Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Defense Of My Immigrant Bosom

I have never had to consider my breasts as much as I do now that I live in New York. Never before did I have to stop and reconsider the socio - political implications of my breasts and their presence. This is something I was not prepared for, after all this is the land from whence such bosomic (bosomal?) range covers burning the bra and the Victoria's Secret fashion show. How would I ever come to expect that these breastal celebrations were approached with a double standard, primarily protected by women who call themselves feminists.

It seems America has a problem with my breasts, and I take great offense at this. We'll have you know, we are quite a formidable team. My breasts and I have forged into hostile boardrooms of anglo expat males in Asia who needed ME to convince THEM that I was the expert on Asian women's motivations in the beauty business and not them. My breasts and I have dealt with female health issues which most likely impede my ability to bear children or nurse my own offspring. Flanked by fellow women warriors and their breasts, my breasts and I have ousted a dictator to install a female president. We have conquered male dominated corporate scenarios, have built a successful career that traverses three continents, and have made it in the mythical city where, if you make it there chances are you will make it anywhere.

I am not alone, either. America has a problem with your breasts, too. Yes, you with your tetas, pecho, your suso, du sein, matiti. What else would explain the way women in America scoff at the sight of another woman breastfeeding in public? Or America's antagonistic relationship with your nipples, when they have the gall to show through your clothes? Or their condescending attitude towards cleavage, as if its mere presence ruins all chances that people would take seriously any woman in proud possession of one.

Well, my bosom and I will no longer take this nonsense. We will no longer silently bear your judgment or coddle you through your bosom hang-ups. We will stand proud and strong, all supple and fleshy as the female design. With confident swagger and sensuality, we celebrate fellow warrior women and remember those lost to diseases that attack our woman parts. With eloquent grace, we will speak with authority and will be taken seriously even by those we make uncomfortable.

Breasts of America and the women who bear them, we come in peace. We love our breasts and love yours too. One day we will shimmy together in unity.  But until then, we will have to agree to disagree.

Just because you have issues with your breasts doesn't mean I am going to start developing issues with mine.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love, Sex and The Spaces in Between

Yes, they're real and yes, they're mine.
"Are you polyamorous?" asked the beautiful black woman in braids at the after party in SoHo. Long thoughtful pause. "I guess I can't be, since I'm not sure I know what the word means."

This was my first Sex and the City-esque experience as a New York resident. The simple exchange is layered with commentary about me and especially about America. Where I am from, there isn't a lot of sex talking. This is not to be mistaken for a lack of sex, indeed people enjoy healthy sex lives. It's just not something most people casually, openly discuss. We're more a doing kind of culture than talk-about-doing. More feeling and vibing, our communication is often more about what isn't said, the meaning between the words, the subtleties of timbre and lilt, of eyebrow raise and lip purse.

America is different. In America, there is a rational and almost blunt word for most everything because it is a culture that processes with head more than with heart. This makes the language of American seduction as simple as it is complicated. In its directness, it can sometimes feel blunt and rather un-sexy.  Consider the action word - the Americans say pick up and the British use the word pull.  One pursues and the other invites pursuit. You see, when it comes to sex and seduction, I come from the philosophy of the pull, clearly I am sexing and seducing in the wrong language!

Years after that first conversation with Tara I don't think I'm any better at speaking America's seduction but I understand it better. I appreciate how they make room for different lifestyles and ways. I like that their language fuels tolerance by creating words that potentially lead to acceptance which eventually brings about understanding. I also know now more than ever the importance and yes, the sexiness of the things we can never pin down to a single word.

So here's the thing, me and my tribe are making America sexier. We come with our sensuality and our brand of loving to challenge the American pick up and luxuriate it with a double shot of the pull. We color the way America loves with alba, amor, cariño, alab, init and so much more. You will love us, we will seduce you,  you won't have to narrow it all down into a single word and yes, it will be sexy. It already is.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Places We Belong To

Have you wondered about your own sense of place? Why some places just feel right and others, well they just make you feel so out of place. As much as we like to think we are in the driver's seat charting out the flight path, I have come to think that places choose us. What else could possibly explain feeling a sense of belonging to a place that has no connection to your past, knows nothing of your people's history? How else does it happen that you walk into a room of strangers and instantly recognize that you are among your tribe?

Life in America is complex, it is also richly rewarding. Living here will reveal facets of yourself you had not known before, skills and smarts you did not know you had in you. Whatever innocence you came with will be tested. You will question the stuff you're made of. You will find that you are made of better stuff than you thought. Because America continues to make room for us and all we are, in enough time we begin to belong to America. And in enough time, America begins to belong to us.

