In high school, getting my hands on a much coveted pair of Guess jeans (or Reebok sneakers, Swatch watch, Billabong shirt, or any brand name item) proved to be slightly harder than I had anticipated.
We were not poor, but my mother did not see the need to purchase anything she could very well make. And much to my teenage misfortune, after taking courses on everything from “How to knit a Macrame Owl” to “How to make a metal carved jewel encrusted shrine for the Virgin Mary” she was capable of making anything, and I mean anything.
“Want a pair of those cool gleaming white Keds all the kids are wearing? No need to buy a pair! After a thick coat of some of this white house paint, no one will be able to tell this is actually an old pair of blue Bata’s” – Her words made me tremble in terror and provided me with an impending sense of dread. I knew what was coming, another public embarrassment. I had a sneaky suspicion that her hand-crafted items would have the opposite effect to what I desired, they would not make me more popular, but even less so.
Ocean Pacific shirts were not worth their cost either. She once grabbed an old shirt that she had misguidedly purchased for me on one of her trips to the fish market (Yes, they did sell shirts there, I guess in case you were shopping for fresh fish and some of it’s juices/ blood got on the shirt you were wearing) and proceeded to embroider the O.P. initials on it.
I loved her too much to tell her I wouldn’t show up in school sporting the sneakers she had so carefully painted for me, or wearing that enormous scrunchy she made me out of the fabric from her old pajamas, or play Volleyball with the old deflated Soccer ball our neighbor’s kids had abandoned years ago and that she also painted white (With the same paint she used for the facade of our home and my sneakers) My love for her wasn’t the only reason I rarely protested though, somewhere deep down I believed as much as her that all the hand-made-brand-name items that she had crafted for me, would make me fit in and my classmates would open their eyes to finally see me for the cool kid I really was and not for the weirdo they had mistaken me for.
She was good at sewing, embroidering, metal work, welding, cooking, plumbing, painting, sculpting, knitting and everything in between; there was nothing she couldn’t make. She made my prom dress, my pencil case (not a fabric one either, but one of those plastic ones that closed with a magnet and opened on both sides) She made me a toy T.V out of a scroll of printer paper and a cardboard milk box. She made me clothes, birthday cakes, piñatas, sports equipment, electronics, and beauty products. I constantly asked myself why she couldn’t be like the other normal mothers who had real jobs and were too busy to pay attention to their offspring and had no ability or desire to sculpt clay figures of the entire Smurf village for their children.
My material demands started early as a child. Amongst the things I demanded–before becoming a teenager and brand-name clothing became my priority–were a chemistry set, (to create mini home explosions) a microscope (to observe the insects I captured in our garden), and most of all, a Barbie doll along with her very own Dream House, Malibu home and a pink Corvette convertible where she would parade around town to show off her hot boyfriend, Ken.
I never got the chemistry set or microscope, and instead of the blonde long haired Barbie that I had hoped for, I inherited my mother’s Barbie, a 60’s version that was missing half a leg, had short thick brown hair and way too much eyeliner.
Along with Barbie I also inherited Barbie’s little sister, Skipper, whom I was suspicious of from the beginning as she didn’t seem to belong in the Barbie family. She wasn’t like Barbie, she wasn’t hot or had a tiny waist, she wasn’t wearing any makeup and had an innocent rosy cheeked complexion that made her appear to be more appropriately suited for the Ingalls Family rather than the dysfunctional and sexually charged environment I had created at the Barbie Manor.
Thanks to my mom’s abilities, Casa Barbie was constructed out of an old wooden kitchen cabinet that she had set apart when our kitchen was being remodeled (due to extreme erosion and moth infestation) to be Barbie’s future condo. The cabinet’s two inner shelves would serve as the upper and lower levels of the duplex, both of which my mom carpeted, wallpapered and furnished.
Barbie (or Maria-Barbara Velarde Fuentemayor Torrejon as I liked to call her in order to make sure everyone knew she was a rich girl) and young innocent Skipper were not enough for the kind of play I had in mind though, I needed a male figure to create some sexual tension, one that Barbie could slap across the face and pretend she didn’t wanna have sex with, so he could–after much struggle–grab her by the hair (which was not as steamy with a short brown haircut) and force her to kiss him passionately until she succumbed with desire and allowed him to rub their plastic imaginary genitals together.
I received Barbie’s new mate for Christmas–not Ken but Klen, a bootleg reject my aunt had purchased from the returned items bin that featured some massive bite marks which led me to conclude that the previous owner had Rabies.
I had to make due with what I had, so I used Klen’s bite marks as part of my rough sex story line and made 60’s Barbie and 80’s Klen enact all the romantic fantasies that I had conceived by watching Mexican soaps and peaking through my dad’s Manga porn collection.
I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not, of whether I was the luckiest or unluckiest kid in school and I often ask myself who would I be today had I owned blonde Barbie, a real pair of Guess jeans or that chemistry set I so longed to use to make my own little bombs.