How has your family history, culture or environment influenced who you are?
Never touch the hand railings. Don't stare at people. Try to sit next to a lady on a crowded bus. Walk quickly and don't look around. Don't walk barefoot outside, there could be glass. When you get off the train, walk fast to wherever you're going. Don't give money to people begging for change, they are probably alcoholics. Don't stare at crazy people, you should thank God you are healthy. Put your shopping bag between your legs when you are on the train. Put your purse under your arm. If there are no cars coming, it's okay to cross. Never wear white after Labor Day.
Always eat whatever is offered when visiting someone's house. Always call people on their birthdays. Never lock your bedroom door, there could be a fire and you could get stuck in there. Never run around in a parking lot, you could get hit by a car. Never say something about someone's weight until they have lost it.
If you make a stupid face and someone slaps you on the back really hard, your face will stay like that. If you are the youngest, they found you in the garbage can. You are Mama's favorite, just don't tell Denissa and Lydia. Ray can do things you can't because he's a boy. The boys in the family are to be treated like angels no matter how many times they have been convicted. If they haven't called Mama in a year, they aren't her grandchildren.
Never look in Mama's pots. If you don't take a shower and wash your hair, you are a cochina. Never play where Mama can't see you from the window. If you don't behave, she'll tell your mother. If you don't remember when someone's birthday is, Mama will tell you. On your birthday, Mama will make your favorite, even if you stopped liking it when you were 10. If you don't eat, she'll feed you herself. If you can't understand what she's saying, just laugh with her. Don't bother saying "Bless you" 20 times, she's going to sneeze 20 more times.
You know you're in trouble when they call you by your real name with a Spanish accent. If you don't clean your room, she will go in there with a garbage bag and throw everything away. The days you have to go to church are Mother's Day and Easter Sunday. When you go somewhere with a friend you have to give their name, address, telephone number and nationality. It doesn't matter what your watch says, their watch says you are late. Don't bother running, they're going to get you no matter where you run. Your mom is a psychic. Your mom knows when you lie. No matter how good the lie, you will end up telling her the truth in a few months.
Men are stupid. If a man doesn't like your family, he is no good. If your family doesn't like your man, don't bring him around for dinner. Always serve your man his dinner. He is not allowed in the kitchen unless you've been married for more than a decade and have kids. Never sit on your man's lap; there are plenty of other chairs. If no one laughs at his jokes, please don't bring him back. When Papa goes to bed, you have to be quiet.
Check the dollar stores first. Never pay full price when a season sale is only a month away. If something is on sale, buy it in every color. When buying a dress, take Mama, your mom, your sister and however many Titis are available. Whatever you buy one Titi, you have to buy it for all your Titis and any other female who's a friend of the family. If there is a ringing in your ear, someone's talking about you. Even if there isn't a ringing in your ear, someone in your family is always talking about you.
They will let you know when you are old enough. They don't tell you things for their sake. They yell at you because they love you. Everything they do is for you. If they wiped your butt and fed you, then they can easily kill you for dee fun uv et! All the silly rules that your family gives you will someday use to raise your own children.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.