Friday, October 24, 2008

What Can Be Worse than Being a Boy?

I have begun reading Caramelo, a novel by Sandra Cisneros. I should have started it long ago especially because it’s been a year since I bought it at the Powerbooks sale for 1/3 its original price. I have postponed reading it because of the other books I have stuck in a queue: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by my favorite Milan Kundera, The Bronte Project by Jennifer Vandever (which sucked by the way), Pugad Baboy Nineteen by Pol Medina. Kiko Machine 3 & 4 by Manix Abrera (I count them as books), Twisted 9: The Night of the Living Twisted by Jessica Zafra, Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman—to name a few. Oh, let’s not forget how Caramelo’s 434 pages intimidate me, hence the dramatic procrastination.

Let me just say that, finally, I’m done with Smoke and Mirrors. It took me more than two years. Haha! So much for being a slow reader. Good thing Smoke and Mirrors is a compilation of short stories instead of being a full-length novel. Otherwise, I would have to re-read from the beginning every time I resume from long uncalled for pauses. (But then again, I intentionally stopped reading it because I had a “special plan” in finishing it; however the “special plan” was terminated due to unfortunate circumstances. Thus I ended up reading it on more normal occasions.)

Back to Caramelo which is very much reminiscent in terms of the style of Cisneros’ House on Mango Street, I am starting to enjoy it. The injected Mexican/Spanish expressions, however, tend distract me as I didn’t have any formal classes on the language. But they keep me on my toes. Common sense is stepping in just so I can translate those I can afford to translate, thanks to the Spanish influence on my own language and to the very handy context clues. Now I feel like a polyglot.

With the Filipino culture not too far away from the Mexican way of life, reading Caramelo elevates what could be a vicarious experience to a more real one. I can’t help but associate some of the scenes from my life’s early chapters with the first few pages of Caramelo.

Lala, the main character and narrator, has an observant and honest way about her; it is difficult not to think of her as you--well in my case, of me. One winning moment was when her family brought her to a parlor and had her braids cut off. Her six older brothers wouldn’t stop teasing her. They said she looked like a boy with her short hair.

I recall how I cried every time my mom would have my hair cut very short. She said I didn’t know how to comb my hair, so it was better to get rid of most of my hair. I hated having very short hair because I didn’t want to look like a boy. For a little girl like me, it was traumatic to look like a boy.

Ironically, I am more than willing to shave my hair off these days. I’ve been thinking how much convenient it will be if I were rich and could afford not to go out of the house for a month or afford to buy the most effective hair grower in case I get embarrassed or tired of being bald. But I will be bald someday. After all, all it takes is a sharp shaver on my hand and I’d rid of my hair in no time. Wouldn’t that be cool?

So one of Lala’s brothers goes, “what can be worse than being a boy?”

“Being a girl!” The other says.

Not! A lot can be worse.

Like looking like a boy when you’re a girl.

Or postponing being bald.

Or maybe not finishing the books you read. (Note to self: I should get to page 434 before the year ends.)

Well, a lot can definitely be worse. And I mean A LOT.

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