I suppose it’s not that uncommon, but my cuñada didn’t like
me much for many years.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, in clipped and heavily accented English the first time we met. She shook my hand taking it away quickly and barely made eye-contact, but I knew she didn’t approve of my short hair, my tattoos, or the fact that I was third-generation Mexican-American. If I had been someone else entirely, she probably would have found other things to hate about her too. My cuñada had left Mexico by herself. From what I know now, there were some dark reasons that she had to leave. It took her two tries to cross in Tijuana, but she made it all on her own, knowing that her brother would pick her up in Los Angeles, show her the way in the Bay Area, and support her financially for as long as was necessary.
She must have felt that my relationship with her brother was a threat.
When we first met, I was visiting the apartment that they shared then. We hadn’t been dating long, but things had gotten serious fast on account of our ages and his immigration status. I was 28 and he was 33.
“She’s just one of those women who doesn’t like other women very much,” my marido explained.
I hated those kinds of women. He squeezed my hand on our way down the stairs of his apartment on our way to eat. We always went out to eat those days. I could see the spring light shining through the large glass-front apartment door. Everything was shiny, new, and bright then, except for this one thing; this relationship with my cuñada.
I was pretty much the opposite of my cuñada. I was American-born, raised by women, had been in a band with women, and was about to start attending Mills College, a private women’s college in Oakland. I defaulted to hating or distrusting men and liking women, feeling a kinship through our shared inequality in a male-dominated world. But for months and months, maybe years, when I’d see her, my cuñada would attempt a smile and say, “Hola, Morena,” her lip sneering as it rolled over the ‘r’ in my family nickname, Morena.
Still, I had vowed to not default to hate her just because she was a woman who didn’t get along with women, or because she was my sister-in-law.
I wasn’t going to compete with her or play into the
catty-woman stereotype, and I was going to be kind and compassionate to her no
She made this very difficult.
When we first met, my cuñada had been living in the US for three years already, but she spoke very little English. I was surprised by how little English she spoke. She was surprised that I spoke very little Spanish.
“Hay muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”
She said it a few months after my marido and I were married. She said it not to me, but to a friend who was bilingual, perhaps thinking that I wouldn’t understand her. Then she said it again to another friend. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I promised not to participate in the catty-woman stuff or be passive-aggressive or hate a family member. I made myself another promise – to be kind and compassionate no matter what, but not to take her shit either.
I knew, though, that this one slight was so personal that it was going to be hard to forgive.
My marido got into bed first that night. I put on my
nightgown, and sat down on my side.
“Hey, you need to have a talk with her sister ‘cause if you
don’t do it. I’m going to have to do it.”
He looked up. “About what?”
“About what she said.”
“What did she say?”
I put my hand on my hip and did my best imitation, “Hay
muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”
“Oh, that.” He made a face.
“You better talk to her because if I have to do it, by the
time I’m finished with her, she will be so embarrassed that she has been in the
US for three years and doesn’t speak English that she will never want to speak
it. That’s what’s going to happen.”
It wasn’t my finest moment.
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll talk to her.”
He never told me how the talk went, and I never asked because I didn’t need the argüende and because she never said it again. Within a year, she made us the padrinos of her first born, but I knew that I was only the madrina because I was la esposa de su hermano.
I still get a flash of anger when I think about her “hay muchos Mexicanos” comment, or the time she wouldn’t get out of the car to come and see our new house, or all the times I saw her roll her eyes and sneer at me, but I’m older than she is, and committed to supporting women, so I just waited her out. I took my ajihada on weekends to give my cuñados a break, made sure to remember my cuñadas birthday, participated in their extended family’s parties, even when I didn’t want to, and tried to forgive and not hold it against her when they had to miss our son’s birthday parties, prioritizing her marido’s large family’s numerous gatherings over ours.
