family


About half an hour after I wrote this debate-provoking post, I decided to take a walk with the pups. After twenty minutes wondering around Mr. T’s neighborhood the dogs were still rowdy, so I decided to walk around the park. Down the road, I saw a dark-skinned Mexican woman in her early sixties standing next to a newish Honda Civic, examining a flat tire. I approached her and asked in Spanish if she needed help changing it. She looked at me like I had fallen from heaven, and told me that she had no idea what to do.

As I tethered the dogs to a post, she opened the back door and helped out a beautiful blond, blue-eyed, five year-old girl. The child was complaining about having to get out of the car, and the nervous woman commanded her sternly in Spanish to be quiet. The child looked sullen and withdrawn, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. She walked over to the side of the car and sat down obediently on the sidewalk, fidgeting with a pink umbrella.

As I got all the items ready to change the tire, I tried to cheer up the little girl, whose name was Olivia. I asked her if she wanted to help me so she could learn how to change a tire, but she just glared at me and pouted silently.

“You know, Olivia,” I chided her gently, “every woman should know how to change a tire.” I thought back to when I was five years old, and how I loved hanging out in my father’s tire store, watching the men change tires with their hydraulic equipment. The smell of new tires and the whirl of hydraulic tools brings back so many memories. I silently thanked my father for teaching me how to change a tire.

As I worked, the nanny talked. “I was on my way to the park with Olivia when I felt something was wrong with the car,” she said. “I have no one to call; Olivia’s parents are both doctors, and they work very long hours. Her mother is out of the house every day by seven and doesn’t come home until after dinner. Her father sometimes works for more than 24 hours straight. As a matter of fact, he didn’t come home last night and we haven’t seen him since yesterday morning.”

“Does Olivia have a sibling?” I asked, having noticed two child seats in the back of the car.

“Yes, she has a six-year old brother” the nanny replied. “He’s with a tutor right now and we have to pick him up later.”

I looked back at Olivia, who was sitting on the sidewalk and pouting. I tried again to get her to talk. “So, Olivia, that dress you have on, is it a princess dress?” She looked down at her pink gown and nodded. “What princess is the dress from,” I asked. She frowned and didn’t answer. I forged ahead, “Is it Cinderella?” Bored shake of the head. “Sleeping beauty?” Another shake. “Uh, Princess Yasmine?” She looked at me with a dull, blank stare. I had run out of princesses and the girl was obviously not going to come out of her sullen stupor, so I turned back to changing the tire.

“A few days ago, I got lost on the road with the two kids,” the nanny continued. “I only learned how to drive a few years ago, and I’m very scared of driving on the highway. I took the wrong exit and ended up in a neighborhood I didn’t know, with no idea of how to get to where I was going. I got really scared because I had the two children with me, so I called Olivia’s dad. Do you know what he said? ‘Oh, that’s OK Marta. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way back onto the highway‘ and he hung up!” She looked over at Olivia and whispered to me, “I worry more about the kids than their parents do.”

I shook my head in disbelief and finished putting the lug-nuts back onto the tire. The nanny told Olivia to give me a hug for having changed the tire, and the child ran towards me and threw her arms around me in a very genuine gesture. When she pulled back, she still wasn’t smiling.

The dogs and I walked back home and I thought about the post I had just written and the comments I had received. We all have the privilege of choosing what we want to be in life, this is clear. Yes, women need a financial back-up plan in case things go wrong in the marriage. Yes, women can and do have satisfying professionals careers while raising a family. However, when your ambitions negatively affect the life of a child YOU chose to bring into this world, haven’t you abused this privilege?

One of my dearest and closest friends took a brave step recently.  She expressed to a man, for the first time ever, what it was that she wanted in her future.  No longer did she hide under the “independent woman” guise; when asked during a date where she saw herself in ten years, she replied, “I want to be married, have children, and be a stay-at-home mom”.

Why, you ask, do I consider this a brave step?  Well, my friend comes from a feminist background and was taught early in life that she didn’t need a man to be happy.  She attended a feminist college, and spent most of the first decade of her adult life struggling between what she thought she should want and what her real yearnings were.

For many years she dated men who didn’t reach her level of maturity or provide her with any real emotional fulfillment, mainly because she didn’t know what she wanted out of a relationship and was too afraid of rejection to voice her real desires.  She did some soul-searching and realized that, upbringing be damned, she wanted to build a traditional family with traditional values and roles.

Many women (me included) who suffer from low self-esteem find it hard to believe that we will find a man who will be willing to allow us the joys of staying home with our children and taking care of our husband.  Skewed feminism concepts propagated by society and encouraged by cowardly men have made us believe that we are only as good as the job we hold, the income we bring home, and the body we parade around in.  The traditional skills of child-rearing and home-making have been relegated to quaint black and white memories tinged with the sepia of oppression and quiet despair.

It takes a strong, confident woman to shut out society’s expectations and listen only to her heart.  And it takes a brave, grounded man to meet her halfway.

I mentioned my friend’s act of courage to my parents over lunch a few days ago.  My father was surprised, and remarked that when he was young (in the late 60’s in Mexico) men wouldn’t dream of approaching a woman with the intention of dating unless the man’s end goals were to marry her and provide for her and their children.

At first I became very upset at feminists.  Because of them, women with “traditional” goals now have to go around justifying and masking what used to be something perfectly acceptable.  Many single women today wouldn’t dream of telling their date that they are looking for a man who will support them and allow them to stay at home and raise a family, lest the man think she was only interested in his money.  And many single men today would yell “check, please!!” upon hearing the woman’s request, branding her a gold-digger and not wanting to shoulder the responsibility.  Yet, it’s been demonstrated countless times that couples are happiest in relationships with well-defined roles, and what could be more well-defined than a traditional marriage?

However, my friend pointed out that not all aspects of feminism are bad.  Fifty years ago, if women wanted to work it was as nurses, teachers, or secretaries.  Now, the world is our oyster.  We can travel, make money, own homes, and build careers.  We’re much better role models for our daughters now than we were fifty years ago.  But are we really?

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a week with Mr. T’s 10 and 13-year old nieces.  They come from a conservative family, so I was shocked to hear them utter the phrase “Women are better than men” several times over the course of the week.  At one point, I tried explaining that we’re “different”, not “better”.  They wouldn’t hear it.  Has society gone so far in the other direction that our future generations will be too blinded by bitterness and insecurity to appreciate the glorious and life-affirming differences between the sexes?

I boarded the plane at 12:40am, bleary-eyed and tired after a full day of work. The flight was only half-full and I was fortunate enough to have the entire row of seats to myself. I silently thanked the Universe for small blessings and stretched myself out. The classical music streaming through my earphones drowned out the drone of the airplane and I quickly drifted off to sleep.

Three hours of fitful slumber later, the plane landed. It was 4:00am for me, yet the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon at my destination. I rubbed the sleep from my gritty eyes, ran my fingers through my frizzy hair, and stepped off the plane. My brother and his girlfriend, still drowsy from their early wake-up call, waited for me at the terminal. We hugged and laughed, conspirators in a plan to bring unexpected joy to two deserving souls.

My brother dropped me off around the corner from my parents’ house. He and his girlfriend parked the car and entered the house, acting as look-outs in case my mother was already up and about. All was quiet as I approached the front door. I rang the doorbell and hid as well as I could behind a stone wall. Moments later, the door opened and my mother – sleepy and confused – peered out.

“SURPRISE!!!” I cried, jumping out from among the shadows. She blinked a couple of times, a perplexed look skimming her face for a few moments. Confusion gave way to elation, of the kind known only to a mother who lives for the few days that she spends with her daughter each year. My mom – a brave and determined woman who brings hope to countless others while her own future looms uncertain – jumped up and down ecstatically in the doorway, reminiscent of those folks on TV who just found out they won a million dollars.

“What are you doing here? How did you get here? How long are you staying?”

Questions tumbled from her as she hugged me tight, not yet believing what she was seeing.

We headed upstairs to find my father, who awoke after hearing my mother’s screams. I smiled at him, holding back the tears upon seeing how old and tired he looked. My strong hero, the man who tossed me like a feather as a child, is now ageing, exhausted, and defeated. A former marathoner, he now wheezes as he climbs the stairs, a menacing reminder of the heart attack that nearly took him from us four years ago.

