I had the pleasure of performing this piece on Mother’s Day for my mom. I can’t explain all the ways she means to me, but here’s a start.
My voice booms when I talk, but it sounds like yelling to you. My hoops are too big you say, but you love other stereotypes of the Latin women; some of which do not belong to me, but you project onto me. I am educated, but still need me to act helpless and not know anything. I am great to date, but not exclusively. You call me a vice, but I am not the woman you bring home to mom.
If you are the one with all the problems, then why do I feel bad?
The you in this case are all things multiple men have told me throughout the years. Now I know what you are thinking, “Maria why are you dating such awful men?” The answer is I didn’t know. These men all looked different, had different backgrounds, and appeared to be prince charmings at first. They weren’t all white, nor men of color. They were men I wanted validation from because we had an intense spark. I probably missed a lot of signs, but I also wanted to be the girl from the movies. The girl you had to see about.
You know the type. She gets in a weird situation or is too independent for her own good. Her life is mostly together, and then she meets 2005 Matthew McConaughey/ Mark Wahlberg/Ryan Gosling and Boom! He gives her the one thing she has been missing that gives her life meaning….love. And you know what happens…say it with me….They live happily ever after!
What they don’t show is when Matthew got drunk or Mark not cleaning the dishes or when Ryan…Ryan is perfect, so I will move on. They don’t show the faults of the men that quote unquote saved them. They show “how the perfect man should be” And for me, I wanted the perfect man to come save me.
Don’t get me wrong, I lead and have led a badass life. I have a mostly supportive family, amazing friends, I’ve traveled, I get to perform across the country, and I get to lead the life I could have never dreamed of. But it seemed kind of lonely and when I was very young and dumb, I feared being 31 and alone like the lead’s best minority friend who kind of looked like me. I honestly thought I needed a man, baby and my life figured out at 25. I guess I wanted my happily ever after without the sequel.
A part of it was my lack of dating experience, but my high experience of not feeling good enough. Don’t get me wrong, my family treated me like a princess- something I never thought I deserved because the outside world treated me like a toad. I felt I had to be perfect for people to like me. I felt like I had to fit in to feel less alone-and that included dating men who started off as my 2005 Matthew, they usually ended up being the 2018 Lincoln Car Salesman.
I had high hopes for them. Expectations they were not aware of, and when they showed signs of these expectations, I ignored the other 80% that was the Lincoln Car Salesman. Let’s name these men Mike because I’ve dated 5 guys literally named Mike. It’s probably because I am bad with names or that it was most popular boy name in the 1970s and 1980s.
Some of Mike’s 80% included, but limited to, signs they were cheating on me, not introducing me to their family or friends because I didn’t fit in, and emotional abusive micro-aggressions that I was told I was crazy to think or call abusive because Mike wasn’t physically hurting me at the time.
I took a lot from these men because in my head, I rather be with someone I kind of liked, then alone. Someone who treated me alright, but not like a princess. Someone with a lot of buts, and the kind with only one “t.”
I was searching for someone to come save me, but looking back, what would they be saving me from? Getting my education, my trips around the world, spending time with my family and friends, or my life I was living and not waiting in my castle. In reality, I do not live in a castle, nor want to. The lack of bathrooms and old furniture would scare me. But when you have a lack of representation or stories, you start to think even little crumbs acceptable.
My voice booms when I talk though they’d rather I stay meek because leads are often quiet and not strong. You see, men in those movies are considered the charming hero despite their flaws and do whatever they want, but women in those movies are generally seen as either prizes or strong-willed until the man breaks them down to be a star. As much as we want to say our society isn’t like this, we live everyday where men, especially non-POC, can do half the work and get away with more. And women…well we are a prize that needs to be shaped-even in a pant suit.
I look back and wished I hadn’t let society get me. That I hadn’t taken a lot on myself, punished myself, and saw myself how my family always saw me. That as woman, a beautiful woman of color, I am an equal even if the world doesn’t see me as such.
With my voice booming, this even hard to talk about now because I still have a little voice telling me things. Things like I am supposed to appear that I am strong, but not too strong. That I shouldn’t make people feel uncomfortable as a woman. These are things not shown in the movies or talked about in real life. And honestly for a long time I felt alone surrounded by people, seeking attention from men, punishing myself for their mistakes, and not feeling like I could be myself. It tore at me for years.
It wasn’t until I found a group of women who made me feel like I could fly and be myself. We are an improv group here in Chicago called Matt Damon Improv. Yes, we perform improv and no Matt Damon is not a part of it. But I am not here to talk about improv, but rather their friendship and sisterhood. They helped me find myself and accept who I am. That I can be myself and let my voice be heard. That I am good enough without the “ors and buts” That I can be on my own. That I am enough, and I do not need the men seen in the movies. They are fictional parts after all.
My voice booms when I talk. My hoops are big. I am educated. I am great to date, if you are lucky enough. I am a badass woman and I do not need your validation.