We come from all parts of the world with our rich flavors and cultures that challenge America to grow, to make room. We warm America's heart with our affection and fire up her belly with our convictions. America chose us so she can love better, eat better, see better. She wants her language to evolve, she wants to broaden her thinking. We answer to many names and love in many tongues. We can spot each other anywhere. We are America's chosen ones.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Dare You to Call Me This

Living in New York NY and spending a lot of time in Taos NM you realize quickly you aren't really living in America. Perhaps this is why I love these places so, why my heart reverberates with feelings of home and why my creativity is fired up and turned on. I could only ever live in places where people are simply, wonderfully people. This is the tribe I identify with, we know our kind and we gather 'round. There is no us vs. them, and if these lines exist within this cities, I don't know those parts.

It is difficult to fathom why all these man made lines that get drawn between people still exist in today's world, but they do. Who made anyone the line-drawing police, anyway? What puts anyone in the position to say who is better and who is worse? First come the lines then come the labels. Who comes up with all this? Who tells children not to call each other names then turns around and with concepts so absurd, like fagot, nigger, godless.

The biggest bigotry is to assume oneself superior, to draw a line between oneself and those deemed lesser. To this, I say call me fagot, nigger, immigrant, sinner, whore, weak, illicit, extraneous. I dare you to call me all these words, call me and my tribe of fagoted nigger immigrant sinner whores who know hard work and rich culture, and pray to gods who see only our divinity. Call me and my tribe all this to our patchwork faces of culture and color. Call me this so I can say, as all Gods surely did...'eat my fagoted nigger sinful immigrant dust.'

I dare you to call me your bigoted labels

Saturday, December 4, 2010

They Call Me

They call me Beautiful, these ethnic men of New York City
We all own these  streets, we walk them strongly as immigrants do
each stride a love letter to our homelands, they recognize my cadence
A glimmer of home in a land so different so far away from the lush greenery
from the salsa, the creole, the harana, the movida, the rasta
They see all this in the swish of my skirt and the supple thigh peeking through there
They see their sunsets in my smile and smell ocean breezes in my skin
and this, all this in a flash turns them on, and I like it

They call me Gorgeous, these men and their fancy drinks in the Lower East side
all wielding their weapons on this sultry spring night, it is on
the wit, the strong brow, the expense account, the accent, the worldliness
How many times have we played this game in our lifetime? And still we play
We all want the same thing after all, crave affection masked by line after line
We all want the same thing after all, ache to be seen in the smokiness of it all
So we give some if it away, some kindness, some truth, something of the heart
And this is where the spark happens, the hooking up, the possibility of sex

They call me Angel, the ones I take to my bed, these lovers in progress
Games well played, lies well told it is all naked now and bare
it is after the sex that they see the angelic in me, only after the sex
it is after the sex that I see the real man, spent and softened, sweaty
he paints pictures of home on the scar beneath my navel
I breathe fables and folklore into the spaces between his ribs
It is only after the sex that we can touch each other like so
It is not for everyone, this honesty, this sweetness that burns

Monday, October 25, 2010

Remembering Patricia

Today I remember and honor a dear girlfriend, Patricia. She and I share more than the same first name. We met when we were eleven, and over the years and the many adventures of growing up formed the kind of friendship that comes once in a lifetime as you grow together.

Today, October 25th is Pat's birthday.

The summer after we finished college, as we were about to turn 21  we lost her to a tragic scuba accident. She would have turned 40 this year. I think about her often, and when I do I get chills down my spine. It is unfathomable that someone so young could die like that. We will never understand how or why. We are forever changed by her life and her death.

Not a lot of people will appreciate how profoundly this is affecting my thoughts today, this big milestone that will never happen...but Pat would want me to see the upside to her story.  She would want me to focus on how precious people are, how important girlfriends are. On the anniversary of her death, as she did in life, Pat is reminding me.

I am reminded to be grateful. I am reminded to tell you that I love you. I am reminded to say sorry. I am reminded at how much joy friendship can bring. I am reminded to sing, as the Golden Girls suggested, thank you for being a friend.

In honor of Pat, I am wearing a mini skirt despite the fall weather - it was one of her signatures. That and her contagious laughter.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Plan or Not to Overplan, That is The Question

Freedom of voice and freedom of choice are big themes in life anywhere. Here in America, they are imperative. Especially here in New York, where being a Type A person is a point of pride (necessity even) the themes of choice, freedom and control are safeguarded the way virgins of old guarded the maidenhead.