Slowly but surely over the years, the ice began to thaw between us. My warmth, no matter how awkward and forced, combined with time and maturity, on all our parts, has allowed something new to develop, something real. And it’s good that I worked hard not to hold grudges and forgave what I perceived as slights because learning to forgive is good for our health. It can lower blood pressure, risk of heart attacks, cholesterol, and forgiveness can help improve sleep.
“Hi, Morena,” she smiles when she sees me now (which seems like all the time), and hugs me tight, and dumps a pile of food she brought, leftovers from the Philipino restaurant where she works, or un bote de frijoles that she made at her place and brought with her, a whole packet of corn tortillas, the family-size packet, and cans of soda in any flavor anyone in the house might drink. The other night she brought me a bottle of my favorite wine, and I shared it with her because that’s what cuñadas do. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
We all know what it’s like to mentally prepare to see family after you’ve moved away from home. You’re going to hear all of the “ay, que flaquita” and “¿y el novio?” questions all in one breath. Those are just the most common questions. We all know that it never ends there. People are going to ask you about your job a million different ways, and still not get it.
Of course, every single viejo is going to ask you why you’re still single. “Mejor sola que mal acompañada,” so they say. Well, Melissa Croce had a lot more than that to tell her family and her reaction is something that can help all of us get ready for that family reunion.
Melissa Croce wanted to nip all questions in the bud with a handy brochure.
Apparently, it all started as a joke between Croce and her coworkers, but she couldn’t let go of the idea. After you read her brochure, you’ll understand why it’s so cathartic.
“So You Haven’t Seen Melissa Croce in Several Years: A Primer”
Here’s a lil life update on the subject of your chismosando, honey. “She’s beauty and she’s grace. She’ll say it to your face.” Boom. Roasted. Who hasn’t felt the same way when getting ready to see your family?
Croce handily has two separate columns for Job vs New York FAQS.
So many folks had a good laugh at the “Should you, though?” in response to “I should come visit you!” We’ve all braced ourselves through a fake grin answering highly judgmental questions. When they go low, we go high. When they go low, we go high. This brochure is pure low. 😂
You open the brochure to the question of the house: “Why is Melissa Single?”
You can choose whatever adventurous conversation experience you are initiating. What a perfect way to let the family know what they’re getting themselves into by passing judgment on single, working women.
Croce tweeted out her brochure and may have started a new side hustle for herself!
Follow your passions and everything else will follow. Even though Latinas can all relate to being asked this question, sexism is universal. Croce might have a new career calling!
Even folks are asking for her career advice at this point.
When you see success, you chase it, right? Croce works for a publishing company but isn’t editing or reading books. She’s marketing children’s books. You know, in case you didn’t read the brochure.
Croce didn’t actually pass out the brochures.
Of course, one *man* commented that, “The only thing that would be more petty than this would be actually giving it to people at the wedding.”
Croce told Buzzfeed, “I didn’t hand the brochures out! For one thing, I like my cousin, and secondly, I don’t think my aunts and uncles would’ve been too pleased with me if I did — but I did have to answer many of the questions on the brochure, so maybe I should’ve after all!”
One fan took the opportunity to formally ask Croce to be her life coach.
Croce was surprised to learn how relatable her experience was–“going to a big event and exposing the basics of your life to people who mean well, but are also strangers in many ways.”
She said yes, of course.
We’re glad some folks are appreciating Croce because the sexism hasn’t relented since she tweeted out the brochure. Folks have been telling her, “boo hoo, suck it up,” and “we get it, you’re sexist and hate men.”
Nope. Women expressing their frustration with sexism is not allowed in a patriarchal society, and that’s not stopping anyone.
So many people are taking this brochure to heart and figuring out how they can make it their own.
Thank you, Croce, and we hope the half dozen folks who have publicly reached out asking for their own brochure. If you’re reading this, Croce, we’ll leave you with this friendly message from @jmlandais:
“You definitely are good at your work. Turned your angst in a great brochure that stroke a nerve. I think you can ask for a raise.”