second did I let myself believe I might be beautiful. I spent my twenties, so much time, and sooo much money (on make up, clothes, workout gear, diet pills, ect.) desperately trying not to be those three words that I was so sure defined me: poor, brown, and chubby,
I was exhausted and I (stupidly) assumed, inescapably ugly.
I couldn’t even really see me.
I’ve thought about this inability to see myself clearly a lot as I’ve gotten older, and how my body has morphed through my shitty first year of marriage (don’t worry, it’s better now), my weight creeping up a little bit more as I finished my graduate thesis, and hit an all-time high as I carried a tiny person inside of me. I’ve thought about it most this past year as I’ve struggled to lose the “baby weight”.
I was a beautiful girl and I couldn’t see it. I had exactly what I wanted and I missed it.
I’ve been following the news of all of the survivors of sexual assault in (primarily) the film industry and I’ve felt everything from disgusted to grateful. So many of these men have decided and shaped our cultural imagination for what’s appealing and desirable.
They made beautiful women the subjects of stories that were really never about them, but about the men they could “catch” and the lengths that they went through to do so. And these were just the “chick flicks.”
In the movies that were mostly made by and for men (although no one would ever say that), women were hardly more than ornaments. Pretty (and by pretty, I mean mostly middle class) girlfriends, pretty (and by pretty, I mean mostly white) wives, pretty (and by pretty, I mean always, always, always skinny) best friends, always there to unequivocally support their man. Even if he wouldn’t grow up, even if he wouldn’t commit, even if he belittled, mocked or abused her; the pretty girlfriend would be there, smiling all the while.
I think about some of the male characters who have I’ve seen on film; playboys and philanderers, rapists, lost boys, straight-up assholes, all rendered in that glorious Hollywood glow. Painted as “lovable, after all”.
These were the men that I was supposed to love and these were the women I was supposed to be. And if I could be one of these women and get one of these men to love me, it would mean I was beautiful and would get my happily ever after.
Of course, I never could really think I was beautiful within this world. I didn’t fit that mold, and all of the jerky boys I liked were only justified in their jerkiness by what we were being spoon-fed by these men making movies about monsters, probably so they could feel better about themselves.
The horrible thing is, the stories these men put out into the world left scars.
A few weeks ago, the fantastic Leanna Ramsey-Corrales from Leanna Bre Photography came to take some pics of Ammie and me in our natural habitat. Leanna is an awesome, talented, body-positive, documentary style photographer dead set on demolishing outdated beauty standards. She loves people and sees our beauty, and wants to capture it on film.
I was nervous about it because, I’m fat now. It’s what my body is for the time being, and I wish I was thin again, but I’m actually healthy and I have a rich, good life.
I was nervous not only because I’m fat now, but because if there were pictures, there would be evidence of it. There would be a reminder of how I don’t fit into that idealized world of beauty and desirability that a few misogynistic men have created.
After years of contemplation and research and therapy, years of being loved and cared for and celebrated, I’m still trying to belong there. Somewhere within me, that world still matters and it makes me a little sick.
I think the thing I’m most grateful for about all of these men being outed as abusers and ousted from their places is influence, is that it means that there’s now space for new stories. Better stories and better worlds where women are strong, have rich inner lives, and can validate themselves. Stories where men can reckon with their demons on their own (or better yet, within a community of people who love, support, and challenge them) without an enabling Barbie doll, and emerge as better fathers, lovers, and sons.
I want these stories for my daughter, but I need them for myself. And until I start seeing those stories on a screen, I have to write them with my own life. I have to share them with my own body.
I’m proud of those pictures Leanna took of my daughter and me. They’re evidence of my life as an artist and a mother, as a whole human being. I only wish I would have looked more boldly into the lens. Next time, I will.
If you’re interested, you can find the pictures from the shoot here: