My Skirt essay for the November article, because I didn’t quite tweak it enough to submit it on time, and because honestly, I was a little too nervous to submit it.
Oh well. Maybe I can start off a 2008 resolution a little early and try to write an essay for each issue. Just for practice.
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I have a confession to make. I am absolutely head over heels for a Mexican. Not just any Mexican, mind you. I’m actually lucky enough to have fallen for my very best friend. But it hasn’t been an easy decision to make, to keep this love interest. Because he speaks Spanish. And so does the rest of his family.
The first couple of times he brought me around to meet his family, they overtly talked about me in front of my face. Of course the white girl didn’t know Spanish. So they’d ask him why we weren’t dating, and he’d shrug and say, “I don’t know?” Then I started to come around more. He began to actually introduce me as his girlfriend, not as his best friend he secretly loves. And they’d ask him, “Como se llama tu novia?” (What’s your girlfriend’s name) and I’d be sitting right there next to him.
At first, this irritated me. I thought, I’m sitting right here! Can’t you ask me my name in English? Especially because I knew they all spoke English, he’d already told me that. And quite frankly, he speaks English better than half the people I know. He’s an exceptional reader and is constantly watching The Discovery Channel. And furthermore, I could understand when I lived in Italy one summer and I learned Italian to converse with the natives. I was in someone else’s country, therefore, I should be the one adapting. I felt backwards. I also felt entitled to my opinion and that I shouldn’t have to learn Spanish, that his family should accept that I was white and they should speak to me in English. I was being pretty snobbish about the situation, but I didn’t care. I felt that I was right, and that it was asking a lot on his part to expect me to learn another language for him, much less assuming light years away when children seemed like an option.
And yet, more and more often, I’m accompanying him to family functions where there will inevitably be me sitting there, trying to pay attention and pick up phrases in context, without actually knowing the language. He would whisper in my ear and say, “So um, my family just sat directly in front of you and talked about you for the past five minutes…” Oh, well that’s just fantastic.
His father, as sweetly as he could, offered to teach me. He claimed that he could teach me in three months, and then I could talk to everyone. He asked if I felt weird sitting there and not knowing what was going on around me. “See?” he says to me jokingly, with big brown eyes. “You don’t want to disappoint my Father, do youuu?” That just fueled my disdain even more.
Finally, I decided, that this was a battle, however well fought; I was not going to win. I pictured a tacky 70’s gameshow host asking me which door I wanted to choose. I could either, A.) Continue to fight the fight and lose the guy I had fallen in love with, or B.), suck it up and make a commitment that will make him realize how much I care about him and his family. Being the more logical of the two, I chose B.
I felt refreshed. I had made a decision. But now, I actually had to gain the stick-to-itiveness to actually commit to learning. I started out with baby steps. It helped that he had a little cousin that was learning both Spanish and English, so I took advantage of the little one and began learning little phrases they were teaching him, at least to just get a feel for my accent and for key words. They’d ask him, “Como dice el monstro?” And he would respond with, “Grrr!” Damn, he gets all the easy ones… I thought. But I knew I’d have to step it up a notch. I started to make flashcards. I put post-it notes on everything. My roommate spoke Spanish as well so she vowed to help me in any way that she could. My disdain had now turned into a mission, and I realized, that I was OK with doing something so important for someone I actually loved. I discovered that, once I set aside my stubborn feelings, I was actually pretty pleased with myself.
And I got to celebrate with some of the best food I’ve ever had in my entire life. I would never trade the feelings I had, but knowing that I was able to grow from them was a big help. And, light years from now, knowing that I’ll be able to speak to my children in both English and Spanish is a comforting thought.