Ladybug among bees

I’m impressed by my 8 year old. She has a different take on other people and fitting in which is years ahead of where I was at twice her age. I’ve written about girl dynamics before (Girl drama); my daughter has learned to handle these situations.

M has been at her school for 5 years, since Pre-K.  She has been with the same group of children for that time with a few moves or transfers. M is her own person. Her dad and I appreciate that. and we also know it’s who we have shaped her to be. We are a non-traditional family so we have a non-traditional daughter. While she is experiencing anxiety and insecurity, M is independent. She is clear about how she likes to spend her time and what she likes to play or discuss. Things that would have hurt her feelings in the past don’t affect her in the same way.

She was recently part of a clique. I had trepidation because cliques have a tendency to exclude and/or break apart; these situations tend to get worse over time. Every day, we talk about who she sits with during snack and lunch and who she plays with during morning and lunch recess. I’m less interested in weekend events like sleepovers; I’ve outgrown my concern about that. In the past, I would feel heartbroken if she wasn’t invited to a birthday party or a sleepover. In part, that’s on us. We have a busy schedule. That hasn’t changed and won’t be changing any time soon. If she doesn’t get invited, I don’t dwell on it.  M is aware and honest about the social configurations. I directly asked her how she feels about the clique’s breakup. She was hurt when it first happened. She has noticed that part of the original group is hanging out with former rivals but that’s so typical of girl dynamics. First of all, those grudges aren’t as deep as we make them out to be. Secondly, we want so much to belong so we compromise. She’s gossipy or rude but she’s fun or she takes risks. We weigh the pros and cons of each person.


M is definitely more like K.C.(as portrayed by her idol Zendaya on the left)

My daughter is a cheerleader but she’s never been part of the A group. That may seem strange to admit as a parent but I’m comfortable with that fact. She has always been part of another group. Now that group has broken apart, she is hanging out with her best friend. M says it bothers her to see her other friends hanging out with different girls but she accepts that they are doing what they want. She shared with me what she has in common with her best friend and the ways in which they differ. Her explanation was mature and wise beyond her age. I reassured her that popularity is not everything. I told her I want her to be true to herself. I did tell her popularity is a reality that she will dealing with for at least 10 more years. I explained that it loses its importance in college for most. M asked if adults care about popularity. I wanted to laugh because those issues certainly come up in work or in social circles, even in my beloved dance communities. I said, “Unless you’re on a stage singing “Candy Girl”, popularity is not that important.” (Yes, I’m still talking about New Edition non-stop.)

I also shared that I found being unpopular a blessing. It hurt in the moment but it gave me appreciation for myself, for my true friends, and it kept me from engaging in unsafe behaviors. M and I have open, though age-appropriate,  conversations about my concerns.

M went to school in a great mood. It’s important to tell her it’s ok to be different. I told her I was a weirdo and proud of it. I’m grateful for the sense I developed of myself as an artist and a person. It hurt at times.  The queen bee is always going to look at you funny because you’re a yellow jacket or a mayfly or a ladybug. You ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing but you have to be true to yourself. M gets it.  You got this, mija.


Like mother, like daughter: say it with your tee


Diva without drama

     The power of women’s friendships is constantly being undermined by pop culture’s obsession with cattiness.  From mean girl Top Model contestants to Real Housewives reunion show drama, we are inundated with scenes of women attacking, humiliating, and betraying other women, more often that not supposedly their “friends,” for laughs and ratings.  On the other hand, anyone who has experienced girlhood and womanhood knows that the authors behind Queen Bees and Wannabes and Odd Girl Out weren’t exaggerating; friendships between women can be challenging and sometimes traumatizing.

     I admit I have had my share of frenemy drama starting in elementary school and as recently as last year.  So-called friends have talked behind my back, excluded me from activities, revealed my secrets, and turned others against me.  I admit I have been a participant in chisme, backbiting, backstabbing; we are told that this is what girls and women do by our elders but especially by popular culture.  Those who want to say Latinas are much more supportive and sisterly need only look at a telenovela or watch an old episode of Laura en America to see that catfights are part and parcel of the love story mythology; you cannot trust your sister, friend, neighbor to not covet what you have.  
     I have seen my straight and gay male friends as superior to my women friends at several times in my life, sometimes to the detriment of the many healthy friendships I have had with women.  In turning to men as my support network, I have sometimes alienated the women who have been loyal and supportive.  It has been a challenge to maintain a balanced perspective, to not buy into the stereotype that women don’t know how to be friends. 
     For the past two decades, I  have been blessed with the best friendship I could ever imagine.  My friendship with my bestie has survived through family losses, health battles, career shifts, boyfriends, and singledom.  I am proud to say that of all my friendships, both old and new, it is the one relationship that has been drama-free.  There has never been a separation or conflict that was rooted in envy, insecurity, or miscommunication.  She has been my co-worker, club buddy, and labor coach. I don’t give her enough credit for being such an amazing woman and friend.  
 I hope my daughter is blessed with a friend as true as her Titi has been for me.  

My newest heroine

“We must encourage girls to embrace respectful acts of assertion and provide them with representations of female aggression that are neither sensationalized nor the stuff of fantasy.” Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out

“…you put your head down, let your work speak for you, and try to avoid conflict. If someone was questioning my ethic or principles, I always spoke up. Ultimately, the best way I stood up for myself was working hard….” Chef Beverly Kim

Award-winning Bravo reality competition, Top Chef , is in its 9th season and has had no shortage of drama.  At the center of a key storyline, Chef Beverly Kim has become a hero to me.  After dealing with bullying at the hands of a trio of her fellow female chefs, she bounced back into the competition during a secret, online Top Chef spin-off Last Chance Kitchen, much to the chagrin of her rivals. Though eliminated in semi-finals, I’m positive I’m not the only fan of her classy, confident behavior. 

In the earlier part of the season, Beverly became a target for the louder, more aggressive women chefs. They complained of what they saw as one-note lack of depth as she continually worked Asian flavors into various dishes. They found  her methodical and thorough approach to be slow, stupid, and selfish. They rolled their eyes at her sensitivity.  Though the TV viewer learned this through filmed asides and editing, we also saw the confrontations and cruel comments.  As more of her personal allies got eliminated, Beverly could often be found in the company of the male chefs, purposely excluded from the intensely close rival clique.  But her work seldom suffered as critics and guests alike enjoyed and praised her cooking.  

I have to admit I was not a Beverly fan at first. Though I disdained the bullies, I wanted her to be a mouse that roared. I wanted her to bust loose of her quiet, humble demeanor and defend herself aggressively.  Then I realized I wanted her to stop being me.  Like Beverly, I was brought up to be quiet and work hard.  Like Beverly, I have been bullied, underestimated and misunderstood.  I have responded by being patient or by refusing to take part in confrontations.  At times, I have retaliated in bullying ways such as  gossip, backbiting, or passive-aggressive behavior. So I began to appreciate Beverly, how she would defend herself with truth and calmness, and most importantly, through expressing her passion and talent.  As a woman of color in a predominantly white competition/industry, she embodied the values of her cultural community and taught us an alternative to dog-eat-dog on national TV. The remaining women chefs may continue in the competition and ultimately win(best believe I will pitch a fit ) but they have lost face and the respect of millions of people.  

Beverly cooked, cross-country-skied, and literally shot her way to success while never resorting to cattiness or mean girl tactics.  So she is my Top Chef.