How to be a Latin Lover: in Review

How to be a Latin Lover seemed promising: Derbez was the protagonist and the premise seemed to have room for growth, but then precisely because of the premise the movie did not live up to what Derbez had previously made. Derbez playing a sort of emasculated man with very little regard for anyone, rather than work, finds old women and allows himself to be fetishized, exchanging his body directly for material possessions that very easily fall away. Perhaps I needed a movie where the main character realizes that happiness is not money, or at least that his self-worth is more important than having the sugar mommies that take advantage of him sexually. But alas this movie did not have that sort of plot and instead failed in so many ways selling the image of the lazy immigrant, the spicy Latino who projects his machismo onto his nephew. It seemed like a caricature of the Latino immigrant identity at best, in many ways reminiscent of problematic shows like Modern Family and Fresh Off the Boat. Being extremely white-washed and made for white consumption the movie hardly addressed the systematic obstacles in the way of Latino immigrant progress. Salma Hayek playing a hardworking single mom is only one step away from progress, pulling herself up from her boot straps. Yet again, with this trope the movie pushed the conversation away from the reality of racism, capitalism, and sexism and sympathized with the general issue of work progress versus experience: the neoliberal issue of the age. To an extent in the deep background there were clear moments of microaggressions but these were too subtle to be noticed by anyone except people of color who have probably experienced them at some point. The specific moments of culture mockery attempted to blur the image of the Latino as one that is culturally different but still the same: “whites we are not dangerous, our stereotype instead is really funny”. I wonder actually why the Spanish language was used at vulgar moments and the English was saved for serious conversations almost implying the purity of one culture over the other. I did not like this movie although it did have some moments that I really connected to and loved. One specific moment that I loved was the point where Salma and Derbez are singing together and dancing as a way to let go of sadness, but in the corner comes the very respectable and white-acting 10 year old boy (Salma’s screen son) to inform them that they are acting irresponsibly and should go to sleep. I resonated so deeply with this scene because at times when the white-dominated world becomes too engulfing I play the music of my childhood almost as though the apathy of the world can be hushed down with the rhythmic che-che-che of the music. The child of course was made to be white acting and even white passing to ensure that he can fit into the prep school that will ensure his progress into middle-class status; his identity is blurred into the sort of nerd trope as a way to show that it is the culture of dancing and singing that is vulgar, not the forgetting of roots. I have to stop here and think back to the sort of Enlightenment premise of cosmopolitanism. The way that cosmopolitanism is framed, as the white man feeling at home anywhere, already implies that the European tradition and language are preferred, whiteness being the standard through which cosmopolitanism is actualized. Is cosmopolitanism something that delegitimizes my sadness for the culture which I left behind but am nostalgic about? Back to Latin Lover though:  there was hardly any real critique about having to leave a nation-state behind and accept a new culture as one’s own: immigrants can feel at home anywhere as long as they accept and internalize the new culture. No real critique about capitalism was made anywhere in the movie: the movie almost works in a world that does not recognize how it functions. Now here I know you may say: Laura this was a romantic comedy, what did you expect? But I expected a bit more than ableist mockery, the spicy Latino stereotype, the emasculated irresponsible man, and the acceptance of whiteness as fact. How to be a Latino Lover accepted the American identity as white and made Latinx identity a stranger that had to excuse itself and move closer to whiteness; After all: ” White is but a metaphor for power” (James Baldwin).

Well-wishes

I wish I may and I wish I might, but what does it mean when we are rather than addressing ourselves, addressing another. It may seem in some regard to be self-serving and yet how can one move beyond the self to really care about another. Mother you really stifled my growth, and yet I can’t blame you for teaching me the same things that you grew up knowing. You taught me the way the world was in your eyes; it’s too bad that your eyes had the patriarchy as their lens. I’m the opposite, in some way rejecting everything you ever taught me to see. And we clash often now but I want you to at some point rest. You may attack me with words, and you may hurt me when you scream that I should leave but I know that you’re just tired, and frustrated, and sad that life didn’t go the way you dreamed it would when you were still young and full of illusion. I hope that one day I can make you proud, that you see in me what you wished to be in yourself. Does it really serve me to criticize and scream out into the void? No, I need to prove more not just for you but in order to fully reject every fear and patriarchal structure that surrounds me. I love you mom and I hope that one day I can take care of you in the way that you never could take care of me.