I admit, I’ve been that girl on occasion. I have a pair of those shoes, the Type A, scheduled and planned pair of shoes. We all know the shoes, and the girl who wears them so well. I’ve been her. The one who’s on the treadmill at 6:30, working with a trainer at 7, networking at a Park Avenue café by 8:30, juggling two consulting clients between 9:30 and 7 then meeting my beau at a Bowery Poetry Club reading featuring Yusef Komunyakaa. This New Yorkified version of me pops out at the occasional weekend too – out of bed by 8, coffee then a shower (yes, I take a shower before going to the gym!), a bit of cardio then yoga at 10, brunch with girlfriends, a bit of work on the non profit, cocktails with girlfriends then a late movie with my beau.

That pair of shoes, that girl – they’re fun and have a place in my world. But they aren’t my favorites. Yes, I cherish my independence and freedoms. Yes I am a strategist after all, so I like a good solid, well thought-through plan. Yes, I play out scenarios and prepare for a range of possible outcomes. But I also like to let the angels and the cosmos work their magic. Let the moon and the stars shape the fates. I like to hope, to try and read the signs.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in New York or anywhere for that matter who has some of that laissez-faire. The one who lets the traffic light changes get her from the Meat Packing District to Gramercy Park. The one who falls in love with shoes she can’t afford and says to them, “if you’re still here in 2 weeks then we were meant to be together.” The one who gets pangs of childlike wonder at the first star and makes that wish while whispering with eyes closed “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might have this wish I wish tonight.”

There is a sense of freedom to be found in letting go, trusting yourself and your own raw instincts; in giving in to a sense of the divine and magical; in spontaneity rooted in joie de vivre. Whoever said life was what happens when you’re busy making plans must have been some kind of prophet. My own life is a series of unplanned ‘that’s exactly what I needed’ occurrences from the beginning. I’m a honeymoon baby, I could not have come at the worse time. My parents got married in December and left for the US the summer that followed because Papa was starting his post-grad studies. Yes, I was smuggled into the country! When I was eleven I was accepted to an exclusive high school for the gifted which would have been the perfect plan for me, but I was uncomfortable with the idea and stayed in my school where I made some of my best girlfriends. I accidentally got into my career simply by being at the right place at the right time and asking the right questions. The list goes on.

So here’s the question, how much planning and scheduling is too much? When does planning the life get in the way of living the life? I am no less ambitious or driven than your textbook type A person, but I cannot spend my life planning my life either. What type does that make me, I wonder? I am clearly not a pure-blooded A, in the first place my blood type is AB. AB, what could that mean? What type could that make me? I checked online for possibilities, and found a good one: Aurora Borealis, the northern lights named for the Roman goddess of dawn and the Greek name for north wind. I like that, possibility and direction working in harmony. It sounds more like me, and you know what – I think I can even find the perfect shoe to match that vibe. Hmmm…I think I can sneak in a shoe shop between brunch and yoga tomorrow!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Single Girl

I admit, I am a big fan of chick-lit. I have been for quite some time now, and I know exactly when it started. Mama first introduced me to Alice and when I looked through the looking glass, I found a world of wonder within myself. I have ventured into so many worlds since meeting Alice through girls like Nancy Drew and Amelia Jane, to Jane Austen’s Emma and sisters Dashwood and Bennet. As a grown woman, I have taken great pleasure diving into the world of Bridget Jones and finding as much in similar as I did different. The female experience is made of the same parts, now matter which part of the world you are going through it. On many occasions, stressful business trips were countered with the light touch of Jane Green and her animated women like Jemima J. I think my copy of that book is still at the Grand Hyatt Taipei, where I was a frequent visitor from 2003-2006!

I adored all these characters and the colorful, insightful experiences I vicariously lived through their stories, but there is one thing I do not share with them – I LOVE being a ‘single girl!’ To this day, six years into this relationship my beau and I still feel very much ‘single’ as we do together. There are parts of my single living that I would never give up, there is nothing I want to do now that I feel I cannot do because I am a dynamic, loving, monogamous relationship. In the last few months of my thirties, the thought occurs to me – perhaps I am The Last Single Girl. I am reminded of ‘Sex and the City’ and Carrie Bradshaw’s love affair with the gorgeous Aidan. Perhaps it wasn’t commitment she feared at all, but the death of her single girl.

