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!