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Not a Boy


In Ilocano (the parents' primary language), balasang is the word for a young woman who has reached the marriageable age, which in my parents' day would've been 15 or 16. A balasang presents herself to the world well-groomed, well-dressed, and well-mannered. Graceful and radiant, with no sassy mouth nor a defiant bone in her. Alas, that was not me. 

Mama did her best to polish me up with the stylish, stiff, and sophisticated outfits that she bought for me. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, and fake in them, preferring, and still do, the bohemian style.

In my early 20s, when I worked in the San Francisco Financial District as a clerk typist, I wore a Mama outfit when everything else was in the laundry hamper. To break the monotony of the outfit, I'd wear something silly with it. Once I wore wool knee-high socks and clogs with a pink polyester dress that had an attached two-toned bolero-type jacket.  I looked as atrocious as it sounds. Still, in the early evening, while waiting for a bus in front of the 16th Street BART station, I got propositioned in Spanish by a crude-looking middle-aged guy. I didn't ever tell Mama about it. No need to worry her.

I think Mama considered my "tough" rebellious ways to be influenced by the "American style". When I was a teenager, she often urged me to follow the Filipino way, without telling me what that was. I doubt that she knew.

Mama began working full-time the summer before I entered first grade. Now, looking back, I think how life would've been less stressful for Mama if she could've come home and not faced a wildly confused, independent-minded girl (like herself, I say now). There were times when the tired Mama got very frustrated with my supposed defiance that she called me bastos (rude) and baboy (a pig), the lesser bad terms she had for me, which, of course would set me off.

A battle royal, those youthful years. It's amazing I didn't turn out to be a bitter bitch.  For that matter, Mama could've easily become a bitter bitch, given all the circumstances of her life. Regardless of how much she complained and criticized, as well as feared and worried, she stayed positive-minded. And that rubbed off on me, for which I am grateful.

Okay, here's one more Mama and me story to share today. When I was in my early 20s, my driver's license was taken away for six months because I didn't report a car accident that I was in a few months earlier. Mama thought my revoked license was a shameful thing so told me not to tell anyone, in particular anyone she knew. "You're worse than a boy," she said.

I'm actually proud of her decree. Maybe Mama was too, deep down. After all, what is worse than a boy?


The letter B is this week's theme for ABC Wednesday. Check out the meme here, and, if you miss it on that page, the list of participants here. Grazie, ABCW team!


Comments

  1. Sounds a lot like the Italians. If you have a sec check out My Brilliant Friend, the story of growing up in a small town outside of Naples in the early 60s. I can picture that outfit, I bet you could have started a trend. I tell ya ,if my now brain was in my teen body I would have knock a lot of heads around for what I went through waiting for and riding the city bus.

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    1. hahaha, I think my look was probably 12-15 years too soon. Come to think of it, friends were continually trying to clean up my look. hahahaha. I did look good back then, mascara, nail polish, ooh-la-la hair. With a scowl.

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    2. I checked it out at Wikipedia. The book series sounds interesting., too. Since we don't have Netflix streaming, I'll check out the books.

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  2. Sounds like you were a handful. But you turned out OK ;)

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    1. Liz, I think Mama would have been happy to hear that. She respected teachers big time.

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  3. I'm a fan of bohemian look and you can find that style quite easy at the thrift store.
    Coffee is on

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    1. Dora, some of that stuff is too young for me. Wow, I've gotten older.

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  4. One of the reasons I like Game of Thrones, it's often more real than you'd expect. One of the main characters is forced by his father to marry a girl of 15 for political reasons. He wants to refuse and says "she's a child" and doesn't go to bed with her after marriage.

    I couldn't imagine marrying someone that young or being that young to marry. I've always despised older men creeping on younger women.

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    1. Adam, not all older guys are disgusting men. The first husband was twice my age; of course, we married when I was in my early 30s. I liked to say I robbed the grandpa cradle.

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  5. Bohemian look is fun ~ great post for B ~ love your art work too!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I can't get over how expensive new boho stuff is. I plan on sewing a bunch of stuff this year.

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  6. Such terrific true stories . . . makin' my heart dance . .
    I sure enjoy knowing you are livin' life colorfully . . .
    love & love & love,
    -g-

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  7. I loved this. Great writing, good story, nice visuals. And yes, what could be worse than a boy?

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    1. Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. It's great to be worse than a boy. :-)

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  8. great post! my folks are from 'the old country', too, and spoke their native language at home, so I can totally relate! turnabout, as they say, is fair play, though, and now I have my own teen to drive me up a wall, just like I did them.

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    1. You lucky Mama. We missed out on having kids of our own. I like to think in a parallel universe I'm driving 5 kids crazy. lol

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  9. oh that was good. I think it sounds freeing to be "worse than a boy" I always admired people who dressed as they liked. I felt their self esteem was better than mine, because I worried if I was good enough, but I did have a style that wasn't like other people so there was the kernel of strength

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    1. I had low self esteem for decades. There are times when it rears up but that only lasts moments. The Husband, as did the First Husband, tells me whenever I get this way that I'm too hard on myself.
      I wouldn't be surprised if there were people who admired your style back then. We certainly do today.

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  10. That was an engaging read. Once my son swore at me. I let him know it would never be allowed. The next time he was mad at me he called me "a big fat old lady" instead! I was a little hippie and a little fishnet stocking and teased hair.

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  11. Great read! Thanks for introducing a llocano vocabulary - balasang!

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  12. Well I presume you did very wel afterall ;-)



    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l d y ♪ (ABC-W-team)
    http://melodyk.nl/24-B

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  13. I'm very impressed that I survived the 'supposed to's', and 'shoulds' of my youth. :)

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  14. Being labelled as a 'boy' is indeed an insult to a brave girl.
    Girls are best! Interesting memories in your post.
    How we miss our moms!

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    1. It's going on 3 years since Mama moved on to the Universe. She continues to teach me. :-)

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  15. They taught you to be proud, independent & to be who you are not what you should be. so you were, and are, exactly that. The teenage years are the brutal ones no matter what:)

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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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