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      Palabras

      Stranger-Friends

      Over the last few days I had some really special connections to strangers. At Muertos Fest, I met an older gentleman that said he followed me on Instagram! I told him unusual that was for my usual demographic, and then he reminded me that he once DM'd me asking for recommendations of vegetarian/vegan restaurants. He is battling cancer and always does something special after his chemo treatment. I shared La Botanica with him, of course.
      He told me how much he enjoys my Instagram and introduced his wife and daughters to my account. He said he wants his daughters to connect to their culture more.
      We shared a really meaningful conversation that I hope to carry in my heart always. I shared that my Mami is a survivor, that I will be adding him to my prayer list, and asked for a hug. After he left, I had to walk away from my booth for a bit to gain composure bc I lost it for a bit there. There was something about him that really hit the very center of my heart, he was gentle but necio. He reminded me of my Tio Robert and my Tio Tolin, so very handsome, and gentle, and definitely necios. He later came by and asked for a picture and I was so happy to see him again.
      Yesterday a woman messaged me on Facebook and told me she was just diagnosed with breast cancer and that my posts make her feel like she can face anything.
      I don't know why I have received these beautiful messages, sandwiched in between so many other affirmations recently, but I carry them with me. I pray for these stranger-friends that this thing called the internet has given me.

      Ana Garcia and Betty Suarez

      Ana Garcia and Betty Suarez

      Ana Garcia was the first real time I saw myself in media. Real Women Have Curves could have been based in south or west San Anto (although the LA scenic scenes are so beautiful in the film, and was perfection). I saw myself in Ana, in her Spanglish, in the her relationships with her family, in how she perfectly rolled her eyes at what her mom would say. I saw my mom and tia’s in Doña Carmen played OH SO perfectly by Lupe Ontiveros (QEPD). Ontiveros deserved an Oscar for that performance, like really and truly!!

      Then came Ugly Betty— Betty Suarez and her unapologetic optimism and her ganas and her pride in her culture. Betty, who was not the average lead, who was not supposed to have a seat at that table, who did not do anyone dirty to get ahead. I swear that when I was contemplating leaving my corporate job to pursue Very That full time, I was in the middle of rewatching Ugly Betty and she influenced me to just go for it, to believe in me.

      


      Last night America Ferrera included my mug in a video promoting @votelatino and my heart dropped. Affirmations everywhere.
      Let’s not forget that the purpose behind the video, behind the box, is to get our gente registered to vote + out to the polls. Register to vote, community! & let's encourage everyone around us to do the same. Find more info here

       

      Best friend break up.

      “Puedes contar tus amigas en una mano y te van a sobrar dedos.” - Estela Martinez (My Mami)


      I heard this all the time growing up, and as a natural born social butterfly, I resented this dicho. I am a girl’s girl. I ride and I die for my homegirls and have had so many beautiful friendships in this life. I have memories as far back as I can remember of comadres that have shaped me.
      Now, of course sometimes relationships go left, and there have been lessons learned along the way, but for the most part I have been very hashtag blessed with sisterhood.

      I am going through something very hard right now, something that I can’t believe is unveiling as I’m typing this, something that has my heart breaking as I figure out how to move on.

      I don’t know how or when it happened, but the friendship with a comadre that I thought I would grow old with has drifted so far apart that it is completely unrecognizable.

      I’ve struggled with sharing this, because while I do share a lot of my personal life (everything from the struggles to the highlights), she does not, so I write this carefully out of respect. I imagine if you know me personally, you’ll quickly identify who this is and yes, you’re right, it is crazy.

      We met at an old job, sharing space in a very white environment and bonding over rolling our eyes at the same asinine comments. I believe in best friends to this day, but until I met her, I really didn’t understand that you have friends, then best friends, then friends that are more like family, and then-- if you’re lucky, you find yourself with a platonic soulmate. & that really was her. We had common ground in ways that was difficult to find with others. Our parents-- all from Mexico, we grew up translating and navigating. Siblings, same #, same genders. Noses, both prominent. Our hoods, although different but very much alike, seemed to shape each of us. She is from the West Side, and I am from the South Side, like primas. That all caused a lot of people around us shame, shame to be from schools that people avoided, shame for knowing Spanish before English, shame for being Chicanas-- but in meeting each other we quickly learned that those things did not hold shame for us.
      Our first friend date was spent at my very favorite bar, a place I carefully shared because much like me, Bar America was unabashedly unpolished. It was dusty and worn and played music that you didn’t hear unless you went looking for it. BA was one of my favorite places on earth. She loved it and we spent that night was spent laughing as we learned each other. From then on we were like bookends, never really far apart, and people either loved it or hated it.
      Laughter was always at the center of our friendship, I have never in my life met someone that understood my humor and quirk so quickly and who made me laugh so easily. It’s a hard thing to describe, but those that were around us saw it and felt it immediately.  

