Growing up in Cicero, Illinois was not easy. Not only was my first neighborhood full of prostitutes, gangs, and all sorts of other hooligans and degenerates, I was a complete weirdo. I’ve felt different ever since I was very little. I had a strange inner life that I couldn’t articulate to anyone, which is mostly why I began writing. That, and strategic use of sarcasm.
Imagine that the prevailing ghetto mentality was not very accepting of adolescent me: black finger nails, ugly combat boots, and enormous novels I pretentiously lugged around. High school was especially soul-trying. As a result of all the ridicule and ostracism, I became an incredibly snarky girl. I used sarcasm as a weapon — like intellectual Chinese stars to the face! It was especially satisfying when the targets of my irony didn’t understand my jokes. It was a way to express what I believed was my cerebral superiority.
In college I was an overachiever, which is another reason I became so defensive. People who have suggested that I’ve exploited this “affirmative action” made me want to karate chop them in the neck. Where is this “affirmative action” everyone speaks of? If I got some of it, why am I now doing mindless tasks like some desk monkey? My intelligence had nothing do with being brown; or, maybe it did since my people are a very hardworking bunch.
In grad school, I also faced a series of racist situations. As one of the few people of color, I can assure you that academia is not some wonderful fairyland for black and brown folks (though many would like to naively believe this). And no, racism isn’t all in my head. It’s as real and tangible as koala AIDS.
What’s more, I am a fairly small woman, so I’ve developed a tendency to reply with sardonic vulgarities to defend myself. Sometimes people are all like “Oh how cute, the little Mexican girl writes poems. How precious! Oh, and she has ‘opinions.’ Don’t you just want to pinch her little cheeks?” Condescension deserves a metaphorical crotch kick. Finally, as a reasonably attractive young woman, I’ve always responded to disrespectful creeps with the most castrating retorts. If they want to talk about my body parts, they’re going to have to pay — they are always sorry they hit on me with such disrespect.
Now I also work in an environment in which people are mean as hell. A large majority are caca-faced women who clearly look down on me. You’d think I were La India Maria fumbling around in a poncho, but whether I looked like La India or not, their behavior is detestable. Another reason I’m so defensive. When these awful women approach me politely only because they need something from me, I am equipped with my most apathetic face and sarcastic quips. Many would say that I should just be the better person and respond with kindness — but I can’t bring myself to do it!
Regardless, I’m still the better person.
Overall, the reason I’ve become so sassy is because I’ve never fit in anywhere. People are confused by a person like me because they can’t put me into a neat little package, and that seems to cause anxiety. “Why are you using such big words, you little Mexican?” But recently I’ve learned I should relish this anxiety and use it to my advantage. It’s actually powerful, in a way. I make people uneasy! So, I will continue to respond to jerks with biting humor. After all, it’s worked so well for other ladies.
Oh Hells Nah is a small and sassy Mexican woman exploring the relationships between poetry, politics, and food. She lives in Chicago, you can check out her blog — like hot dogs for your brain — or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @OhHellsNah.[Photo By frozen_scream666]