An Ordinary Body in Miami

Do I like Miami? Yes. Would I live in Miami for the rest of my life? Leaving out the fact that I can’t be at one place for too long (on this humongous planet with so many places to go and see), I can’t see myself calling this place home for the long run. However, when in the US, I can’t see myself out of Miami now either.

It’s been eight months since I made the move from previously living in Spain and Philadelphia. It was supposed to be Los Angeles. I had dreamed of California living for a long time, so I was very excited to go there and test the waters. In the end, things didn’t go as planned; I didn’t quite love any weather that wasn’t summery. So, I packed my trapos and came to Miami. I’m leaving a bunch of little details out to make this story short, but there was no financial planning when I moved here. I made that decision almost overnight.

It helps that I’m a single woman, unmarried, nomad-spirited as aforementioned, and with my only baggage being my checked-bag and my carry-on. (Life is so much easier that way throws peace sign up in the air.) I can afford to wake up and completely change my route. So that’s just what I did.

In Miami, I found better perks for me personally. There’s the much warmer December weather, rent is a tad cheaper than LA’s, and the nightlife scene isn’t just a thing of the weekend. I still use Uber or Lyft to move around (because I’d never drive in Miami), but so far it has been all right.

Some things I’ve found to complain about? I’d say, in general, LA folks were more polite than Miamians, especially on the road. There is no respect for pedestrians in Miami and I have a huge problem with that because I walk a lot. The non-walking culture that exists here, especially in suburban areas, may have something to do with the disregard for pedestrians. Unless you are in Miami Beach, you won’t see many people walking—and if you do see a person, it’s probably me.

But my main complain about the Miami culture, as I like to call it, is the insane hyper focus on women’s bodies. When I say insane I mean it in every sense of the word. I’ve been trying to understand what drives women to plastic surgery here, and according to my calculations, it’s very likely that the body issues were brought here from South America. I’m from the Caribbean, but we’re all about the same. Considering how relatively small the Caribbean is, this one is on South America.

From an early age, watching Telenovelas, I learned that a woman with a big round bust, small waist, a big butt, and straight long hair was seen as the epitome of beauty. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes when you’re young you’re kind of afraid to voice your opinion and contradict the public. Truth is you can’t aspire to be what you don’t know exist—and all they forced us to see was that specific concept of beauty. It was the main representation on Hispanic television. That concept continues to this date in our society. It is probably less intense in some parts this country, but never too short of body-shaming.

I’ve come into direct contact with this beauty concept again in Miami. Young girls in this city are under a lot of pressure, as proven by the insane amount of butt and breasts implants. Also, the hair. When I wear my curly hair I stand out, and it’s a funny thing because I know that, under that chemically straightened or flattened hair, most of these Caribbean and Latina girls have beautiful curls. I understand the humidity must be driving them crazy, but…everyone?

Reminds me of a time when I went to a club in South Beach and had to make sense of what I was seeing. Every girl looked the same. They had straight black hair (think Kim Kardashian) and wore tight mini dresses with a plunging neckline or some type of low-cut line. Cleavage is important here. It was like looking at the Latino version of the Stepford Wives. Must I remind them that our (physical) differences make the world more interesting?

For someone who’s been defying society and its beauty standards, moving to Miami has been a step back. I highly doubt that I will change anything in my body in order to “belong.” I’m too old for this sh*t. I already went through all that pressure and reached a point where I’m completely comfortable in my skin. I don’t see things changing much around here, either, since body shaming and sexism is so embedded in the culture, but there is also a good amount of young women here defying that idea, so there is hope.

What I’d say to any girls living in places like Miami is: it is up to you. Resist the urge to blend in because society says you should. Standing out is a lot more fun, anyway—trust me on this.

Continue Reading

Dancing In and With the Rain

When you are caught in the rain, do you let it ruin your day or do you flow along with it?

I get why people are so afraid of the rain — no one wants to get their brand new shoes wet, or the clothes they just ironed, or the hair they just blow-dried, or smudge the mascara they just applied. How many times haven’t this happened to any of you? It’s happened to me so many times and, maybe by instinct, my first reaction is to run for shelter. Well, it happened again. I went to a street festival the other day where no one seemed to suspect that it would rain. Vendors had their deep-frying pans and meats all laid out on tables; artists painted on the sidewalk; musicians soaked in sweat played their dry instruments, and pedestrians, like my friend and I, walked in the middle of the street with beer in hand.

All of a sudden, it started pouring and we had not many options for shelter. My first reaction was to put my hands over my head to cover my hair. (What is it with women and hair?!) We entered a bar in the meantime and waited there for the rain to go away. It never did. So, my friend said, “Let’s just get wet!” (Wording is everything.) I hesitated, but then I agreed. It was pure elation.

It was liberating to walk and dance in the rain. And I don’t know why, but it felt as if I was doing something illegal and, as it happens with the forbidden, I had to quickly enjoy it before I got caught. But it’s easy to understand why doing something that we’ve avoided our whole life feels that way.

