The seven-month mark happened last week and while I’ve been fiaca on writing and reading, I’ve not been lazy about trying new things.
I decided that as part of my feminist research in Buenos Aires, I would encourage myself to do the things I always put off because I was too scared to try them. I’m talking about learning new skills, picking up hobbies, joining a class. My Watson project constantly places me in new situations, including many that build upon skills I already have, such as carrying out interviews, designing and leading workshops, writing, and giving presentations. But my project hasn’t required me to learn and implement many new skills or practices I have never tried before.
My desire to be a really good salsa dancer, a fantastic vegan baker, or a pro at shooting video is just as strong as my hesitance to seriously invest time in learning any of them. I always thought this hesitance was due to my fear of failure or embarrassment, but I recently realized that it stems from what Sandra Cisneros calls the “that’s-nice-m’hija syndrome.”
I’ve been reading a her book, “A House of My Own,” where she describes
the “over-nurturing” that happens among Mexican women. A compliance we have towards one another and ourselves that “fosters mediocrity.”
Whenever I’d take on too many clubs at school, tried to exercise, or confessed that I was nervous to partake in something (including attending an academically rigorous college in a different state), my mom would tell me, “Ay que necesidad.” What’s the need? Why go through the trouble, especially when you’re choosing to take it on yourself? She even told me this on the day I was leaving for the Watson. I was crying and scared and so was she, hence, her over-nurturing kicked in.
It’s not that my mom doesn’t celebrate my successes or support me. To the contrary, she has always been proud of the things I’ve done, and the reason why I have accomplished anything is because she made it possible by working long hours cleaning other people’s houses, driving me to take the ACT test even when she didn’t understand what it was, and picking me up from volunteer sites on snowy Chicago nights.
The reason why we immigrated to the U.S at all is because my mom too, ignored her own mother’s “Ay que necesidad.”
While this plea aims to protect, it has only made women in my family feel small. For many years it has made me hesitant and unsure of myself; scared to take on challenges and accept failure as worthwhile; compliant, always willing to settle; that’s nice m’hija don’t reach for more.
This legacy is dangerous. One I don’t want to inherit, because as Cisneros plainly put it “we can’t afford as women to be mediocre or even good, especially not now. We don’t have that luxury. Our best weapon in adverse time: excellence.”
~ ~ ~
So, this is how I invested in myself this month.
D A N C E
I bought myself a Full Urban Dance pass at a local dance school, which means that four times a week I take classes in Reggaeton, Femme, Street Jazz, and Ritmos Urbanos (urban rhythms). I love to dance and had been itching to try more urban styles ever since the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew (remember the Jabbawockeez?) and the rise of the Step Up movie franchise. I used to learn choreography for bailables in elementary school, themed dance performances that are included in Mexican children’s school curriculum (reason I know traditional Mexican folklore, zapateado). This was over ten years ago, so although I took African Dance during my last semester in college, I’m far from my prime dancing days. Following choreo is so hard! But I have lots of fun, especially because I crack up at all the seductive booty popping we end up doing in front of the mirror.
I went to a few salsa classes at a cultural center. I have pretty good rhythm when it comes to partner dancing, but if I get spun I end up tangled and facing the wrong way, making this class especially entertaining. The men, as young as 15 to well into their 60s, switched clockwise every couple of minutes between us women. In one hour, I got spun in all sorts of crazy ways, and luckily managed to land a couple of them. I definitely need to make time to go back.
My Uruguayan roommate is a Tango instructor and every Wednesday last month, he taught a class at our house. I never paid much attention to tango but it’s such an elegant and intimate dance. Aside from learning some basics about arm placement and leg movements, the majority of the dance is born out of the push and pull between partners. With a good lead, I could close my eyes and sway, twirling on my tippy-toes with ease. After class, we’d go to a Milonga two blocks away. What was probably a simple house during the day was transformed into a cozy dance hall with low red lighting and the smell of wine and cigarette smoke was only overshadowed by the women’s beautiful skirts and thin high heels wrapped around men’s calves.
F I T N E S S
I tried out Kickboxing. Not only was the class fun but my entire body hurt the next day, so it was an amazing workout. Unfortunately, I smacked my right foot on the bag a few too many times so it got all puffy. I got scary and painful flashbacks of my throbbing foot back in September, which limited my movement a lot, so I chose to not attend any more classes. BUT while I was in search of a picture on the Sparring BA website, I saw the new announcement below…I may end up going back.
Instead, I signed up for Pilates. I feel just as sore as the next day, but the class experience is very relaxing, almost therapeutic. I never understood those people who said they felt really good while running, “all the endorphins” they’d say. Well I get it now that I’m doing pilates.
A R T
I fell in love with a colorful crotchet heart garland at a store and instead of buying it, I went home and searched for a class online. Now I’ve learned to crotchet not only hearts but a couple of different flowers, a scarf, and I’m in the process of completing a small purse. My only other classmate is a 70 year-old woman. We may be at very different parts of our lives but inside our brightly yellow room, we are students learning to get comfortable with making mistakes and undoing our work over and over again until it’s right. Our teacher Norma is the perfect compliment to the team. She’s patient and very encouraging, always reminding us the importance of holding projects and learning new things; keeps the soul young she tells us.
I live with art students at the moment and they let me join them as they painted from a live model a couple of weeks ago. Not too bad eh? The model even praised the painting in the middle where her hands are raised. As for me, I just really loved her hair.
Then, I let two of my roommates paint me as I crotchet one evening! Art on art.
C O O K I N G
One of the best things about my living situation in Buenos Aires is that we have communal meals so there is a l w a y s food and clean-ups are easy. Requests for Mexican meals became frequent, so for the first time ever I made beans, Mexican rice, and yes even flour tortillas from scratch.
I’ve decided to stay until the end of the March in Argentina, so I’m currently looking into new classes and fun thing to try.
Here’s to five more months!