circle of friends

My circle of friends is composed of well-read, politically active people who are quick to judge and easy to annoy. They go to poetry readings, they work for nonprofit organizations either full time or on a volunteer basis and they are very vocal. They stay current on pop culture, indulge their artistic tendencies and speak in a Spanglish combination that takes years to perfect if you’re not born to it. They are a merciless bunch that have somehow become the barometer against which I measure others and myself. They are unique in a way that makes them almost irreplaceable.

Is that enough to consider them truly my friends? Somehow, I don’t think so.

What’s the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? I’ve been wondering about this for a while. I know a lot of people. People I met in high school. People I met in college. People I’ve worked with in a variety of different places. People I’ve met through my family, their friends and family. There are a lot of people I spend time with. I call them and they call me. We do lunch. We watch movies, we exchange personal information and sometimes we call each other friends.

What makes them friends and not acquaintances? Is it just the amount of time we spend together or the things we do when we hang out?

The truth is that even though I spend a lot of time with my circle of friends, I wouldn’t think to call them when I’m feeling blue. I wouldn’t go to them and tell them about the shadows in my nightmares, about the fears that take hold of me from time to time, about wishing that I had less of a conscience and was able to sell out my beliefs and ideals. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about my fantasy to run away without ever looking back. I’d be too afraid of telling them too much, of revealing too large a part of myself. I’d be too afraid of being judged and hearing their mocking words or seeing their belittling stares. And maybe I’d be worried about nothing, maybe they’d be understanding and supportive, but I don’t believe so and so I don’t confide in them.

Does that mean that they’re bad friends, that I’m a bad friend or that we’re not really friends at all?

I don’t bond easily. I don’t trust easily. To make you understand the whys and why nots I’d have to show you the tapestry of my life and that would take too much time. The fact is that I’m not in the habit of turning to others for comfort and support. But even if I were, I’ve chosen to spend my time with a group of people who would never make the offer, who would never try to comfort me. They would tell me how to make it better, with an ounce of impatience in their voices, and then they’d move on to more important things.

I know that this rant doesn’t make one damn bit of sense to anyone else. It’s grounded in some personal stuff that’s going on right now. And, no, I don’t intend to share the particulars of what’s going on. One thing I did decide, when I saw the reaction to Lizzie’s journal, was that I’m not going to give you every single detail of my life.

I guess you’re not really my friends either.

dance with me

DANCE WITH ME is the new movie starring Chayanne and Vanessa Williams.

It’s a tame little movie set primarily in a dance studio in Houston. In case you see the movie, that skyline is ours — Houston has a very impressive skyline and I want to make sure that you understand that the one in the movie is ours. That said, there is no chemistry between Chayanne and the talented Ms. Williams. They do a good job with their characters, but I never believed that the romance was real. And before any of you think that “it’s a movie, girl” thought that you’re bound to go through, I know that it’s a movie. But I pay good money to watch and, for the moment, believe that what’s going on might be plausible. And a romance between the stars of this movie just didn’t make the cut. I’ll admit that maybe, just maybe I was too harsh — I did just see HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK last week and the chemistry between Stella and her young lover was sizzling. DANCE WITH ME suffers by comparison.

As a writer I also have to point out that there are major holes in the writing of this movie. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but I will say that the plot is just an excuse to set up some elaborate dance scenes. Dance scenes that I enjoyed very much, thank you. Vanessa can really move and I love salsa and merengue. Just listening to the music makes me want to get up and dance. Did you know that Vanessa refused to use a body double for any of the dance scenes? There are some complicated and dangerous moves you really need to see to believe. The dance scenes alone are worth a matinee viewing.

The sheer enthusiasm Chayanne demonstrates in this role is almost enough to get me to commend his performance. Almost, but not quite. Chayanne isn’t an actor. I don’t think that a seasoned actor could have done more with the two-dimensional character we were shown, but there was an awkwardness to his performance that could have been ironed out. To his credit, his scenes with Vanessa were very natural and his dance scenes were exceptional. Also to his credit, he didn’t cop out and do a singing scene. For those of you who have never heard of him, Chayanne is a Puerto Rican singer, an ex-Menudo. And if you need to have someone explain who Menudo is, then I wash my hands of you right here and now. You are beyond help.