The rain had no plans on stopping. If we had waited until it went away, about an hour later, we would’ve missed out on most of that fun day. Sometimes, we’re too restrained. These are the little things that make life a bit more enjoyable. It was also great seeing how many people didn’t give a cucumber and just poured themselves out on the streets, like the rain, and danced the day away. Yes, my mascara smudged, my hair curled up, and my clothes got soaked. But the good memory from that wild rainy day will remain.

Continue Reading

Batsh*t Crazy Makes Me Drink

Here’s a little story.

I remember the night of November eighth. I wanted to go to a bar, be in the middle of the action, get ready to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s victory–just as I had for Obama last two elections. But sh*t escalated quickly.

My friend wanted to go to her brother’s house instead, so I went with her. Now I was stuck at this house with nothing but one glass of wine and a baby sleeping upstairs. Add personal troubles to the mix and here was a worst-case scenario at its best. Meanwhile, as the results kept coming in, all I wanted to do was go outside and scream. At the moment, I could not believe this was the people of the United States of America digging their own grave. (Now we have a pretty good idea of all the shade behind this election.) Everyone around me started feeling sick. I wanted to puke. The last time I felt that sick to my stomach it was September 11, 2001. How did we get here?

This election has been particularly tough to assimilate for pretty much any person of reason and morals.

We ended up going back to my friend’s house that night–no longer needing to celebrate–and downed a couple of tequila shots as if it were water. I can never do straight non-chilled shots, mind you, but I had to calm my anxiety somehow. I tried drowning my repulsiveness in alcohol, but it didn’t work. It was a hell of a terrible, sleepless night. And, if the Electoral College doesn’t come through on December 19th, I’m hoping to be drunk for the next four years.

Drink responsibly.

 

Continue Reading

And Just When You Thought Your Eating Habit Was Bad

A thought comes to mind.

eating habits

One day (last night) I had cereal for dinner. The next day (today), I had a banana and a cup of tea for breakfast; a plain lactose-full cheese sandwich with a cup of milk for lunch; and then, for dinner, a few chicken finger strips. That’s not gourmet, but it’s all right. It’s just that it is the worst series of meals I’ve had in a long time.

I thought, what am I doing disrupting my diet like that? Back-to-back. Then reality hit me: some people follow no regimen because they have nothing to eat at all.

Those of us who have the luxury to be selective with what we eat sometimes forget how lucky we are. You can’t punish yourself for having access to all sorts of foods, nutritious food, while some people starve. It’s not your fault. But I think it helps you to stay grounded and in touch with reality when you consider where you stand.
Maybe it’s the hopeless compassionate being in me, but I’m always thinking of the less fortunate when someone complains about what they ate or when someone leaves a crazy amount of leftovers on their plate — I hate seeing it go to waste.

As for me, I like staying on top of my game health-wise. I’ve skipped a few good meals due to nothing but laziness (and then there’s also the fact that I can’t cook). I’m one of those “freaks” who must eat right to feel well, physically and emotionally. That’s my only concern. But it takes only a simple thought to bring me down to Earth because, when I think of the world’s disadvantaged and how I’ll have access to a hot plate the minute I decide to go grocery shopping, I know I’m going to survive.

Continue Reading

I Happened in September

As much as I wish time stood still sometimes, it is good news when I make it to another September. Even if it means summer  — my favorite season — will start winding down soon.

Some of the most beautiful things begin to happen in September, too. The whole town blows up in flames; shades of orange, yellow, green, brown, and red paint the streets with the beautiful color of autumn’s maple leaves.

If you were born in September, there’s a chance you are magic.

Continue Reading

The Neighboring Country

Geographically speaking, Haiti is my neighbor. The Dominican Republic is my hometown and where I lived until my early teen years. My family is from a small city called La Vega, which is located in North-Central DR, about 250 miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. While studying in the Dominican Republic, I learned basic information about Haiti’s culture and history. The relationship between the two countries has always been tense, and a lot of it has to do with ignorance.

Brief History

In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the island of Santo Domingo (now capital of the DR). He later claimed the whole island (now divided in two; the DR and Haiti) under the name of Espaniola. It remained a colony of Spain for many years. As French colonists began to arrive and settled on the northern and western coasts of the island, a massive amount of Haitian natives were being enslaved and killed. In 1664, France formally took control over the western side of the island (now Haiti), and later brought other thousands of African slaves to the island to work the plantations. After years and years of slavery and torture suffered under the hands of the French, Haiti claimed its independence in 1804.

Years later, in 1822, Haiti’s leader, Jean Pierre Boyer, and his troops invaded the Spanish side of the island (now Dominican Republic). Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for approximately 20 years. The invasion is said to have terminated all slavery; nevertheless, Dominicans always wanted the Haitians off their soil. Dominicans did not have a large population at the time of invasion and had no military forces to fight back. It took years for them to declare independence from Haiti, on February 27, 1844. To this date, the tension between the Dominican Republic and Haiti continues.

