Saturday, June 17, 2017

Microagression Girly Style

La Bloga welcomes the return of Lisa Alvarado as a regular Saturday columnist. Lisa's columns appear on alternate Saturdays. See Lisa's bio at the bottom of today's debut contribution.

Lisa Alvarado


microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group

  •  microassault: an explicit racial derogation; verbal/nonverbal; e.g. name-calling, avoidant behavior, purposeful discriminatory actions. 
  • microinsult: communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity; subtle snubs; unknown to the perpetrator; hidden insulting message to the recipient of color. 
  • microinvalidation: communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person belonging to a particular group.

From the time I was able to wear make up- which was 15, until now, at age 60, I gird my loins and swallow hard every time I look for what I laughingly call foundation.

Why do I even bother?

It’s complicated – I’m a femme/butchy combo who loves girly stuff, a Mejicana daughter of another Mejicana – who by the way was a former Maybelline cosmetics model.

I am also someone who has struggled with the bombardment of shame about “looking good”; i.e.: pretty enough by white standards. Years in, I still fight the good fight to carve out a sense of myself as beautiful. This is, by the way not a fishing expedition for praise on my appearance. I am more in love with myself than I have ever been, but the dominant culture's assault requires suiting up every day.

Here’s the most recent struggle - harder to identify and fight because it came in the package of a smiling, white, liberal “friend.” This person was selling cosmetics as a sideline. What’s not to like? We work together and she’s bouncy, funny, maybe not on my wavelength, but hey, I can buy some foundation and maybe do a solid.

Going through the catalog was revisiting the wounding that you absorb like it’s the air around you. You look, and you look, and no color listed seem to match the face you see in the mirror. There’s no shade called Poetisa Mestiza Diosa.

I picked “Neutral” and ordered it. When it arrived, it was the color of wallpaper paste. I guess “Neutral” means anemic white girl. I exchanged it and tried again….three times.

All during this process my “friend’s” agitation was building. With each order I could see and feel her frustration, even though she kept saying: “I just want you to be happy.”

Finally with the last order, she said. “I’ve never had anyone have as much trouble as you.” I paid her, because, well, that’s what you do. And when I got home that night the first thing I did was toss it into the garbage can.

Even as I write this, I feel that clutch in my chest, that sadness of “not being OK.” But I keep on. And I understand.

Insisting on your own space, your own face, and refusing to be erased is trouble.

My mother, Rita Alvarado. Beauty. Poise. 
All Mejicana, all the time.
A version of this article appeared in The Seattle Star

Meet Lisa Alvarado

Lisa Alvarado is an educator, poet, novelist, and journalist, the founder of La Onda Negra Press, author of Reclamo and The Housekeeper’s Diary; originally a book of poetry and now a one-woman performance. Her first novel, Sister Chicas, Penguin/NAL, was released in April 2006. It won 2nd place, Best First Novel in English. (Latino Literacy Now/2007) She was also honored as Hispanic Author of the Year 2009/State of Illinois. Her book of poetry, Raw Silk Suture was released by Floricanto Press in 2008.

She has contributed to contributed to HaLapid, The Journal for the Study of Crypto-Judaism, Me No Habla with Acento, edited by Emanuel Xavier, and in 2011, published Still, Life, essays and poetry. She is also the curator and editor for Love you Madly, a poetry website devoted to jazz, and is currently an editor for The Seattle Star.


Melinda Palacio said...

Thank you for this piece. Marketeers and make-up makers, we need Poetisa Mestiza Diosa, a shade to turn every girl into a goddess.

Unknown said...

And welcome back, Lisa!

Lisa Alvarado said...

Pero, we already ARE goddesses.

Lisa Alvarado said...

Abrazotes, Daniel!

Manuel Ramos said...

Great to have you back, Lisa. We've missed you.