I spent 60 glorious hours with my parents this week. We laughed, we hugged, we talked… They radiated pride, as decades of sacrifice and dedication gave way to moments of admiration and awe.

For the first time in my life, I understood WHY a parent will endure the hardships of raising a child. Nothing on this Earth – not a successful career, nor a devoted pet, best-selling book, or hit song – can compare to the satisfaction of seeing your child soar, knowing that it was you who gave her wings and taught her to fly.

Please, God. Make me a mother one day.

What would you do if you called your parents to tell them some wonderful news about a new development in your life, and they informed you that they are flat broke? And I mean, “We ain’t got no money, honey” broke. Like, they can’t even pay for the toll road broke.

I don’t have much in the way of savings, as I am just now recovering from the divorce. I can send them several hundred dollars, but that won’t solve their long-term problems.

What really, really irks me is the fact that they squandered their money on needless luxuries. During my college days and beyond, I remember they would eat out at elegant restaurants five and six days PER WEEK! Their bills were usually in the $100-$200 range, and that was just for the two of them! My father had a passion for Italian shoes and clothing, and it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to spend $400 on a pair of shoes.

Even more destructive than their personal spending habits was my father’s business philosophy. He thought nothing of supporting a string of down-on-their-luck deadbeat “friends” by giving them low-responsibility, high-income jobs. Additionally, they allowed my brother to spend two years at an expensive private college, drinking it up and charging $2,000 per month on the AmEx while failing his classes.

My mother has told everyone who would listen how much she and my father spent on my college education, and how their entire business capital went towards funding my studies. That’s the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard, and I’m tired of listening to their shit and feeling guilty. I graduated from college in 2000 and mostly paid my way through my last two years. I have been independent ever since. Meanwhile, they continued their stupid spending spree until they started to realize, just last year, how dire their situation really was.

I’ve calculated how much my parents could’ve saved if they had curbed ONLY their restaurant habit, and the amount is staggering: $36,000 per year. If they had saved that amount every year since 1996, they would be able to retire in Mexico with a comfortable income. DON’T I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE MAD? I mean, seriously: Who’s the adult now?

Seriously, who doesn’t have fun in Las Vegas? Mr. T lent us his fabulous Prius, complete with navigation system, so we cruised in style from S.D. to L.V. (and we got 43 mpg, which I was very happy about!!). My mother was blown away by the car’s technology and kept claiming that it would be her next car.

As we approached the City of Sin, we saw a dark cloud hanging above it. No clouds to the right, no clouds to the left; just one big black cloud pouring rain onto Vegas. Pretty awesome sight. Even more awesome, moments later traffic slowed from 75 mph to 45 mph because…IT WAS FREAKING SNOWING IN VEGAS!! Yes people, there was a snow flurry as we arrived in Vegas. Snowing…In the dessert. What will Mother Nature think of next?

We arrived at the very fancy (read: expensive) Bellagio and oohed and ahhed our way through the lobby and up to our plush room. How fancy was it, you ask? Well, the curtains were controlled by a panel of switches on the wall across the room! Trés fancy!! Keeping with the spirit of fancy, we quickly dropped off our stuff and headed over to Spago at the Forum shops for a light lunch underneath perennially blue skies.

After lunch we wondered around the Forum (never a good move as I invariably spend too much money). Last year I bought a beautiful pink purse. This time around, I bought the most expensive jeans I’ve ever owned. But, if you saw how they make my butt look, you’d forgive my weakness! 🙂

We rested for a bit and then had dinner at Todd English’s Olives at the Bellagio. The greek romaine salad was good, but nothing out of this world. However, it did come with a phyllo triangle stuffed with feta cheese! YUM! The main course, on the other hand, was “to die for”!! I ordered the world’s best chestnut ravioli served around a generous portion of creamed broccoli rave. I MUST duplicate this dish, or die trying. Dessert was their famous falling chocolate cake, which oozed warm ganache with every decadent bite.

Appropriately nourished, we ventured out into the freezing night (did I mention it snowed in Vegas?) and headed towards Caesar’s Palace and the Celine Dion concert. I had already attended the concert last year, but it was a real joy to see my mother’s excitement as the lights dimmed and Celine made her way onstage. The concert was just as I remembered it, with stunning vocals, beautiful costumes, good choreography and a typically French-Canadian artistic flair.

