Perched regally in my booster chair and resplendent in my tutu, I was almighty. I gazed upon my kingdom. What I saw pleased me: potted herbs and a mini-mist bottle on the kitchen windowsill. The shiny copper canister that I knew held a spoon embedded in sugar. The steam puffs that rose from the pot awaiting the pasta my mother measured. I determined my menu by pointing or wrinkling my nose. I stomped my foot at the playground or at home after dinner to make clear “No!” it was not time to return home nor time for beddie-bye.
I was royalty – and at age four, the obligations of my exalted status wearied me. I was a little princess, always reminded that I would one day be a señorita. My physical activity caused the adults great concern. Scraped knees would scar and mar my legs that would be bared by the skirts required of a señorita.
Don’t you want to have pretty legs?
Little princesses had to be still while Kiddie Kit hair relaxer was applied: the potion that smoothed kinkies also burned small ears.
Don’t you want to have pretty hair?
I did not want to waste time waiting to wear short skirts. Or to become a señorita. Or preparing to be pretty for a boy.
I wanted to be a boy.
I had observed boy behavior. I watched television. I did not want Cindy Brady’s smooth and shiny pigtails nor her fragile lisp nor her pouffed skirts. I coveted everything her brother Bobby did. His hours were spent climbing trees, collecting scars that would make him tough, getting dirty playing outside. A boy could play rough, throw sticks at kids who took too long on the swings, and ride a red Big Wheel instead of a pink tricycle with a flowered basket.
I stopped wearing shirts. Boys could walk around topless. My torso was flat and smooth, just like my cousins Julio and Wilfredo. Mami and Papi and my tios and tias rolled their eyes whenever they saw me. I was malcriada and spoiled, and going through a phase.
“You won’t be able to do that when you’re una señorita,” Tia Mona reminded me.
“I never want to be a señorita.”
Julio and Wilfredo laughed at me, called me stupida because it was inevitable: I would grow up and become a señorita.
“You’ll have tetas, maybe bigger than Tio Carlos!”
They always laughed harder and tried to pinch my nipples. The boys stopped laughing the day I bit Wilfredo’s nipple. He screamed but I did not let go until the adults pulled us apart.
“¡Malcriada! Niña mala.”
The boys stood behind the adults who scolded me. The snot flowed from Wilfredo’s nose and sprayed from his whimpering pout. Julio made faces at me and mouthed the adults’ admonishments. Rage throbbed in my ears. I could not make the adults nor the boys stop. A stomp or a shriek would not have served me in that situation. I had lost what little power I’d had and what little power I saw in the years ahead, years of waiting and remembering that boy blood tastes just like mine.
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