I am, of course, recommending to all of my friends that they go out and watch the movie. And I’m not encouraging them on the basis that the movie is entertaining or that the dance scenes are incredible or that Vanessa Williams looks great or that Chayanne has this boyish charm thing going. Nope. I’m telling people to go to the movie so that the numbers for the movie look decent and when the next producer goes to a studio to do a “Hispanic” movie the studio can’t use bad ticket sales on this movie as an excuse not to fund it. Unfortunately, as a Chicana I have to look at the big picture.

feeling loved

I had a very good birthday. I got some nice presents. My boss got me a cake. My family got me a cake. My Mom actually cooked. I got chocolates (heaven for a chocoholic). I got money to go shopping – which I’ve already spent. I got some costume jewelry. I got a couple of birthday cards. I got lots and lots of Happy Birthdays from the cyberspace community as well as some from people I know in real life. Everyone was nice to me.

All that was good. All that was . . . well, nice.

Now, ask me what blew me away. Ask me what impressed me. Asked me what really made me feel loved.

Go ahead. Ask.

Breakfast in bed.

Pancakes. Sausage, extra crispy. Toast. Butter. Syrup, heated in the microwave. Orange juice.

This delicious aroma was the first thing I noticed as my consciousness tried to surface through layers of sleep. I am not a morning person. I am a grumpy, drowsy, cranky night owl who looks at sunshine accusingly and tries to hide under the covers. It usually takes me hours to wake up completely.

As a rule, noise wakes me. And my house, full of people from sunrise to well past sunset, is anything but quiet. So I try to ignore the noise, try to scavenge a few more minutes of sleep. And I stay in bed until I absolutely can’t help it.

On this particular Saturday, yesterday, a day in my sacrosanct weekend, what woke me up was breakfast in bed. And what a pleasant wake-up that was.

I must point out that this wasn’t a boyfriend or husband or significant other bringing me a surprise token of his affection. This wasn’t a lover bringing me nourishment after a night together. This wasn’t someone trying to quedar bien. This wasn’t someone who had to do this.

What wonderful person brought me homemade pancakes? Okay, they were instant, but still homemade. Baby brother.

I call him baby brother when I talk about him but he is a baby brother who is 13 years old, two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than I am. When my friends or coworkers meet him they cannot reconcile this minimonster with the baby brother I talk about all the time.

If you read my little sister tale, you know that I am very close to baby brother. He is the only son, the youngest in a family of temperamental, strong women. He has a weird sense of humor, is easily amused and has a short attention span. He has an incredible imagination and a musical talent that comes from God-knows-where. He was born when I was 13 and I didn’t bond with him until he was four or five and started to follow me around whether I liked it or not.

Baby brother is the first to notice when I’m upset. He knows what kind of books I like and what kind of television I watch. I am the tutor when he needs help with his homework. I am the stepmom when we sneak him into rated R movies. I am the one who gives him money when needs something.

Two years ago baby brother bought me a camera for my birthday. Granted, it was a cheap little K-Mart camera. But he knew that my camera had broken and that I needed one, so he saved his allowance and bought me one. Last year he got me a Minnie Mouse pen. This year he has bugged me for a little bit last month, wanting to know what I wanted for my birthday. Keeping in mind that he doesn’t really have any money and that he would go out of his way to get whatever I asked for, I asked him to take me to a movie or to lunch.

My birthday came and went; it was on a Wednesday. I didn’t give his intended birthday present a second thought and he didn’t say anything. Apparently, he was out of money and trying to figure out a suitable substitution. In a moment of clarity he came up with breakfast in bed. It was thoughtful. It was sweet. It was heartfelt. It was the best birthday gift I got because it made special. Loved. And if you’ve ever met a 13-year-old boy, then you’ll understand how truly remarkable this kind of display of affection is. (Did that make sense?)

Anyway, since the breakfast I have decided to upgrade baby brother to younger brother. And now that I think about it, it kind of has a nice sound to it. Doesn’t it?

happy birthday to me

As you can see, this isn’t the continuation of my little sister tale. Although I had promised myself that I wouldn’t deviate from it until it was done, I have to make an exception today. Today, is after all, my one special day a year.

This is my shameless little birthday plug. August 19 is, of course, my birthday. That means that I was born during the summer, six months after my parents eloped. Of course, that’s not something my parents talk about. And I guess it’s not the point anyway. The point is that it’s my birthday.

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Haaaappy biiirthdaaay deeeaaar meeeeeeee! Happy birthday to me!

For those of you interested in such useless information, I am now 27. I know, I know, I’m still technically part of the genXers but too old to get away with the stereotype. I will state right here and right now that I never fit the stereotype — angst and indecision were never my style. And I hate the label “generation X,” that makes me sound so meaningless, so disposable. I particularly hate the fact that I never had the opportunity or the luxury of being able to laze around and let my hair get all dirty and do nothing for days and days. How dare life be so unfair, so freakin’ unfair that I didn’t get the opportunity to be a bum.