This provokes the ultimate question, doesn’t it? Can a woman in a committed, monogamous relationship still lay claim to being a single girl? What about a married woman? Does sharing your life with someone mean the death of your single girl. We all recognize her, our single girl. She’s that girl who loves her independence and freedom as much as she loves the teamwork and sharing of her relationship. Over the past fifteen years I have happily witnessed my dearest friends finding love and marriage, building families and homes. I have cried happy tears for new loves, and bitter ones for the break ups. I have loved men, lost men, lusted men. I fell in love and continue falling a little bit everyday for the man in my life. And this heart that loves, it’s the heart of a single girl.

Is this a new brand of spinsterhood? The new twist to the proverbial old maid? Is the unmarried almost-forty of 2010 the re-branding and celebration of The Single Girl? Why can’t each one of us be that strong woman who loves herself as much as her beloved? Why does one’s personal ambition have to be at odds with shared dreams and a tandem adventure of discovery?

This year, I enter my forties still a single girl at heart. I suspect I might be the last single girl in my circle of women, and you know what…this makes me ever so slightly smug. But just a bit, until I realize that there are many sisters of my kind out there, strutting their stilettos. And thank the gods for that!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm in New York (And) But My Heart is in Many Places

If home is where the heart is, then I am either the luckiest person on earth or the most confused. I now live in New York, but my heart is in so many places. Let me attempt to trace the many pieces of my ever growing, ever breaking heart.

I was born in the US to parents who smuggled me into this country in a baby bump concealed under the babydoll mod fashion of the era on a Pan Am flight. They came here because Papa was doing his post-grad studies at SUNY. Part of your heart must stay in the place of your birth because for as far back as I can remember, I had a sense that one day I would live in New York City. And I did. New York City is a city that constantly surprises and frustrates. It is here that I discovered the kind of American I am. I voted in the country's most historical election here. Nave and I deepened our relationship here. I found the courage and smarts to venture into independent consultancy here. It must be said, I found my stride and strut in this city. There is lots to love about New York City and what it has done for me.

Most of my growing up was spent in Manila, the amazing, frustrating, confusing, charming city where most of the people I love still live. It is unquestionably the keeper of most of my heart. Once you live and love Manila you will keep coming back. A song by the 70's pop group 'Hotdog' sings it best when they say 'Manila...I keep coming back to Manila...Simply no place like Manila...I've walked the streets of San Francisco, I've tried the rides in Disneyland...Take me back in your arms Manila, And promise me you'll never let go. Promise me you'll never let go.' Both of my parents are back in Manila, both my brother and sister are now back in Manila and my gorgeous nephews Gael and Aiden now live there. Manila definitely has a big piece of my heart.

It was actually Gael and Aiden who first introduced me to the sweet side of heartbreak and heartache. From the time they first came into my world, I have felt my heart growing to make room for the growing love I feel for them. The only way I can imagine this happening is that my heart breaks a little as it makes room. In this sense, heartbreak becomes quite a beautiful thing.

My nephews were born in Barcelona, which is also the place my father's family is originally from. My sister, Rone and her husband, Paco lived in Barcelona for many years and I have many fond memories of the place. Barcelona definitely has a piece of my heart. It is the city that brought me Gael and Aiden, the absolute center of my universe. The word 'love' comes nowhere near estimating what happens in my heart when I think of these two boys.

While my brother spent some years in Barcelona, it is London where I reconnected with him. He transitioned into manhood in London, and I had the good fortune of getting acquainted to him as an adult in London. You see, he is ten years younger than me and so to my eyes he was always my baby brother before. But life works in magical ways, and my first client when I shifted from full time employment to independent consulting was a London based Marketing Innovation firm. I found myself in London almost every six weeks, and I stayed there for long periods of time. I will always be thankful to London because of the magical time I spent in which I learned to say goodbye to the baby brother and embrace the man that is Enrique Valles.

On one of these business trips to London, I took a side trip to Paris that changed the shape of my heart. I went to spend Easter with a fast friend, Lindsey. On that trip, we conceived of a dream which has now come true. Lindsey and I run a non-profit called The Women's Worldwide Web ( which is the best of heart and the best of advocacy. It is the dream work situation and I can gush about this forever. But that's the subject of another post (watch this space). Paris definitely holds an important piece of my heart.

Then there's Taos, New Mexico. It is in Taos that my mind is clearest and my creativity is bravest. It was in Taos that I first met Nave under a blue moon, and it was also in Taos that I decided to venture into self-employment. I have great friends in Taos, and know that I will spend a lot of time there in the future. Taos holds a special piece of my heart, it's the art part of my heart that sings and dreams.

So many places, so much love and more stories to tell...for now I know this to be true. I am in New York AND my heart is in many place.