Student you really push back

You look at me like who are you

But I am just trying to guide you through this vile system that we call

freedom,

I can’t grant you anything except

pre-calculated skills

that will make you somewhat capable

of navigating

the orders, the knowledge, the eventual soul-sucking job

But on the other side, I hope that I can give you

the subjective love for finding what you love

so that in those moments where you can’t bear it anymore

you can look to that love and let it fill you, and

push through this absurdity

and maybe thrive in it due to your love for something.

I hope that you can learn to be rather than to have

Valuing what you are and what you make

rather than what you have

leave the brands aside

they just make you miserable in the requirement for money.

 

Reification and Wasted Vulnerability

It’s always a white man, the white man who can make ungrounded arguments and thinks that he is so sentimental and deep. Meanwhile I sit on the other side, panicking at his lack of understanding and empathy. He is the one saying that his uncle with the walking disorder deserves no pity: As though people can be expected to act in non-burdensome ways even when they are ill. He says mediocre things like “I’m not good at math but I passed my statistics course”. I stared at him with a stoic smile, but wondered how someone can be proud of mediocrity. But then I remember how upper middle-class white people have the privilege of being mediocre. This privilege comes from not having to tackle systematic inequality and never being denied an argument based on their identity. And then I disclose too much, I disclose too  much to prove that his oh so deep argument is actually a misunderstanding of normality. He says nonchalantly: ” the only life that can seem normal to oneself is one’s own life”. But hello my own life has never seemed or appeared normal. With the shifting moods it has only felt like a life that moves too quickly and I can barely catch up to: as though my life is a train and I am running to make sure that the door doesn’t close on my face. I told him about the bipolar that plagues me. He interjected by praising mania, exclaiming how jealous he is of people that are bipolar, and that yes he is aware of the coming doom, but the mania sounds amazing. Mania is not what the movies show it to be, mania is decisions which leave you empty, in problems, which push people away because everything moves too quickly and you have no inhibitions to control your interactions. I told him that it is not what he thinks it is. We moved on to the cliche topic of how terrible 2016 made everyone feel. He chimes in to say: “Now is the time to figure out how you would behave during the Hitler Era, blah blah.”He proclaims his knowledge that as a white cis-gendered hetero man with blue eyes, he faces no coming persecution. Everything at this point becomes noise, I am being pushed to an extreme discomfort and I don’t know what to do. I feel dirty, as though every part of me is soiled and unworthy. This man so confidently walks around being a disgusting excuse for a human being. All the microaggressions remind me that to indirect racists I am a stereotype, not a person but a reified phenomenon. Not real but an object; an illusion, an invisible figment, a sort of problem. I looked at him who has excused himself to go to the bathroom, and attempt to form a connection through a smile, he looks back, panic stricken, a half smile forming through force, and I know that apart from wasting 4 dollars on cold-brew and basically sabotaging my sleep, I have wasted so much vulnerability on someone who wanted nothing but a surface connection. I went back, I hid, I felt sad. This is the experience of having a complex identity, one who does not fit into definitions of normality, who as a woman am too direct, who has been able to succeed through the obstacles within education and don’t directly fit into the narrative of mediocrity, and yet as I sit with this particular white man, I start to hate everything about myself, particularly the part of me that isn’t mediocre enough to validate this man and in turn is validated. I have a great amount to learn and love still. I don’t know what normality can feel like, nor do I want to though.

Reflections on 2016

cw:rape, mental health and medication

I woke up today and actually felt like a different person, as though a weight lifted and I’m plateauing back to rational. 2016 for me was a stretch of a year, one which made me face myself head on. The lithium medication left me stranded in a small internal hell that I couldn’t represent externally. But I stopped taking it, and even while on it forced myself to be productive. I do remember how inadequate and guilty it made me feel any moment that I was not being productive. I ended my relationship with Dan. I still don’t know how this makes me feel. A great amount of my choices are based on my mood cycle so I never quite feel connected to them, only in some distant way do I feel like they affect my current actions. I’ve gotten very good at compartmentalizing but this has also allowed me to survive the downfalls and bad choices that I have made recently. The resilience to continue despite wanting nothing but to stop has proved to be my best character trait, better than anything I could portray externally. I experienced a third case of rape this year; it left me angry, energetic, self-destructive. I think these feelings are staring to fade, becoming a quiet hum while instead I just want to make real connections. I became for a while this person who kept displaying inappropriate emotions and critique. I think 2016 served to humble me: it showed me that I am no one and that I am not superior to anyone, just living through this capitalist reality. I have a lot to externalize in the sense of repressed sadness but I think that eventually I will be able to and the days are staring to get longer rather than shorter. I think that I am ready to go back and to be at peace again. I beat the beast that was trying to suffocate me and I am in a non-cliche way new.

