Two months before turning 11, I was living with my family in Nicaragua. If there’s a part of my life that I love to remember – is my years in that beloved land. If there’s a part of my life that I can still smell, is my years in that magical country.Summer vacation had just started.
Our neighborhood was a living bull that us children loved to ride. My brother Esteban, (Tevi) and I used to live in the streets with all of our friends. Since most of my buddies were boys, I ran and fought in gang wars all over Pancasan. Besides being a very hot city, our adventures demanded at least two showers and two clothes’ changes per day. My regular attire was a pair of shorts and white wife beaters which my mom would by per dozen. Our uniform.
Mothers used to live outside as well. The nosy ones, the gossipy ones, everyone out!!!
One of these colorful women used to hate me.
Mariana, you’re crazy! Older women don’t hate kids.
Yes, they do!
She hated me, even though I used to be a good friend of her son.
She criticized my hair. My boyish clothes. She criticized my playing with boys. She made fun of my mother’s dressing style, classifying it as too masculine.
(My mom only spoke to one neighbor: the military single mom who lived in front of our house.) That’s it!
I think she was bothered by the fact that I was too free and that I never really listened to her. To me she resembled those adults who talk and talk and never gained my respect. (I was never taught to respect elders, just cuz they were elders. I was taught to respect whoever gained my respect. Punto!)
So, even though I never really listened, I always tried to stay away from her perimeter. But finally, one day, Ugly Mother got her revenge:
All my friends and I were sitting in her front lawn under her lemon tree one hot afternoon. We were resting from the sun. I was standing up and most of the guys were laying down. I was telling them one of my stories with my typical acting gestures. The Ugly Mother was sitting in a rocking chair in her porch with another neighborhood mom. They were looking at us and I could tell she hated how I was talking and all the boys were listening You can feel those vibes. Even though I was young, I felt it.
All of a sudden she interrupted me and said:
Ugly Mother: “Mariana, you should wear a bra.”
Her disgusted face looked at my tiny chubby girl’s breasts.
Ugly Mother: “Tell your mother to buy you a bra. Don’t you all have money?”
Her eyes were looking at my breasts and then looked into my eyes. She was smiling a winning smile.
All the boys simultaneously looked at her and right into my breasts, then back at her again and then to my breasts. When she finished the last sentence, one of them pointed at my chest and started laughing really loud.
He had just found out something he had not seen.
The rest of my friends followed. Everyone pointed at my chest and a choir of laughter was heard throughout the street. They had never noticed. They probably would never have for a long time. But there it was…
I couldn’t stop looking at her. I couldn’t believe her. It was clearly one of the first times I understood that people can be mean to you for no special reason. And that adults too, were no different. She was now laughing as well. All I kept hearing was:
“Tell your mother to buy you a bra.”
Why didn’t my mom know? Why didn’t she buy me a bra? But they’re not big. I don’t have breasts.
I started walking to my house. I was crying so many tears, that by the time I got home, a black wet stain colored my white shirt. Two of the boys followed me. They stood outside of my house waiting for me to come out soon.
I never left my room that day.
My mom found out what happened that night.
She explained that I didn’t have breasts yet. When I asked why, she explained that some people don’t feel good about themselves and need to bother others to feel better. She explained that I was still a girl and that the boys were laughing, because they were children too.
Even though she said I was a kid and she didn’t believe I needed it, I convinced her with sad tears that I needed one. That I needed to never get that attention again.
The day after, mom took me to a store to buy my first training bra.
Ugly Mother never bothered me about my breasts again.
Ugly Mother never bothered me again after my mom’s visit, ever again.
By Mariana den Hollander