Sometimes I can be a little bit ghetto. That’s right. This Masters degree achieving, ELA teacher certification seeking, Andover prep school graduate can roll her long neck, convert her tiny mouth into a O, and growl, “Coñaso, you mother fucking pendejo!” with a thick Quisqueya Heights* accent. I can also slap an ass-grabbing White boy across the cheek, pound my fist against the window of a yellow cab, and suddenly turn around and state eloquently: “How very nice to meet you.”
I blame my little bit of ghetto on the following factors: 1) On April 16th, 1978 an obstetrician ruptured mami’s sac and forced baby Sujeiry out of her comfortable home. (When you force something out, they’re bound to be angry.) I kicked and screeched and balled up my baby hands. If I could speak I would have screamed, “Conaso, you mother fucking pendejo! I wasn’t ready!” But I couldn’t. So my aggression lives on. 2) I was born under the feisty, fixed, masculine sign of Aries. Mars is the ruling planet of Aries which makes the red-hot planet my astrological papi. So his explosive genes are my explosive genes to inherit, and 3) I was born in the homeless-ignoring, cold city of New York. Mix that with a Dominican mother who cuts you with her narrow-eyed, death stare and a Dominican father whose idea of fun is guzzling rum and throwing a stereo out a window, and you’ll have one slightly ghettofied adult, no matter how many degrees and years in the ‘burbs.
I’m only a little bit ghetto because the ghetto only emerges when I’m emotionally pushed or disrespected. The latter usually occurs most often, and my curse-induced, boisterous blow ups usually occur with the men in my life.
Alex, the Mexican man I was dating, was no exception. Though our relationship had surpassed the 2-3 month “your just booty” rule, I had my doubts. Alex only had a high school diploma and worked as a receptionist. Plus he was as angry as a Mexican rooster in a constant cock fight who needed to prove he could cock-a-doodle-doo the loudest. But one afternoon hesitation disappeared, and my little bit of ghetto appeared.
Sassy’s name shone brightly on my Blackberry’s screen. I picked up on the second ring, eager to speak to my ghetto fabulous cousin. Sassy is a lot of ghetto. She will fly out of a moving Dominican gipsy cab to attack her boyfriend with a verbal, and sometimes manual, smack down.
“Girl, I have something to tell you!” Sassy exclaimed juicily when I picked up.
“What happened?” I replied dully as I realized it would be another one of those conversations. Sassy’s juice usually revolved around a co-worker or her BFF of the moment.
“It’s about Alex,” she continued. My ears and interest suddenly perked up.
“He’s been flirting with girls on the phone and saying how he wants to meet them.”
“What girls?” I questioned, my pulse speeding.
“Girls that call from the other office. Bitches he’s never met! And he does that shit in front of me like nothing!” Sassy replied, all riled up.
And all of a sudden it clicked.
“That’s so disrespectful!” I shouted. “He’s not my boyfriend, but he’s going to kick it to girls, girls he doesn’t even know, in front of my family?! That shows me he doesn’t give a fuck.” I continued, the flames igniting inside my not-ready-to-be born, Mars fathered, New York City state-of-mind, Dominican parented body.
“That’s right, girl. Pero yo me quedo como si na,” Sassy replied matter-a-factly. If it wasn’t about her or her kids, she wasn’t getting involved.
“I just wanted to let you know whassup,” she finished.
I sat in silence, phone to my ear, thinking. I needed this information. I wanted to end things with Alex for weeks, but was afraid of loneliness and seeming like an uppity prepster. But I deserved more. I ended my conversation with Sassy and began a conversation with Alex. He listened as I reprimanded his behavior. Then he said it – the phrase that either turns me into a blubbering, weeping fool or into a wild, raging warrior.
“This is why I don’t want a girlfriend.”
My tiny mouth formed into an O, but my little bit of ghetto remained unleashed. Instead I firmly and intelligently explained that these feelings were not an indication of my desire to be his girlfriend. In fact, I expressed, I knew for weeks the relationship had run its course. There was no emotional connection, no depth between Alex and I; it was over.
Alex was silent for a few seconds before agreeing. I ended the call and, instead of crying in frustration or finding an object or person to attack, I walked over to my mirror and stared at my reflection. I smiled at the new and empowered Sujeiry who had freed herself from a relationship that never was and never should have been, freed herself from her fear of loneliness and the little bit of ghetto that lied within. I stared at this new but familiar creature, held up my hand to the mirror, and stated eloquently: “How very nice to meet you.”
*Quisqueya Heights – one of the many nicknames for Washington Heights, a predominantly Dominican neighborhood, in New York City