      I can’t and won’t go into the heart of it all... alllllllll of the amazing times and some of THE most difficult times. I will say that after swallowing the news of my mother’s cancer diagnosis, she was the first person I called. All the milestones, all the fuck ups, all the heartaches- she was the first person I called.

      We lasted a solid 14 years. This would have been our quinceanera season, but after a full year of getting blown off, I have finally accepted that it’s over. The hardest part? I have no idea why.

      As Very That has grown and changed, I have too, but I have tried my hardest to stick by those that matter most. She was one of those few. I tried to make myself available as often as I could, and even times when I couldn’t. I tried, I can honestly say that I went against my better judgement, swallowed my pride and tried time and time again to no avail.

      Que triste.

      There will be a place in my heart for that friendship that gave me so much. There will always be a place in my heart for all the travesuras we shared, for all the fears and tears and late night confessions.

      I have to hold my head high, though.

      I must admit that I gave myself a lot of time to write this, to fully understand that it’s over and that I can write about my own truth.


      What have I learned?

      *That friendship is still beautiful, that it is necessary, and that although one door has closed, there are so many others open.

      *I am a great friend. I know this, I learned how to be a friend from my mama. There was a time that I was so embarrassed to have lost this friendship that, in a way, helped shaped me, but it was out of my hands. I know I show up for mine.

      *Losing a friend can hurt more than losing a partner. A few years ago I went through a really terrible break up… One that shook my world. I was so devastated and really felt like I lost myself. This one, though? This one hurt way more.

      *Just because you value something in a certain way, does not mean they do too. Say that, swallow that.

      *I have every right to feel all the feels.


      If you are going through this, I am so sorry bbygrl. I know it hurts, but believe me— it will get better. If you have been through this, what did you learn? How did things change for you?

      Cute Face + Chubby Waist

      She didn’t start going to Zumba at the Y knowing it would change her life. Bonnie, quite possibly the coolest friend she’d ever met, invited her the first time. She agreed, taking in comadre time while checking off a workout for the day. After that first class, what she used to think was for silly señoras quickly became her favorite kind of cardio.
      A few classes later, homegirl was hooked. She cropped all of her tees knowing how happy sneaking peeks of her panza in the studio mirrors made her. A little bump and grind, arms in the air like she just didn’t care, and then boom- a panza peek!
      It wasn’t until she started taking classes with the best instructor the gym had ever seen-- Dreamy Mo with the long hair and best playlist. He’d lead the class in prayer poses to ass shaking and everything from Prince to song she only ever heard in Fresa Bars ten years prior. Mo made her live her best life.
      One magical day, the evening class was in full swing and she was just another girl with a cute face + chubby waist dancing along to Ciara when a JLo backup dancer recruiter was in the area scouting new dancers. He saw her sashay and sway her nalgas up and down and then left and right, following Mo’s lead to perfection. Under his breath he whispered, “damn…” and wondered how this dancing queen was not already discovered. How was she not already in multiple Missy Misdemeanor Elliot music videos?
      He anxiously waited for the class to end as the group got into the groove to Madonna’s 1984 hit for a cool down. What seemed like three minutes and 22 seconds later, they finally wrapped. She made her way to her phone and keys, out of breath and a bright shade of red with splashes of sweat all over her face. He approached her and asked her to pack her things and join Ms. Jennifer Lopez on world tour. “You’re gonna be a star, baby!”

      She thanked him, grinning and accepting the compliment easily. “Thanks, mister. That sounds like a lot of fun, but I can’t leave all of this behind.”  She winked and walked away, never turning around. When she got to her car, she gave a little twerk and pop then drove away.