Once the concert ended, we headed back to the Bellagio to enjoy the dancing fountains. We stayed for two “performances” before I realized I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, so we headed back to our room. What a day!!

We woke up at 10am (that’s LATE for us!), had breakfast, and headed out to Hoover Dam (at the suggestion of 2×4…thanks!)  What a majestic feat for man to have accomplished!  If you’ve never been to Hoover Dam, next time you’re in Vegas stop by for a visit.  The drive to it is magnificent (about 40 minutes each way) and the views from the dam are awe-inspiring!!

So that was our trip to Vegas!!  The rest of the week was spent basically hanging out in S.D.  My mom lived there many years, so we didn’t have to do all the touristy things.   We celebrated my birthday on Friday by going with Mr. T to my favorite Indian restaurant, and Mr. T surprised me with an amazing present: TEN DAYS IN ITALY!!  We’re going to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in July!  I’m a lucky, lucky girl!!

Ohhh…How I wish all weeks could be as fun as this one was!!!

Have I ever told you guys that I love you???  Well, I do!!  (No, I’m not drunk!  Geez… Can’t a girl just show her loyal blog readers some luuuv?)  Thanks for the wonderful birthday wishes!!
Sorry for those of you who didn’t get to play “Which one’s false?”, but I had to post the answers before my mom got here.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to blog in private during her visit.  Luckily, the two-hour time difference meant she was out like a light by 9pm, giving me enough time to take a peek at my blog while I wait for Mr. T to come home (he e-mailed his schedule this time!  The man is learning… )  Kudos to 2×4 for aceing the test, although you DID call me a liar!!  But you’re a good blogger so I forgive you. 🙂

Things that make you go “hmmm”: Today I called the Mexican Donald Trump (MDT), the dude who called me last week about the great job/project (I Googled him and found out he’s some kind of magnate of Mexican land development).  He had asked me to call this week to set up an appointment to discuss my involvement, but when I contacted him this afternoon he said: “We’re putting together the master plan right now and I’ll e-mail it to you in a couple of days to get your thoughts on where we’re placing everything.”  

Um… That’s great and all, but how’s about you show me the money first, Trumpy?  We haven’t talked about my participation in this project yet (and by participation I mean “cut”, “rate”, “moola”, etc.), so if he thinks I should be flattered to have the opportunity to share my hard-earned knowledge with him for free, he’s barking up the wrong wedding planner.  The “S” on my forehead stands for “Sexy”, not “Stupid”. 😉  Stay tuned…

On another note, I must say: I LOVE MY MOMMA!!  We haven’t stopped gabbing since she got off the plane!  How is it that two women who just five years ago couldn’t stand each other can now be such good friends???  Well, for one, I think she finally realized it’s my life and she can’t tell me how to live it, while it dawned on me that maybe after 33 years of marriage she knew a thing or two about life.  And also, we realized that we’re both a product of extremely different childhoods, cultures, and generations, so we couldn’t expect to react similarly to situations in our life.  Whatever the case, I am thrilled that we are now such good friends.  Woooohoooo!!!

All right, one more hour until Mr. T gets home, thank goodness for Blogroll… You’re getting sleeeeeeepy… 

During my junior year of high school I began my first serious relationship with a man. He was 22, I was 17, and we were each other’s first true love. My parents went along with the relationship at first, knowing that he was from a good family”and thinking this would be a passing fancy.

Two and a half years later, he and I were still dating and our relationship had become quite serious. While I had just embarked on my second semester of college, he was completing his final year of a Mechanical Engineering degree. By that time he was 24 and because he was a full-time student, he was still living at home. In Mexico, it is extremely difficult to work, study, and live on your own. Ever-changing university class schedules make it almost impossible to hold down a steady job, traffic makes going to work or school a two-hour ordeal, wages are pathetically low, part-time jobs are not legal according to the government, and affordable housing in decent areas of town is virtually non-existent.

My parents were incensed that this 24-year old man could still be living at home while finishing his degree. They told me, with these very words, that he was a “loser”, that he would never amount to much in life, and that – in comparison – my father had been living on his own and working & studying since he was 15. Of course, they failed to mention three important items (and I was too scared of my father at that time to talk back):’the first being that my father was financially supported by his father during his teenage years; the second, that Mexico City was a lot more affordable and housing was more readily available twenty years back; and the third being that my father never completed his college degree because he was too busy working and discussing communist agendas with friends.

