A Perfect Schedule

A fellow mommy shared her morning schedule with me as inspiration to keep my New Year resolutions going. Apparently you can only get things done with a tightly regimented, minute-by-minute agenda.

MY MORNING ITINERARY (SUNRISE TO MID-MORNING)

5:10 a.m. Wake up immediately using my 3lb shape-up alarm clock weight. (There’s no snooze button, and you have to do 30 bicep curls for the alarm to stop, how cool is that)?! Leap out of bed into standing position before body has a chance to adjust to gravity. Shake it off if I collapse
5:12 a.m. Boil morning detox (water, ginger, sugar-free candy)
5:21 a.m. Preheat shower
5:22 a.m. Wash hair with homemade tonic (organic castile soap and tree sap from my sycamore)
5:23 a.m. Condition hair with apple cider vinegar. (Possible olive oil or WD40 to remove tree sap)
5:24 a.m. Pre-wash face with steamy towel soaked in chile oil. Opens pores beautifully. Scrub with milk immediately after to stop burning
5:32 a.m. Repeat with body. (Extra time scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays for cellulite removal/thigh resurfacing)
5:35 a.m. Dry off. Moisturize with lard or shortening
5:38 a.m. Brush and floss
5:44 a.m. Prepare  breakfast and lunch for kids. (Organic. Plenty of fiber, greens, and plant-based protein) Smaller portions. It’s good for them to feel a bit hungry.
6:00 a.m. Me time! Read from two books – one classic fiction and one contemporary non-fiction, 19.5 min apiece (although admittedly, I do have the occasional guilty pleasure of researching receipt organization methods
6:40 a.m. Turn on NPR for the kids so they get some news in before they wake up. Lay out two outfit choices for each of them.
6:45 a.m. Switch from NPR to non-threatening rain sounds or white noise to ease kids awake.
6:49 a.m. Stand nearby and be available to help with getting dressed but not intrude so much so that they’re not learning self-sufficiency
7:10 a.m. Walk kids out to bus. While waiting, get their brains going with logic puzzles and passages from the classics (Grendel for the first grader, A Clockwork Orange for the third grader)
7:15 a.m. Breathe a bit! Pin and plan after-school cultural and art activities
7:30 a.m. Ingest breakfast. Usually a spoonful of dry chia or fresh-pressed bark juice from the sycamore
7:35 a.m. Writing time! I like to use inspirational quotes to prompt me. My go-to is Atlas Shrugged
8:40 a.m. Make a to-do list and schedule for the day
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When Tía Wants to Treat You

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About a year ago I signed onto this Latina advice column gig that turned out to be very irregular. I rarely get questions, and no one ever really reads it but thought some of you might find it helpful.

Dear Amelia:
Please help! My tía [aunt] never lets me pay for myself when we eat out together. It’s frustrating, and I’d like to treat her for once. My family is very generous, and it’s considered polite to insist on paying. How do I tactfully get her to let me be an adult for once?       
Sincerely,
Freeloader

Dear Freeloader:

This is a tricky one. tías are very very insistent. While your average person might go through a single round of “​Oh no​” and “​I insist​, tías will insist to the death.

And that’s what you must remember. When you meet your tía for a meal not resigning to let her pay, you’ve accepted a duel.

This isn’t an exaggeration. She’ll use every available tactic to pay and preserve her honor. Your chances of victory are slim. The best advice I can give would be to surrender and let her pay while you give a defeated “​okay…but next time​….”, feeling like a sullen teen. Should you decide that your pride and adulthood is truly at stake, I can only offer these pointers.

Your sweet tía  is now your enemy. And the enemy won’t mention paying beforehand. You’ll both talk in general terms about “meeting up” for lunch to catch up. She may even throw in a seemingly unrelated story about her high medical bills to throw you off right before begging to see you sometime soon. But it’s all in the name of surprise, the first rule of dueling… Although in fact, it seems that there’s almost no surprise at all in a duel, because you literally count out how many steps you take from each other, then turn and immediately shoot, but I digress.

She’ll likely stay tight-lipped until you’re sitting face to face and have just talked for forty five minutes about who is dying, who’s dead, and which one of your cousins is “​shacking up​”  or “living in sin”. Then, with a seemingly selfless tone, it comes.

“​Mija, let me get this one.​”

When you politely decline and take out your wallet, she’ll up the ante.

“​Excuse me, but I never get to see my niece anymore. I’ve had a hard day pushing your ungrateful grandmother up a steep hill in her wheelchair with my bad hip, can I please buy you a meal?​”

Take a breath. Hold her gaze for a bit while you calculate your next move. Don’t be scared to use her own fear against her.

“​Tía, I want to. We might not get another chance to get together, what with you being old and your hip and all. I’m always scared this will be the last time I see you​.”

