Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Outsider

The white smudge is a white butterfly named Lily. She wanted to be our friend.
Charlie has almost completely retired. In other words, my calf is now almost completely healed, but there are times when standing for too long or sitting for too long makes my calf feel sore. I am really looking forward to having my body without any obstructions from this unwanted outsider.

After an amazing body scrub/massage, I created the following prayer for and to my body:

I am yours and you are mine.
I love you.

While, the therapist--as she called herself--began to rub a rice (beautifully) scented body scrub my mind began to wonder whether her hands and her inner-self could identify things in my body. Did her hands recognize the traces left behind from past lovers and travels to distant lands? Did the knots in my neck and back tell her the story of my woes? Or better yet, could her hands read my future? Could she tell me where I will be next year?

This massage was a much needed trance for my body, mind, and soul. I have never been in an establishment where I allowed the masseuse/therapist massage my chest and or abdomen. I am a strong believer that there needs to be parts of your body that are left untraveled by strangers.  This woman--at this juncture--made me feel so comfortable that I allowed her hands to trespass the yellow tape that I had placed around my upper body. After the body scrub, the therapist asked me to shower (in the nicest shower I’ve been in, in the last year). I dried off and expected my time to be up, but then she asked me to lay down for the lotion part of my massage.

Side note: At times, I feel like an outsider could tell me more about myself and my body than I could. This massage reminded me that the vision we have of ourselves is very limited. After all, we could never get a close look at the pores in the middle of our backs. We are often stuck on an image of our body that no longer exists or never existed. 

At some point after my massage, I realized that I would have never experienced this luxury back home (with my salary), because this type of luxury costs a couple hundred dollars. But in Thailand, I paid $30 for an hour of pure bliss. I don’t know if it was the massage,  but I was reminded that I am an outsider living a life that was not intended for me. As a Latina, raised by a low-income single-mother in the city of Los Angeles--I was never expected to graduate from a distinguished liberal arts college, serve my country through community service, and secure a prestigious fellowship.

The truth is that I have worked very hard to be where I am and sometimes I get exhausted of feeling like an outsider in my own country and in my own life. In June, I ran into a group of American women, I enthusiastically introduced myself and one of them introduced herself and added, “It’s so great to be around white people again.” At that point, I made sure to point out that I didn’t identify as white. I know that this was her way of including me and making me feel like a part of the group, but her comment did just the opposite.

I am very accustomed to being the only woman of color in my professional and academic cohorts, but sometimes I wish that society would stop reminding me that a person with my background would have never overcome the financial and social obstacles that I overcame to be where I am today.

In Thailand, I don’t feel like an outsider until:
  • I open my mouth and all that comes out is awful broken Thai. 
  • My host teacher opts to speak only in Thai, because she is fully aware that the new English teacher will translate whatever she is saying.*
  • During lunch time, a woman who I thought was my friend from the English department claims to have “tired jaw” and cannot speak English.*
  • A friend instead of saying, “We need to take Glenda to the hospital,” says “We need to take the  farang to the hospital.”--As if everyone in Ban Phai didn’t know my name.  Side note: At my school, the teachers were upset that I decided to not sit around in the school during midterms. They said, “you’re a part of the school.” I have concluded that--like in most situations--I am not the outsider when it is for someone’s benefit.
*Side note: English teachers (and some teachers) at my school were initially ecstatic to have me on campus to practice/build their English skills, but that has now flown out the window.

After (A MUCH NEEDED) break from my school, I have decided to stop fighting many things that I cannot control. For example, I will accept that I am farrang/the outsider and no one thinks otherwise (even though they might say “kon thai” [You are Thai]).

I accept the role as the outsider, because like the masseuses' hands, I have different insights and abilities. My role as the outsider helps me be grateful for everything valuable in my life. As the outsider, I know that someday I will have the opportunity to prevent others from feeling like the outsider.

Sincerely yours,
The Outsider

Otherwise known as Glenda

Before my life changing massage at Chivit Thamma Da in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Day 2 of Chivit Thamma Da. If heaven exists, I want it to look exactly like that coffee shop.


  1. Oh Glenda! Are you and I soul mates or what? This post sounds exactly how I felt for the 2 yrs I spent in Arizona while in Teach For America. The truth is...you and I are outsiders. Not that we have chosen to be, but we have been placed there by society. Sometimes it can be a drag, but we feel the way we do because we are the "talented tenth". We are educated and on the path out of poverty, but still maintain close cultural ties. This is rare. It is easier to forget where you come from and be "white" or "one of them". I'm so glad to know that there is another Latina in the world who feels like I do. I've often had friends who are Latino/a that don't understand why I feel like an outsider....but the truth is that I didn't choose to feel like this, people have made me an outsider and now I champion it. Yes, it gets lonely sometimes, but at least you know that you are maintaining your integrity - something that few people do (even my closest friends who are proud coconuts). I'm proud to call you my fellow Latina, keep doing what you're doing and growing in understanding yourself.


    1. Ces'Ari!! We were meant to cross each others path, so that we could support one another in our paths as Outsiders. I was so grateful to meet you at the Latina Lifestyle Conference and I hope we can continue to stay connected regardless of where the wind takes us! Campeonas Latinas!! :)

  2. LOVE this quote: "The truth is that I have worked very hard to be where I am and sometimes I get exhausted of feeling like an outsider in my own country and in my own life." <---I feel like this ALL the time. The assumptions, the snickers, the behind the scenes talk because I don't "fit" into what a Latina/Married Woman/Entrepreneur/Friend, etc. should live like, look l like, act like, etc. And let's face it: We ALL want to be liked and accepted...but eventually we will all come to terms with this: people will talk, people will do, and people will act based on their "own assumptions about you." The only control you have is "you" - so this is what I do now as much as it stresses me at time: Ignore, retreat into my little hole of happiness, and move on. On a good day, I also have a glass of wine. :)

    1. Thanks! I am really going to try to practice your advice: "The only control you have is "you" - so this is what I do now as much as it stresses me at time: **Ignore, retreat into my little hole of happiness, and move on."**

      Because it is true, I need to spend my energy where it is used best utilized, and trying to control others' assumption of me is working harder, not smarter!

  3. Don't even know where to start.... but ah.... let me give you a short tale on my calfs. When I was the tender age of oh, say six years old, I would wake in the middle of the night to hit my ankles with a frozen spoon. After numerous doctor visits, it was concluded it was all in my head. Resulting in my forcing craps onto my calfs when ever they {my calfs} tell me too. It can happen at any moment, driving, laying down, walking, sitting... curious. I have a feeling it may have something to do with my walking on glass when I was four. Oh well.....

    As to feeling like an outsider, being a sexually open, hispanic with a curious name, illegal alien turned resident, with no religious association, with no knowledge of current te-lie-vision shows, with little to no knowledge of the club scene, etc..... well.... I feel like an outsider at all times. I have the unfortunate lifestyle of being smack in the middle with many things that I can only go so far as to small talking with a given person. I've learned through out the years though, that this puts me at an advantage. It makes me stand out, forcing people to remember me next time around.

    When I was reading this post, I was ready to ask, 'where can i get hooked up!?' As I read further though, I realized your masseuse isn't even in this country.