In case you’ve missed it, that’s sarcasm dripping from those words.

So here I am, in my late twenties, and I haven’t accomplished one single thing I had intended as a teenager. As much as I hate to admit it now, I expected to be married by now. Married with children. (And I cringe at the thought of it now.) I definitely thought I’d have my master’s degree by now. And let’s not forget the fabulous job I envisioned.

Oh those teenage rose-colored fantasies!

Things happened. Life happened. And my oh-so-perfect plan for the rest of my life took several detours. Several very long, very important detours. Detours that have landed me where I am now. And where I am is somewhere that is very far from where I expected to be.

And there’s a part of me that’s disappointed.

But then again, I’m a much better person than I ever expected to be. It’s odd, really, but I never gave any thought to the sort of person I would be. I thought long and hard on the things I would have. What kind of car, what kind of job, what kind of husband (go ahead, laugh, you know you want to), what sort of decorations would adorn my perfect little life. But I never thought about what kind of person I would turn out to be. I never thought about whether or not I would be strong or independent or submissive or open-minded or stupid or tame. It never occurred to me that I would need to develop character and self-esteem and strength and a backbone. I never thought that I would one day think that a social conscience was more important than a successful career. I never thought that one day I would learn to like myself, truly like myself enough that being alone does not mean being lonely.

I think I turned out okay. All things considered, I think that my life has turned out okay. I am very happy with a great many things. My life isn’t perfect, but perfection would be boring. And if I lived a perfect life I would be a less interesting person surrounded by dull people leading equally dull lives.

So celebrate with me on my birthday. FYI, my favorite drinks are raspberry margaritas and banana daiquiris, but any flavor margarita will do. Take a drink and toast to my less-than-perfect life that has helped me create these sites, among other things. Wish me a happy birthday, a good 27th year on Earth, and lots and lots of luck.


I want to be alone.
I want to disconnect.
When do people leave you alone?

I have a website. I have three electronic mail addresses I access from my home computer and my office computer. I have a voice-mail pager and a cellular telephone I take with me everywhere. I have a home phone number, two office numbers and an office fax machine.

I was paged 23 times on Tuesday. 23 times. I didn’t know I knew enough people to be paged that many times. And, of course, each and every call had to be returned. And I was carrying my cell phone, so I couldn’t just ignore the messages. Damn! I’m just too nice for my own good.

I know that I’m not making any sense. I bought the cell phone and the pager. I signed myself up for at least half a dozen e-mail discussion lists. I made the decision to put up a website. I connected myself and I did it because I wanted to have the information now. I wanted to be accessible now. I wanted to always be accessible. I wanted to be connected.

It worked. Right now, if you knew how, you could get in touch with me at any time of the day or night. It wouldn’t matter where I was, what I was doing or intending to do, you could reach out and touch me. I got what I wanted.

Now I want to give it back.

I’m tired of jumping when something dings, beeps or comes to life. You can take back my technology. You can forget about me for a couple of weeks.

I don’t give out my cell phone number to anyone. In fact, I don’t even keep it on. I turn it on when I need to return a page or when I need to get in touch with someone. Other than that it’s just a clunky toy at the bottom of my bag. My pager’s message instructs you to leave a message. You wouldn’t know to page me unless I told you that it’s a pager. And I would only told you if you were important enough to know. I’ve stopped returning voice mails immediately and faxes are put on the pile in my “in box” instead of being tackled at once.

And it’s not just the technology, the immediacy of it all that’s bothering me. It’s interacting with other people. People in general are just getting on my nerves. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to interact, be social, be polite or be “on.” I don’t want to have to be me for a long, long while.

So I’ve started to pay for my gas at the pump. I do my grocery shopping at midnight (at a 24-hour market). I go to Wal-Mart at off-hours to buy all the weekly essentials (also a 24-hour store). I avoid the crowds that way. And believe me, it’s worth it.

I bank by going to the drive-thru and using the ATM. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I actually walked into the bank. When I need to make an inquiry I call the 800 number. When I need new checks I mail the form in using a pre-addressed envelope. I never have to see another human being and I get the service that I want.

It’s heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an interactive, social kind of person. I enjoy watching other people, I love to talk to others and hear their stories and watch their faces as the stories unfold. I work in public relations and dealing with people is written in stone. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But right now I would gladly take a cabin in the woods with no phone and no computer and no fax machine and maybe an old truck to go into town to get food and stuff . . . for about four or five days.

With a television, of course. Just because I don’t want to interact doesn’t mean I want to cut myself completely off.

What would you suggest?