A new friend of mine, who I’m just getting to know, but who I already think is very cool, planned a springtime party for tonight at her condo around the corner from my apartment. This was the first party I’ve attended in l.a. I was looking forward to meeting some new folks—seeing as how I’m still trying to build community and all. And this party was sure to have a good mix of ethnic studies grad students from an l.a. university (which shall remain nameless) and folks who do other things.
Up until now, I have had the impression that l.a. women are…well…bitchy. I’m trying not to essentialize here, ya know. But on the real? The snoot factor is mad outta control. Of course I’ve met some really great folks—men and women—since I’ve been out here. (Most are not actually from l.a., which only feeds my essentialist theory, but let’s just say that they count as l.a. folks for the sake of non-essentialist argument.) And some of my very closest friends are l.a.-born-and-raised, so clearly this is not a totalizing supposition. But I do have to say that generally men haven’t been quite as snooty. I know this is a fucked-up gender dynamic in which I am clearly being sexualized in some abstract and probably unintentional way. But if men are being more friendly, then hey, I’d rather talk to them. Mujeres, on the other hand, have a really awful way of brushing off other women who are not in their cliqua—especially the straight ones. And that is just messed up on so many levels.
So I was at this party and I tried to talk with some folks. I think I’m a friendly, fun and interesting girl. I try to be warm and thoughtful. I do ethnic studies. I’m an academic, yet I have social skills. But aside from two women, a couple with roots in nuevo mexico, I got the straight up brush off. Repeatedly. And only from brown women (by brown I mean not white). And I know I’m not making this up because I brought a college friend with me (thank the lawd!) and he felt the same way. Some of these folks I had met before and they were very nice…before. I even briefly shared living space with one woman during recent weeks! But nice tonight they were not. And not all were from l.a., but I’m thinking they may have caught the l.a.-snooty-bug.
And as I said, this is not the first time I’ve gotten the straight up brush off by l.a. women. I’ve just never been brushed off this much in concentrated time and space. So therein lies my bitter confusion. WTF is up with that?
Which leads to my next point about nuevo mexico—my beloved home. The first two women, who I really enjoyed talking with and who were familiar with n.m., either grew up there/had family there, or had lived there for a significant amount of time. They were great. Our conversation about burque made me feel a little bit more at home. We talked about our favorite restaurants, big skies, commuting from the west side or rio rancho to downtown, and, of course, the major differences between l.a. and burque. Unfortunately, they had to leave early.
So college-friend and I stuck around. And I managed to get into a conversation with some Harvard-undergrad-educated white girl with a fancy l.a. power job about how “beautiful” burque is. “It really is enchanting!” she said as she moved her arms snakelike up and down to demonstrate “enchantment.” (This in reference to the state slogan “the land of enchantment” that I hate if only because white people use it to exoticize us—native and nuevomexican@ people–by ignoring our presence so they can talk about landscapes as if we don’t exist. Freakin colonization dude!) She told us how she went on the tram, toured old town, and was then “totally hooked on the a-b-q.” And how her friend has a “fabulous” house there with a “wonderful view of the city” and she is thinking of moving there soon.
“Don’t you just loooove it there?” she asked, with that silly dreamy breathy tone that they all use.
“Um. It’s my home.” I said. My familia has lived there for centuries and therefore I am tied to the land. Of course I love it and of course I think it’s beautiful—but not because it’s freakin’ “enchanting”!!! And seriously, am I supposed to respond in a way that is self-exoticizing?
Then she said, “Do you not like it there? Because some people don’t like to live where they grew up. They just don’t appreciate their home towns like people who are not from there do.” The arrogance is really quite astounding!
But then all I could muster through my killing rage was, “Yes, I do like it there. Yes, it is beautiful.” Geez, you’d think I would have learned by now how to confront this perpetual issue. Because what I really wanted to say was, “Leave the damn ‘fabulous house’ and go to where I grew up in cinco puntos or Los Padillas or another barrio or to one of the reservations. And then tell me if you still think it’s beautiful, bitch!” I mean, how do you subvert the colonial gaze without being totally angry and, on the other hand, without doing the mimicry thing (a la homi b.)?
College-friend came to the rescue and changed the subject. We left soon after—not because of the wack white girl, but because we kept getting the brush off, no matter how many different folks we tried to chat with. Now, back in my cozy apartment, I guess the night wasn’t a total bust because I met those cool nuevo mexico chicas and it was good to see the very cool party-hostess. But the contrast, between folks who get it and folks who clearly have no intention of getting it, still has my blood boiling. And the snooty l.a. factor? Well that just makes it worse. Again, I ask, WTF?
The whole experience made me appreciate even more my amigas and the community I just visited in tejas last weekend. That’s real. They are real. I’m going to try not to let this stop me from putting myself out there and meeting people. But I gotta say, it has been taking a lot of freakin emotional work—much more than any new place I’ve moved to (besides Appalachia when I was a tender adolescent). And I really do like l.a. I’m positive that there’s community in this sprawling city for me. I guess I’m just going to have to build slowly and be more patient.