      Ay Güey! I’ve lost 50 lbs ...

      I’ve been nervous to post this, to write about it, to share it in general. It’s a huge scary world filled with cynical people dissecting every move--- it’s also a big beautiful world full of people with light and love. I choose to roll with the side full of luz & just know that sharing my story will be ok. This is my story, this is not a formula or by any means a plan. I loved myself 50lbs heavier, I love myself today.

       


      Everything is everything, right? Let’s go back a little.
      I have come to realize that a toxic relationship with a former partner had me all mixed up around food. They didn’t always have enough money to eat, so that was one of the ways I showed love. I cooked and always made sure there was extra for them to take home. It became an expectation I grew to resent when things went south in other ways. That person pointed out my weight gain, they came up and grabbed my beloved lonjas with hands that did not feel loving nor gentle. At one point, their touch made me feel like I had espinas all over my body, as if my skin was rejecting their graze. I gained over 40 pounds during the two years I was with this person, all in my panza, as if to wedge us farther apart. One of the very last, if not the final, conversations we had, ended with her calling me a “mean fat girl”. Fat isn’t a bad word, but I am not a mean person. It cut me so deep. It cut me to the core.


      Growing up I was always gordita y bien contena. I have always been confident about my body and have generally been happy with my looks. Laura, my sister and #1 hype girl, my Mami, my Tias-- they always had me real chiflada. I can honestly say that I haven’t had any major body issues until that awful relationship. Healing is a process, one I am very much still in, and I’m grateful that most of my life has been laced with confidence. I know that is a gift and do not take it for granted. Tasting that bitterness only makes the sweeter so much more delicious.


      So, earlier this year I shared this blog about my visit to New Orleans and how much I hated all the walking in my favorite city. It was hard to realize it in the moment, NOLA is so special and a walking tour is beautiful. I felt like I was cheating myself out of experiencing something so magical.

      I decided to make major changes right after I got home. March has always been a significant and transitional time for me. I’m surrounded by Pisces women, my best friends, sister, niece-- all fierce fish. I’ve noticed a pattern, magical things happen in March.

      The first thing I did was think about how I was nourishing my body, and the truth was that I really wasn’t. I grew accustomed to not cooking, eating out for nearly every meal, and only when I was ridiculously hungry. I started making my own green juice again, I swear to God and Beyoncé that this stuff is magic. I also cut all processed sugar from my diet for a few weeks. I needed a major shift to wean myself off food that was literally doing nothing nutritious for my body. I’m going to list a few things that helped me get on track, again. For the first few weeks I really just loved on myself extra hard and didn’t think about movement. I eased back into cooking and grocery shopping and took note of how certain foods made me feel.

      I went back to the gym a couple weeks after that and tried to make it a nearly every day thing. I have incorporated my love of music with something I dread-- cardio. It has made things easier and apparently others appreciate it too! I get so many messages about the music I share. I’m happy that my motivation has moved others, literally!

      There are so many things I want to share and document, but this entry might get too long. For now I’ll share some of the things that have been vital in this change:

      • Water!! Drink so much water. Yes, you’ll have to pee constantly, but we need it. I can’t tell you how many times water has saved me. Agua es vida.
      • When I can’t make my own green juice, I pay for it and don’t feel bad about it. I support a local black-owned business called Squeezers. They make the best juice and I’m circulating my coin where it matters.
      • Sonia, Myra, Yvette, Perla: these women have supported me endlessly, have helped me stay accountable and inspired. I love you. Thank you.
      • I eat what I want, when I want. I find that when I give myself time to think about what I will eat, I find myself craving colorful, bright foods. Decolonizing my diet.
      • I’ve had ups and downs. I didn’t work out for a month and a half. I don’t feel bad about it-- I try my hardest to never let guilt have a role in my selfcare.
      • I have found that alone time at the gym is sometimes the ONLY time I have to myself--- I cherish it!
      • Slow and steady por vida.
      • It’s been HELLA fun wearing old clothes, giving clothes away, buying new stuff, etc.
      • I love showing off my panza, she’s still llenita and so cute.


      I’ll write more about food and culture and how my Tía Mari used to guilt me into eating every last grain of rice on my plate. I’m nervous to share this foto and this part of my story, but I know my community holds me up. More later!