Monday, October 1, 2012

The Two Glendas

One of my all time favorite paintings is Frida Kahlo’s The Two Fridas. It isn’t until now that I truly ponder on the significance of this painting.  In my heart, I knew that Kahlo was illustrating having one’s identity being split in two. You see one Frida wearing typical Mexican clothing and the other Frida wearing traditional Spanish clothing.

Now that I am preparing to readjust back into American life, I am really understanding the emotions behind this painting. For the last year, I have been playing the teacher role and wearing outfits that made me feel and look the part. I often caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought to myself, “who is that?”

I joke around with friends back home and say that, in the last year, I have been living the life of a 50-year-old Thai woman. She doesn’t laugh whole-heartedly, she  follows hierarchical structures (of age and socio-economic status), and only shares appropriate stories of herself. I find myself missing wearing short skirts, shorts, v-neck shirts,  and many pieces of clothing or accessories that would not be deemed socially acceptable for a 50-year-old Thai woman (or middle-class 20 year old). Side note: From my observations, lower income women have a lot more freedom in their wardrobe, mannerisms, and social life in general. Unlike, my middle-class (same aged) friends who hide their boyfriends, wear long sleeve shirts in 100 degree weather, and never contradict their elders.

After many years of playing the role of a Guatemalan-American ambassador, outcast, brave adventurer, and pioneer-- I wonder why this addition to my identity archive is causing me so much uneasiness. As a Latina, my identity has always felt naturally divided; There was always a choice to be made with my identity. Choice has never been a burden to me, but more of a natural birthright. Now, I am forced to pack my life into two suitcases and decide what I want to toss or take with me, while also determining what traits of my most recent role I want to get rid of or retain.

My identity has been put to question for the entirety of this year, but it isn’t until now that I am truly facing the significance of living in a country with a culture a lot different from mine. I am no longer a recent college graduate or that young woman looking to set out into the world in the search for adventure and the significance of her existence. Now I am a woman who is trying to leave a footprint in this world and trying to figure out the best way to do so. 

I know that I want to laugh in public with gusto and without reservations. I know that I want to wear whatever my heart desires without fearing that it is going to determine my moral and or social stance.  Los Angeles, CA will provide me with a lot of liberties, including reverting back to being a mid-twenties woman looking to live loudly.

I am looking forward to the day when things are settled and traits from my Teacher Glenda role have dissipated or materialized. A part of me wants to switch off my emotions and mind until I settled back in America with a good idea of what the next few years will look like, but I know in my heart that these experiences are what shape a strong and independent character.

Lots of love,
The Two Glendas

Photo collage of The Two Glendas

The backdrop picture in my good-bye party. "Glendas," even this acknowledged the two of us trying to co-exist. Also "Glendas" is a nickname used by many of my friends who know of the story of my birthday cake type-O.