I once worked in a strip club as a (fully clothed) waitress. While there, I learned that most of the dancers making the big bucks only pretended to get drunk on the $12 mocktail containing only cranberry & orange juice because it made the guys paying for the drink feel like he was going to get somewhere, that the two-and-a-half minute average pole dance on stage was just the right amount of time to scan the crowd for the sucker who would be an easy mark for the $20 lap dance, and that lap dance time was exactly when they composed their grocery lists in their heads because doing the same old thing gets tedious, ya know?
Other highlights included the realization that I could make $300 in tips just from charging $12 for a cup of fruit juice with a tiny umbrella in it and that sometimes the naked girls dancing got pissy if the clothed ones serving drinks got more attention than they did. But the best lesson of all was that sometimes it’s the stereotype exploiting itself that has the upper hand. No one expects to be outwitted by the chick shaking her boobs in the face of a man who isn’t aware he was marked as prey the moment he handed his baseball cap to the bodyguard. It isn’t, after all, just about shaking what your mama gave you. It’s about knowing how to use it.
* I’m Catholic with an asterix, thereby indicating a footnote in tiny print at the bottom of the page. In the interest of time, I’ll just get to the point and tell you that I have always described myself as Mexican-Catholic because it’s exactly not the same as Catholic Catholic. Most Mexican-Catholics that I know are first and second-generation Americans, believe in God and make the sign of the cross whenever an ambulance passes by or they drive by a cemetery, and only go to church for Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and First Communions. We grew up saying the Our Father in Spanish but have probably forgotten most of it by now, truly believe in God and Heaven and that our deceased loved ones will come to watch over us even if we don’t celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, and roll our eyes skyward while forcing ourselves to remain silent when our elder Tias and Tios start going on about things like gays and black people and how white people don’t know how to raise their children while they themselves are preparing a bottle of Pepsi for the four-year-old sitting in the stroller in nothing but a diaper.
We drive past a church on the way to school every day. We’ve only been inside four time in the four years we have been in Tucson. And without being told, Buttercup knows that the day we go to church is the day she gets to wear a pretty dress and hunt for Easter eggs in the courtyard.
I cried when the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. This is not an exaggeration. I had been hoping and praying for a boy and not because of the reasons you might think. Cultural chauvinism and machismo had nothing to do with my tears. Instead, I was bawling while The Husband tried not to laugh too loud and the tech holding the wand on the goop on my bump stood there, silent and utterly confused. But she’s perfectly healthy, she eventually managed to say because It’s a Girl wasn’t usually followed by tears cried by a nearly hysterical pregnant woman who seemed perfectly sane when she had walked in for her ultrasound.
It’s not that, I sobbed. It’s just that…she’s going to eventually turn into a bitchy teenager who hates me and drives me to the closest wine bottle with a bendy straw. I barely made it through my teens the first time.
That’s when The Husband jumped in with The Mother’s Curse and Payback’s a bitch and I just nodded, wondering if maybe God was, in His own Divine Way, giving me the finger.
I am a body image/healthy self-image/happiness activist who is and most likely always will be broken. I am not standing here looking down from my soapbox telling you that the three keys to happiness and life’s successes are (insert bullshit here). Instead, I am a mostly no-longer-practicing-eating-disordered-behavior-mother-to-a-five-year-old-daughter and I love her with all of my soul. I am imperfect and vain about my eyes, my lips, my curves. I am self-conscious about the size of my ass and always sucking in the muffin top. I tell my daughter that we eat and exercise to be healthy and strong and that our bodies perfect and made exactly as they are meant to be and that what other people think isn’t of any importance, not now and not ever. I am the mother who corrects strangers when they call her big because she stands taller than most kids her age because I stood taller than most kids my age because that word got stuck in my head and manifested itself into bulimia, and I’ll be damned if history is going to repeat itself. So I am the mother who smiles and says Why yes, she is tall for her age, isn’t she? And then I change the subject and wonder how much good I’m actually doing.
That’s when I remind myself that I’m trying. And all I can do is to put the oxygen mask on myself first before taking the time to assist any children or elderly people who may need help with their own. To make a difference for her and anyone else on this analogical airplane inside of my head, I need to take care of me first.