Friday, May 15, 2009

Cecelia, You're Shaking My Confidence Daily (Part 3)

Part 1
Part 2

Cecelia saw herself as one of the guys.

There were only three roles for girls in her gang. There were the girls who were the sex toys of the gang, who got passed from guy to guy, and used sexually. There were the girlfriends of the gang members, who stood on a rung only slightly higher on the ladder of machismo. And, there were the girls who turned themselves into guys. Girls who fought like guys, dressed like guys, acted like guys.

Cecelia was in that last category. It was the only possible category that she'd have allowed. She didn't like men in the first two ways.

After we'd known each other a few weeks, Cecelia and I had plans to meet, but she told me that she'd be at her friend Flaca's house. I swung by to pick her up there.

Flaca's house was significantly nicer, it was one of the newer subsidized housing properties in the city. Still in the middle of a high-crime neighborhood, but it had not yet succumbed to years of neglect.

It was a hot summer day. The yard was dead, the flowers in their pots were dead, and it felt like it was about a hundred degrees with no humidity. The high desert heat was miserable.

It looked marginally cooler inside through the screen door. It was dark inside. There was no air conditioning, but Flaca's mom had a living room with actual furniture that looked less than ten years old. The girls from La Raza were draped over a couple of couches, watching cable. It's a tired stereotype, but while these kids could do without a new bike or nutritious food, they could never do without their cable, their Showtime and HBO and MTV with the latest gangster rap videos to watch.

I knocked on the screen door.

I could hear the girls whispering inside.

"Who's the wedda?"

"She's MY wedda, she hangs out with me every week because of Judge V."

"Well, tell her to come in and kick it wid us."

"Wedda, come in."

I opened the screen door, and came inside, finding a spot on one of the chairs.

If you've never seen homegirls, can you visualize them in your head? The high, darkened, plucked to death eyebrows. The long dark hair, brown skin. The brown lipliner on full lips, with dark brown lipstick. Heavy brown eye shadow all the way up to the eyebrow - never leave home without it.

Cecelia looked and dressed like a boy in her dickies and oversized t-shirts, and no makeup.

Flaca and her sisters though, these were the glamorous gang girls. Flaca wore a revealing tank top with her stiffly pressed dickies and g-nikes*. Cecelia was androgynous, Flaca was all girl.

At lunch, Flaca and Cecelia lounged against the booth, together, and told me about the day that Flaca was jumped into the gang.

Cecelia was jumped into the gang by the boys. She was the first girl they'd allowed into the gang as a peer. Other girls had hung out, but Cecelia was an equal.

Cecelia told me that she'd fought 2 boys for a minute and 30 seconds.

"They were both hitting me with their fists in my head, shoulders and chest. It hurt, but they weren't trying to hurt me badly. They just needed to see if I was tough enough. My brother told me to stay on my feet and try to keep them from knocking me down, no matter what I did, so I couldn't get kicked. That's how you really get hurt. He told me to protect my head, too."

"After the fight, everyone came around and hugged me. I had blood on my face, but I was so proud. And they were proud of me. I showed I belonged."

Flaca didn't get jumped in until later. The boys from La Raza told her to recruit some girls, and put her in charge of them. Flaca was her best friend, and the first person that Cecelia jumped into the gang.

"Flaca and I fought for a minute and 30 seconds. I told her to hit back. I hit her hard, but she did good. She kept her fists up, and was tough."

Flaca laughed. "I had bruises everywhere...on my cheek, all over my shoulders. I had to tell my mom that I hit my face on the door frame. " Her parents had no idea that she was a gang member.

I realized two things during this visit. First, Cecelia was showing me off to her girlfriends. She had this woman who came to see her, wanted to spend time with her, and took her places. She wanted to impress her peers with this fact.

Secondly, she was introducing me to her family. Flaca and the homegirls were Cecelia's most important relationships. They were her friends, but they were far more than that. Cecelia was the leader of the girls. They were her siblings and family members. They gave her status, because she was the boss and they answered to her. The homegirls gave Cecelia a place to belong, and they gave her the respect and status she so desperately craved.

*Nike Cortez running shoes


SciFi Dad said...

I want to comment on every post, but that seems superfluous.

Fascinating stories, truly an interesting perspective on a subject that has been explored many times before, but not with this degree of an outsider's perspective.

I am really enjoying these stories.

Erin Alberty said...

I love the Cecelia stories. This one is awesome.

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