Dab the sweat from your brow. That was a good one. Some tías will even stop there and let you pay. Every now and then, though, there’s a certain breed with a steel streak who won’t stand down. If your aunt is this type, feign defeat and let her pay. Don’t worry, we’re not through. Enjoy the meal and take some pics of you together. She’ll beam thinking she’s won, but you know better. Part ways, and let time pass. About a week.

Break into ol’ Cotton Top’s house and PUT the money there. Not when she’s asleep. She’s still a woman with an instinct to defend her dwelling to the death. The last thing you need is some blunt force trauma to the head. She’ll also probably tuck the cash into your pocket right before they bury your body, and that’s the worst way to lose this battle.

Choose a time you know she’s out getting her senior­ discount coffee or whatever aunts do when they’re not paying for meals. I won’t go into breaking and entering etiquette here, but just make sure to put it somewhere that’ll blow her mind. Inside a flour cannister or something. And have fun with it! Maybe include a Denny’s gift certificate, even. And one of the pics you took during lunch, that way she knows you’ve had the last word.

Relish in your victory. You’re now a felon.

But you’re a felon whose retained her dignity and beat the mastermind at her own game, bravo.

Networking

A thank-you letter from me to a photographer for a recent shoot I modeled on.

Dan,

Many thanks to you and your team for a great shoot last week. I had an enjoyable time despite being released one hour in for my “creepy lazy eye.” The bagels were bomb.

Your producer, Lisa, apologized profusely and suggested that I get my “thingy” fixed if I wanted to book more jobs in the future. “Disfigurements aren’t BAD, but they’re always taken into account during casting, you know?” When I left, you were busy discussing with your assistant where to put your kneeling pad, but I wanted to say I fully understand why my eye would’ve been a blaring sore for your office stock photography. Everyone’s there looking sleek, clustered in a group, arms folded, leaning toward the camera and smirking, “Yes, we ARE youth and success.” And there’s the wonky-eyed brown girl in the background, killing the buzz.

I do hope you’ll reconsider working with me on future shoots, as I’m getting vision therapy to hopefully rid myself of the lop-eye. If that doesn’t work, I can get surgery or wear special glasses to hide the monstrosity. I’ll drop like three to four grand, but it’s totally worth it if I can just book again with you and upgrade to “cute-but-not-skinny-enough-to-be-hot, ethnically ambiguous, late 20-something.” And everyone who’s always told me, “You should fix it, you’re soooo pretty” and “oh, it’s not even noticeable” will sigh with relief.

Because apparently us cockeyeds really freak people out. And we can’t fall in love or go through the human experience like all you forward-facers.  Although for some strange reason, I appear to be a sought after hottie as evidenced by my THIRTY-NINE tinder matches. In PMs there, my face has been described as “gorgeous” and “too cute.” One match went even further, describing my eye in particular as “endearing” and “soooo hot, bb.”

I know it feels awkward to some people to have to look at my face and think, “Is she looking at me or over there? Wow it wanders so much. Which eye should I look at? Jesus, she’s like one huge wandering eyeball.” Nobody should have to go through that, and you have my sincere apologies. In fact, if you like, I can take a melon baller and just scoop my entire eye out along with my faulty optic nerve and serve it to you on a platter. Perhaps that would be best.

Thanks again for your time. Looking forward to future collaboration!

Best,
Amelia

A Starting Point

I just vomited all over an opportunity.

A few nights ago, I’m bedding down my five-year old and get a call from my friend, Jenna. She says she can put my name in the hat for a Writer’s Assistant job on a web series with a notable director.

“It doesn’t pay much, but it’s a good in.”

I’m hesitant to take on anything with long hours. I’m a single mom, and we don’t have family in L.A., just my friend, Autumn ;who watches Henry for me.

“I know you were wanting to work. Can’t hurt to try.”

It’s true. I’ve been writing again after a long….break, we’ll say. It feels great, sitting in crowded coffee shops with other writers, everyone spending hours on specs and pilots that may never get produced. Or maybe they’re actually working, and I’m the only wannabe. Whatever. It makes me happy.

“Yeah, I’m just worried about Henry…”

He lies awake in our bed, watching me, his eyes big like a marsupial. Jenna goes on about how I’ll probably feel better once I just get out from “sitting around the house all day.”

Henry starts to fake snore, his eyes still wide open. I’m annoyed Jenna sees him as some little parasite, also feeling guilty that spending all my time with this exuberant little person isn’t enough for me to feel whole. Because my Mexican-American upbringing tells me it should.

Jenna says to read the first episode.

“Don’t do it unless you absolutely love it.”

So fine. I have her email me it to me, she gets me an interview. I remind myself of all the single mothers who make things like this work all the time and even get pretty excited.

