We were playing pool at our youth center when someone threw me in the bathroom with Shorty. He tried to kiss me. I sunk my nails into his fat lips and twisted them into a fleshy curl about the time the kids unlocked the door.
They all laughed at me, just like when Floyd spread a lie that he had "gotten to me," when all we did was talk. But from then on, guys kept claiming that they had "done" me. Meanwhile, some "good girls" I knew used abortion as birth control and got hickeys on their stomachs when I wouldn't let a guy past my neck.
We had fund-raisers in my barrio to open that Chicano community center among our homes. Having a space of our own kept the youth out of trouble. But the Chicano movement didn't yet have answers for a tall, lanky girl nicknamed "Wanga" (loose). It was always supposed to be our shame, not theirs. But shameful were the guys who named a girl after a lake because they said they all had laid her there. A gang rape perhaps? Whatever ... she wanted it.
I tried different strategies to cope with the lies. Like walking proud down the hall as the guys held up the walls in their teenage fog. And when a guy tried to grab me at a party, I made a loud, cursing scene. Of course, I was the one asked to leave. I was not afraid to hit the guy for his dirty moves, but I had no idea how to confront a whole barrio. I was one girl against my community's deep tendency to judge and gossip (and to judge females, in particular).
To stand in judgment, they must have been taught erroneous views, passing
incorrect beliefs from one generation to the next. Maybe they got their ideas from men like this recent reader who commented on my earlier writings: "Sometimes I think P. Gonzales is glad that she was raped as it has helped tremendously in her career and in advancing her despicable views. ... Is Gonzales the brain behind this while (co-writer Roberto) Rodriguez stands in the background to lend credence to her femi-Nazi agenda?"
I was raised with parental trust, with more liberties and later curfews than most girls. But a girl couldn't have freedom of movement. Just walking around the neighborhood got us branded. Freedom of expression, like speaking my mind
and my flowering independent spirit, was also questioned.
I did date nice guys who respected me, and some even proposed, though I said no 'cause I was going to college to "show them" all. I would prove the power of my life, triumph over small minds.
I didn't know what "patriarchy" was until I started thinking of those guys who held up the walls, spreading poison about girls who were supposed to be good, while boys who were "bad" were considered good enough.
It's the same old stuck record today. Teen theater groups, such as Grupo Animo in San Antonio, have written plays about the topic, and the "George Lopez" show recently did an episode on the lies boys tell. At youth conferences, women tell boys how they ascribe roles of good and bad to girls: "If you are 'down' with la raza, then don't destroy a girl's reputation."
Today, girls take more sexual liberties, though I wouldn't call that real freedom. My woman's liberation was to value my life even when others didn't.
I graduated a virgin and with my self-respect. So did a lot of friends who were not virgins. Girls need to decide for themselves the meaning of honor.
One night, I must have felt there were no words I could say to make these guys respect me. All I could do was know inside of me who I was.
I was in the car with Ralphie, Diana and Mary. Ralphie started putting me down, saying that I would never be a good girl like his girl. He kicked me out of his car at a store parking lot. Mary came with me, crying. I don't think I cried. I wanted to shout at him as I had wanted to so many times, "But I'm a good girl!"
That store and those days are closed. Roberto and I left some flowers there for all the Chicanitas and all those in girl land the world over -- so that good girls don't cry.
COPYRIGHT 2003 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE
Image: Detail from "The Awakening Wolf" by Irene Carranza
Gonzales is the author of The Mud People: Chronicles, Testimonios &
Rembrances ($19.95, Chusma House, ISBN: 1-891823-05-1). It will be released in March, 2003. For ordering info, go to: http://www.chusmahouse.com