Self-Image and Mexican Mole This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 20, 2010
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“In about two hours, we're gonna be all over YouTube,” Kathryn chuckled. I replied, somewhat sarcastic, but mostly amused: “What do you think they'll call it? 'Cause I'm thinking something along the lines of ‘What spiked milk does to fifteen-year-old girls.'”

“No, I got it,” Laura asserted. “Girls gone wild at Mole de Mayo.”

It was in the mid-sixties and sunny. I drowned in the blue sky. As my friends and I sauntered through the town of Pilsen, the smells of freshly baked Mexican bread warmed my senses. Hearing some music, we had peeked into the street to see the small Mole de Mayo Festival. Local restaurants had submitted their mole, a Mexican chocolate-based sauce, for the prestigious Mole of 2009 Award. Food, jewelry, and hand-made Mexican artwork were being sold. It was a mini Taste of Chicago – minus 200,000 people.

As I curiously examined the different booths, I could not help but notice the hardworking but unpopular DJ. He kept dropping CDs and playing what was apparently very old Mexican music that people were sick of hearing six months ago. Humoring him, I requested the cha-cha slide. Not having danced the simple steps in three years, I dragged my friends onto an empty piece of the street that became our dance floor.

Soon, young kids began to smile, point, and follow our feet, and this small circle of spectators grew into everyone at the festival documenting us with their cell phone cameras. With each new step and surprisingly, each new spectator, I became more comfortable with the situation and happier that I had taken the initiative to do such a random, child-like thing. I was slightly discouraged, however, when the cha-cha slide ended, and the Cupid shuffle came on, a dance to which neither I nor my friends knew the steps.

As we headed for the festival's exit, an artsy woman in a vibrant African costume ran over to us yelling, “No, don't leave! I know the Cupid shuffle!” Just then, a well-built man in a baseball cap hollered the same thing, and they began dancing together. I stared in awe as five little kids ran up to me and my friends and pulled on our legs to lead us back to the dance floor. We followed the man and woman and danced for a while longer. When we finally left, people waved good-bye to us, “The fun-loving girls who started it all.”

Later that day, while laughing about the situation with my friends at dinner, I wondered why the sight of the cultured woman and athletic man dancing together was such a marvel to me. I came to the conclusion that it was because things like that do not happen in high school, nor do they happen to me, a quiet teenager who looks at high school as something to survive. Yet the dance from my childhood and something about Pilsen, a city so close to my home, yet so culturally different, overcame me, making everything else unimportant. When the man and the woman, so seemingly different at first glance, joined together with a dance from their childhood, I sat, watching, in shock. They did not even seem to notice their clashing styles, and were delighted at the chance to make a spectacle of themselves for the love of music and dance, without knowing each other's names.

I am not sure when I lost my ability to take risks and became uptight, dependable Connie. Never before had I fought that image, but that day, it began to bother me that I have always kept the world from seeing my carefree nature. I spend my Friday nights studying for tests without knowing if there will be one on the subject at all, or catching up on the sleep I did not get all week ­because I was studying so much. My close-knit group of friends and my recurring daily activities have not only created my dependability, but have also limited me from trying new things. I now wonder why I fear new situations and will not commit myself to anything without the security of a best friend holding my hand. My hour away from the ordinary, diverting myself into the culture of Pilsen, opened my eyes to my faults. It made me ­remember the child I was, and the one that is still within me, ready to dance through life, rather than be dragged behind it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Inkspired said...
Sept. 9, 2010 at 3:14 pm
I love this article, it's really well written, and I can relate to it so much! I'm really shy now, but I can remember when I used to be so outgoing it was embarrassing, and sometimes I wonder what happened. Anyways, this is a really great piece, love it!!
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