A Perfect 10


{Wearing: Crop top: Kore. Jeans: c/o American Eagle. Suspenders and Hat: H&M. Booties: Saint Laurent. Bag: Gap. Bracelet: Frangipani. Photographed by: Jorge Camaraza.}




On my New York Fashion Week adventure, Jorge insisted we go to Little Italy, so he could feed me fresh mozzarella. Not knowing it was the San Gennaro festival, I obliged because a) I lived in New York and yet had never been there or done that before and b) Jorge’s mission in life is to feed me—the side effect of having a Cuban boyfriend.  Cue the focus of today’s post.

I grew up in the Midwest, which means I am a white girl through and through. I come from a long line of English people with smatterings of German, Welsh and Irish roots, all of which came here on boats during the heyday of Christopher Columbus and landed smack in the middle of an emerging America. Living in Miami, this makes me a minority. Of epic proportions. When people ask me where I’m from and I say American from the Midwest, they look at me funny, like I just said something that only exists on TV. They ask if I speak Spanish. I don’t. In fact, no one in my family speaks anything other than English and I’m pretty sure that goes back to the 1500s. They ask, “OK, but you’re kinda Latin, right? Like your mom or your dad?” Nope. In fact, when I fill out a questionnaire that asks my race, I not only check the “white” box, I write “bread” next to it.

So, having all this Midwestern-ness and living in Miami is, well, interesting. It’s because of all my lack of cool ethnicities that I chose to live here. I like being surrounded by different cultures and foods and languages and traditions. But I do, often times, get lost in translation. And even though I’ve been a Miamian for 15 years now, I still find myself feeling like a untoasted cheese sandwich in a sea of Cuban bread.

For instance, why does my boyfriend want to feed me so damn much? I grew up in the days of Kate Moss, where thin was in. Like really thin. And I come from tiny people (I am, in all my 5’1″ glory, the tallest woman on both sides of the family). We don’t have boobs, we don’t have hips, we’re just overgrown 12 year olds. But the Latin culture celebrates a woman’s curves. So, adorable boyfriend feeds me in hopes these things will happen. And guess what? They did. In the past 365 we’ve been together, I’ve gained a whopping 10 pounds. Granted, I needed to. I was so post-divorce skinny I could actually fit into Milly’s clothes. But it’s not just gaining 10 pounds, it’s the way he makes me feel about it. Before, I would have freaked out over a pound or two. Today, I feel curvy, sexy. That’s him, the way he makes me feel comfortable and beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I still hit Pilates every chance I get so that things stick out but don’t jiggle. But I’m OK with it. I guess it’s, as my friend Nick D’Annunzio says, because I’m happy. And I am. Fat (not really) and happy.

And then there’s feeding him. I am not by any means a domestic diva. Cooking is one of those activities I Instagram as a “yay, look at what I did today!” I have a repertoire of maybe five things I know how to make and beyond that, well, I excel at ordering food. But a happy man is one that’s fed every four hours or so, so from time to time, I find my way to the kitchen. And here’s what I’ve learned from those interludes: Rice that comes in a plastic container with a lid is “gringa rice.” “Real rice” comes in a bag that weighs as much as my child and has no means of being closed back up after opening. That, and all cultures have their own version of chicken soup. Chickens may cross the road to get to the other side, but they do not cross ethnicities when it comes to feeding flus and colds. Oh, and total aside, I miss pie. I don’t know what flan is, nor am I willing to find out. But chocolate pie, peanut butter pie, derby pie, pecan pie—they don’t exist here.

What does exist here is a camaraderie between friends that feels more like a brother or sisterhood. Gatherings of friends feels more like family reunions. It’s a closeness in Latin cultures that always makes you feel welcomed. But what drives me insane at said gatherings is my own personal language barrier. There I am, smack in the middle of someone’s amazing tale of bravado, following along nicely, when, out of nowhere, BAM! The storyteller becomes possessed by a Cuban linguist who speaks only Spanish at a rapid-fire speed, and manages to do it at the climax of every.single.story. After years of saying, “Wait, what? What just happened?” I now just add in my own plot. Sometimes they rob a bank. Sometimes they avenge someone’s death. Sometimes, they get sucked up into UFOs. Whatever. I’m a writer. I make it up as I go along. Sure, it would be easier for me to just learn Spanish and get the full story, but it’s something I’ve just never gotten around to. And it’s starting to show. Like when Jorge’s washing machine started telling me in Spanish that the door wasn’t closed properly and I had to call for reinforcements to figure out what in the hell the appliances were saying. Or how I can turn on any Spanish-related TV show and find four girls in bikinis and heels with hair for days, a guy in a chicken suit and someone playing the drums while an elderly man slings cans of paint at them. Honestly, I need to learn Spanish just to figure out what in the hell that is about.

And then there’s dancing. I love a man that can and will dance. And Latin guys will, which, having Midwestern roots is a lot like finding a unicorn. A unicorn with rhythm. Thankfully, somewhere along the lines of my uber white genes, I inherited the ability to dance, too. So, if he will, I will. And there’s nothing that makes me smile more than being twirled around—even if I don’t understand a single lyric of the music.