To Sentiments Lost and Missed

I will begin by stating that life has stripped me of the innocence which once made me happy to live. Is life a word that means myself, an experience, or other people? For some time life was my medication, which suffocated my brain and put my sleep on ransom. Do you ever note the replicating tendencies of language? Life is a system, a system of replication, and reinforcement. The reward is the ability to live in a somewhat autonomous existence. The punishment is to live always at the hand of the system, basically infantilized because the self is deemed inferior. There are of course within this system sentiments, but the sentiments are dehumanized. Dehumanized in that we are taught to desire certain sentiments and to repress others. How funny that the secular age is an extension of St. Augustine’s assertion on how to live a “righteous” holy life. The way that I see it we replace one form of authority by another until we die. And theory is never actualized but extended and curtailed. Isn’t life but a DNA structure, which reinterprets itself in each epoch.

Banal is the human existence, so we find a way not to actualize the self, but to distract it. Distraction in the form of politics, identity, substances, movement, in crudeness to emphasize the spirit of our sought out freedom. A freedom which requires another. Freedom made common, not seeking out the way to divine happiness, which the ancients saw as love, but seeking the common, that which so easily turns into the authoritarian tendency ruling our actions.

Insignificance

I ripped the candy wrapper,

Did you hear the news?

I ripped the candy wrapper.

I do not remember ripping it,

it must have happened beyond my consciousness

but I ripped it.

I broke it, I tore it, I killed it.

In some way parallel to how I handle relationships.

I ruin, and wreck, and never even intend to or notice.

So then I become apathetic to it, I don’t even feel sadness.

I blame it on:

the season,

My drinking,

my sadness,

and I find a new tv show,

or another person to distract me.

Because in reality I am sad,

I feel remorse and yet did I truly ruin it,

or did they just leave?

I convince myself that it is the latter, that way I did nothing,

I can’t fix it, and it is insignificant.

I stare instead at some image

and forget.

 

 

 

Today I saw the man who violated my consent, and while I expected to see his face and hate him, I instead felt sad that the events unfolded in such a way. Why do I feel sad? Because I saw in him a desire to once again hold me. Not even in a predatory way, but in a way that you look at someone who perhaps escapes your grasp. I of course walked away. The experience was too heavy and he demonstrated his problematic nature even when I decided to be with him for that brief period of time which I can’t comprehend anymore. I tend to fly away often. I definitely feel like I can’t form a real connection to anyone anymore. This is a very isolating feeling but I think its the reality of being in an in-between place of wanting to run back but having to move forward. I miss everything about being in college, I miss the campus, the office where I spent entire days, the general experience, but I have to move on at some point. What I lack is not a person I think but the emancipation of having a space where my thoughts were acknowledge. Everything seems pretty empty now and I am 24 and I never imagined my life would end up where it is. A few years ago, I would have stayed in that relationship, I would have hated him but eventually formed some attachment of habit and remained in a relationship that made me unhappy. I can’t do that anymore. except it makes me feel frustrated to want something and have nothing.

I tend to expend the majority of my energy on the children, I form relationships, sometimes those relationships shift and I lose something. That’s generally my experience. loss. I feel a great sense of it and I feel it even more when I see people doing what I really long to do. I want to go back to Academia, I don’t want to be in the real world of disenchantment and dialectics. Lately even the children have noticed that my smile while not fake is drained of its sincerity. I want more. I don’t know what is more.

Fragmentation: my trauma

The fragments pull,

what fragments and how exactly can objects, or ideas, or parts pull and in what direction?

I suppose the fragment of forgetting,

the fragment left behind by compartmentalized pain,

What exactly do we mean when we say trauma?

It all goes back to the concepts of consciousness and memory,

but we discussed that memory is often reinvented, remade

the balloon suddenly appears and it is red

never-mind that you never consciously perceived it,

but it is there,

an explanation to the fuzzy image that distracted you and made you vulnerable.

Perhaps the falsification of memory allows us to exist beyond violation.

We not only invent after the fact but interpret memory in whatever way

allows us to exist, allows us to not jump when the subway zooms by,

so when I woke up with no memory,

I remembered the question, that I would have theoretically posed:

I never expressed my consent, except in remorse,

in the crawl on the floor, in the rising anxiety, in de-realization,

in letting you touch me again,

until I couldn’t anymore.