Being totally dependent on my parents and wanting to please them at all costs, I had no choice but to agree with them. They were my parents and of course they wanted what was best for me…Right? After not giving it much thought, and with a string of flimsy and nonsensical arguments, I broke up with my boyfriend on a cold Winter night. I rambled on about his lack of ambition, his failure to secure a job, and the fact that he was still living at home. I still remember the pain I caused him, the confusion in his eyes, and the hurt in his voice when he said that he was already saving for an engagement ring so he could ask me to marry him.

I got home and cried throughout the night, terrified of the pain I had caused him but thinking (in my silly 19-year old mind) that I had done the right thing. In the morning, I went to my parents’ room and found my mother still in bed. I told her what had happened and burst into tears. My father entered the room while my mother consoled me, and he asked what was wrong. My mother told him and he merely shrugged, shook his head, and left the room. Everything I had done, all the pain I had inflicted on my boyfriend and on myself, was with the purpose of pleasing him. And he didn’t care…

I moved on after this incident, went to college abroad (where I started working at the age of 19), started my career, and put this pain behind me. Meanwhile, my brother, who’s three years younger than me, graduated from high school. He was admitted to a prestigious college in Boston, and my parents not only paid for our tuition but also gave each of us a credit card for emergencies. My brother spent the next two years partying with his wealthy classmates, missing class, and racking up $2,000 a month in clothing and nightclub charges on the credit card.

After depleting my parents’ bank account for two years, he was finally recalled by my father to Mexico City. There, he was given a cushy job in my father’s business and was paid enough money each month to live handsomely on his own (i.e. rent his own apartment, pay for his own food, etc.). He was 20, and he chose to live with our parents and spend his considerable income on parties and clothing, once again.

Thinking that my brother would be better off living on his own, my parents shipped him to the U.S., set him up in his own apartment in San Diego, CA, gave him thousands of dollars to start a small business, and consoled themselves with the fact that he was attending a community college. A year later, he had dropped out of school and had bankrupted the new business. He was 23 and not only was he not completing a college degree, but he was still dependent on my parents and had NEVER held down a real job in his life.

Not wanting to admit that their son was a “loser” (sounds familiar??) my parents returned him to Mexico City and once again took him under their wing. The partying, boozing, and gallivanting continued until one day – at 24 years of age – he decided he wanted to finish his college degree. My parents, eager to see their only son make something of his life, agreed to pay his exorbitant college tuition at a European university. Now, if you’re keeping track, 24 was the age my boyfriend was when I was told to break up with him or fear the wrath of my father’s disappointment.

To make a long story short, my brother is now almost 28 years old and the only job he’s ever held was a part-time position offered to him by one of his teachers in exchange for some tuition money. He finally graduated from college at the age of 27 and is once again living with my parents – rent free and without a job – while he submits applications to Master’s programs.

What I find insanely funny (in an “I need to laugh or else I’ll cry” way) is that my brother has been dating a girl five years his junior for the past three years (exactly the same age difference and relationship span as the one I related at the beginning of this essay). My parents love her and think she’s perfect for my brother, and they support their relationship to the degree that she will come live with my them during the year that my brother is sitting around the house preparing to send out his Master’s applications.

So, here’s what gets me: If I had told my parents that I was going to go live with my 28-year old boyfriend in his parents’ house because he didn’t have a job (and has never had one in his life) but was spending a year applying to Master’s programs…They’d kill me. Seriously, they’d brand me a pathetic disappointment and would want nothing more to do with me. Yet here is my brother, 28, unemployed, living at home, and BRINGING HIS GIRLFRIEND TO LIVE WITH THEM…And they couldn’t be prouder!!!

I can see the damage they’re doing to him; I don’t envy him and would not like to be in his shoes. I do wish, however, that my parents would open their eyes to what they did to me, and to what they’re doing to their son.

P.S. I recently found out some information about my old boyfriend through a mutual friend…He graduated from college shortly after I left the country, found a good job, made enough money to move out on his own, and is now happily married and gainfully employed. He refuses to speak to me.

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