My experience with Haitians

Everything I ever learned about Haitians when I was a little girl suggested that I should hate them. My earliest memory with this experience was in history class. My teacher said that Haitians had invaded our country by force back in the 1800’s and that they were “now trying to invade us again in a more passive way” — by ways of immigration. She lectured the class about La Guerra de La Independencia (the Independence War), which was fought between the DR and Haiti in 1844. I was quite young, and not knowing much about the subject, I had no reason to doubt my teacher. I also didn’t know anything about the Haitians, despite the fact that thousands of them were already living in our “backyards.”

In the 1990s, more Haitians had relocated to my town, La Vega, and that’s when I started to learn a little bit more about them. Usually, they would be out in the streets selling peanuts, women’s underwear, ice cream bars, etc. So my only contact with the Haitian community was the times that I approached them to buy an ice cream bar. They seemed friendly and always smiled. I never saw these people going to school or having fun anywhere, not even the kids, and I now wonder if they even had a place to go back to after long hours of work.

They did nothing but work hard all the time yet they were constantly discriminated against in the Dominican Republic. Ignorance, like anywhere else in the world, was the major cause of discrimination against Haitians. I realized that they are good happy people, whose history took an unfortunate turn that led to a number of terrible events, such as corrupt politicians and poverty. Some of them cross the Dominican border every day for the same reason that my family came to America: jobs and a better way of living.

I have come to understand the history and the tension between the DR and Haiti, but I don’t support this passive war that the two countries keep fighting. I don’t support the mistreatment of Haitians in the DR either. I think things have improved a little, but I remember reading a very gruesome story back in the 90’s about how some Dominicans murdered a few Haitians and got away with it. Simply disgusting. Racism is still alive and well in the DR—no matter how many times its president tries to hide it. I just wish the Dominican people gave Haitians a chance.

They’re hard-working people. I always remember one hot summer day when some Haitians were doing construction work in front of my house. Just like a lot of immigrants in the US, Haitians in the DR did cheap labor, and I’m sure they were abused and paid much less than they should’ve been paid. That day, I watched them work like animals with no water or food in such a hot day. I felt really bad, but didn’t know how to help. So my brother came up to me and asked if there was any food left from lunch to give to the workers.

Even though I sympathized with them, I was very ignorant and hesitated at first. But thanks to my big-hearted brother we did prepare some food and water and gave it to the workers. They had this incredible smile in their faces and thanked us sincerely. Whenever I think about that moment, I feel good about myself. I challenged what I had been taught, my beliefs. I saw the human in them. It should be a natural act; a human instinct. But when you know no better, it is a big deal.

Just like the old young me, a lot of young Dominicans are not aware of the truth and don’t invest time in learning about the Haitian people and culture, so this cycle of hatred and ignorance never stops. I don’t think we should take history books so seriously—the past is in the past. These are different times, and times when the poor country of Haiti could use some help. Besides, it is a neighboring country — be a good neighbor, DR! It is time to open minds and hearts (figuratively).

 

Continue Reading

That One Time Conan Went On Tour

Remember that time when Conan O’Brien was screwed over by Jay Leno? Messy story. Well, Conan resigned as a host and after some time, since NBC banned him from working on TV during that time, he came up with a brilliant idea: “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.”

He basically toured the country with his staff, performing in front of live audiences in major US cities. For his fans —and I’m sure for his staff, as well — this was fantastic. I’m a big Conan fan and was happy to hear that he would keep connecting with fans, online and on tour.

I took this photo at his live show in Philadelphia, PA. Can’t believe it’s been four years already! The show was funny, of course. He was his typical self. He also played the guitar and sang songs like “I Will Survive” and “On the Road Again.” So funny.

Not only did I get to see Conan that night, but Tina Fey was also one of the guests to drop by! Two of my favorite people in the entertainment industry on the same stage… Yeah, it was a great night.

Continue Reading

Coke?

What you see here is a picture of, what seems to be, cocaine being flushed down the toilet…by me.  Here’s what happened. I was at a restaurant in Philadelphia one day during happy hour when I found this little package resting on the bathroom floor, right in the open.

Is that what I think it is? I thought.

What makes this a great story? Well, my genius self grabbed it after all and brought it to the table to show it to my boyfriend and friend who were sitting outside. I didn’t think they’d believe me otherwise. (There was no one around when I picked it up.)

“Are you crazy?” they said. “Go back and flush it down the toilet.”

Believe me; most times I do think before I act, but that day I clearly wasn’t.

Really. I guess I didn’t realize the risk of carrying illegal drugs — from one door to another — because I’ve never done drugs and when there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear. I even feel weird talking about coke (when not in Coca-Cola) because of its negative reputation in society. But trying to convince the authorities about what really happened, had I been caught, would’ve been really hard.

Anyhow, I was never able to confirm what this substance was. But pretty sure it was what it was, if that makes any sense. I wonder how many times people go to public restrooms to sniff cocaine? Ordinary young professionals was all I saw at the restaurant that day, so maybe this is more common than I thought.

I went back down to the restroom and flushed it, as instructed. But before I did, I had to at least take a picture of my big blunder! And to whoever dropped it: you’re welcome. 😛

Continue Reading