I am a proud Mexican-American woman. My culture is engrained in my soul and, I've been told on certain occasions, in the way I speak. Speaking in Spanglish is my privilege and one of my art forms. It helps me express myself. But with all my pride and with all the love I have for the blood that runs through my veins, I am afraid of being "too Mexican."
In high school, someone once told me that they could tell I was Mexican by the way that I talked. Something inside of me died. Did I sound too Mexican? What does that even mean?
At the time, I thought that meant that I sounded uneducated because that's the stigma that society placed in my worldview. I had an accent, not like my mother and not like my father, but like someone who comes from less and who is less. From then on, I spent a lot of time learning how to form my words differently and learning how to speak eloquently. I didn't want to sound "Mexican."
But it wasn't just the way I spoke. It was the way I looked. There were certain things that I decided were off limits: clothing, actions, gestures, etc. We tend to speak with our hands and with our bodies, so I tried my best to tone it down or to stop. It took a lot of time and a lot of thinking, but playing into the stereotypes attributed to my people would only hurt me in the future... right?
The way I looked was one of the most important things to me. Wearing a lot of makeup was unacceptable. It could be misconstrued. Lipliner and eyeliner were off limits because I "ain't no chola." I'm educated and I have to look as such. To this day, you'll never see me in sweatpants, heavy sneakers, or camisoles. I don't own any of those things because I don't trust myself not to fall instinctively back into "my culture." Stupid.
The hoop earrings were the epitome of everything I didn't want to be. They were the staple, the thing that catches everyone's eye and leads them to believe certain things about who you are. I've never owned a pair of hoop earrings and I probably never will.
But why the hell not?
The way I've been thinking is absolutely and unarguably unacceptable. I wouldn't judge someone's intelligence based on the way they look, so why should I cater to those who might? This are the same thoughts that fly through a racists' head when they look at people on color. These are the same thoughts that have kept women down for so long.
A few weeks ago, I borrowed my friends hoop earrings. I put them on as a joke and I told my friend, "I don't wear these because they make me look like a chola."
She replied, "No you don't."
Then I thought, "So what if I did?"