Then I read through the script.

It’s basically 27 pages of sexism topped with racism, sprinkled with ableism. Like, that shit failed the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests on the title page or something.

Before I can let out an exaggerated sigh, my mom calls to tell me about the huge storage containers she found at “The Giveaway Store”, her name for the area next to the dumpster at my parents’ complex. (Seriously, it’s (yielded some great finds)). “It’s hard to believe a body can fit in one of those”, she reflects. Mom watches a lot of crime reenactment shows.

I discuss the opportunity and how I hate the script, the female protagonist is pretty dippy for someone who’s supposed to hold a doctorate, etc.

“Oh I know! Like on SNAPPED, they’ll find the husband’s body cut into pieces and packed with bricks in one of those tupperware containers, it washes up. And then they get footage from Home Depot. Like the day before, okay. And the wife is there buying THE SAME container! How stupid can you be?

I steer things back and lay my worries on mom. Who’s going to make sure Henry eats a healthy, fibrous, but yummy homemade dinner, etc?

“Well you’re out there no matter what, it’s going to be hard now or later. Put on those running shoes, sister!”

Sister is one of my mom’s beloved terms, like ‘ass from hell’, ‘Lord and behold,” and “manos de mierda.”

Fuck it. I do the interview.
Paul is a tall, skinny dude and actually pretty unassuming. In fact, before he opens his mouth and speaks, I’m surprised this unpretentious looking guy could write such a piece of destructive shit. That doesn’t last.

“So, you’re Persian?”
“Um….Mexican-”
“Really, but something else too, right?”
“Nope…..just Mexican.”

We go over my resume and (slightly exaggerated) experience before he drops the bomb and asks what I think of the script (don’t ask me why this is the bomb and not the fact that he asked my ethnicity and then demeaned it at the start of a job interview).

I tell him I think it’d be challenging to write a female through a male gaze. Paul’s mind is boggled.

“You think it doesn’t look like a woman’s perspective or….?”
I indicate to him,
“Well, I mean it’s not, right? Ultimately.”
“There Are tons of female characters in this.”

I explain that this is true, but the male characters always have the last word. And the leading man behaves terribly toward the women.

“Oh it’s fine though, he’s supposed to be a pig. All the characters refer to him as one.”
“Exactly, they write it off, he’s not responsible for anything. Same with all those racist remarks, no one ever undercuts them……and the no sex thing.”

If I failed to mention before, the entire premise of this thing is that this woman refuses to just ya know live life and get laid. Her husband’s been dead for an entire four months, after all. She slowly starts to go insane, grow old, and her limbs fall off. Like over the course of several months. But if she would just have sex, everything would fall into place for her, and she’d be this sex-positive, neofeminist, which I don’t even know if that’s a thing.

UPDATE: It is, but this protagonist does NOT embody that ideology.

Oh. and her “dangerous, sexually adventurous, “seductress-in-the-making” fifteen year-old niece moves in with her and keeps “snagging” all her would-be possibilities.. While the woman’s limbs fall off. I take issue with the calling a child sexually adventurous part.

“You’re reading it wrong. I think you’re going into it with a certain notion looking for something-”
“I’m just interpreting what I see on the page, I know how to read a script-”
“Whoa, didn’t say you can’t. But that’s just one little phrase we’re talking about. Two words.”
“Yes, surrounded by other words…in the context of all the other things-”
”Okay, calm down, don’t get all pissed.”

Mind you I’m not yelling or anything, my tone is deliberately measured while I stifle my anger with everything I’ve got. We continue back and forth until I blurt out:

“Because it’s bad writing! All the characters are based on abstractions, none of these women ever know what to say. Every scene ends with one of them standing there slack-jawed without a retort or a thought in her brain. Because YOU don’t have a retort. You don’t have a thought in your brain, so you shut us up, lock us in your cage of silence, and make us your pretty little playthings. I am not your plaything.”

You’d think that the guy would end the meeting there, but for some God-awful reason it continues for several more minutes with discussions of availability and hours (I need to have all of them open). It’s grating.

THEN I get an email from a PA that afternoon thanking me, saying that Paul thought we got off to a “kinda intense but actually dynamic start, and I seem “sharp and passionate.” He’s offering me the job.

And while I know that there are plenty of people who would love the opportunity for this kind of gig, I can’t stand the thought of taking notes and typing scripts for that guy.

So I’ve just sent a polite email declining and written this post instead.

I’m simply going to have to do my own thing as my motherhood, principles, and ego dictate. Not focus my energies on work I couldn’t even stand to sit and watch, while I miss my child terribly and battle guilt stemming from an antiquated (but not altogether wrong) view of motherhood. Because there has to be a way for me to combine all these things and balance my roles.

Because I can’t just shut the fuck up.