Growing up, I went to an all-girls Catholic school for 14 years. I know this because it was a big deal to have started Kindergarten with a bunch of girls in white-and-pink checkered aprons and then graduated high school with the same girls, sans the aprons. At this school we were always referred to collectively as “niñitas” (little girls). This made a lot of sense when we started and had the aprons and so on and a little less sense with each year that passed. Nonetheless, the day I graduated high school teachers and parents were trying to get us to line up by saying “niñitas” over and over again. It’s like the word didn’t mean “little girls” anymore, it just meant us, the group of 55 people who somehow survived seeing each other every day in the same uniform for over a decade. To this day I sometimes get emails directed at this group of people addressed to “niñitas.” This is all to say that you don’t get to pick what you are called and it’s hard to change what you call other people once you start down a certain path.
Every once in a while someone would try to make “muchachas” (“young ladies”) happen, but it never did. I think we all felt collectively sorry for each person that tried to start this. So as part of that school group I am “niñitas” and I “niñitas” right back at them every chance I get, in spite myself. My sister and I are also “niñitas” to our family for the very same reasons: that’s when they called us when we were under 4 ft tall and it stuck.
Some people call other people cool things. The school psychologist at this same Catholic school called everyone “flaca” (“skinny”) instead of the much more popular term of endearment “gorda” (“fatty”). I suspected she did this because there was a lot of anorexia in that school, but I never got confirmation. My friend Mara calls people “babe”, which I think is super cool. Rachel in “Friends” calls everyone “honey“. (I just noticed this thanks to my Netflix-sponsored “Friends” binge). I, for some reason, call women “lady” which is profoundly uncool. I wish I could just start calling people “babe” like my friend Mara does or like “handsome” or “genius” or something else that sounds uplifting. I can’t. Instead I call people by their names. Except when I want them to pay attention, then I sometimes middle-name people a Spanish last name, like my friend Dani. She’s Danielle Esperanza when I’m about to tell her something she doesn’t want to hear. I also sometimes call people “chama” or “chamo” when I am really hardcore into Spanglish. This has generally backfired as people just end up calling me chama instead.
I get called a bunch of things. My favorite is Fabi. My second favorite is being called something cool like Flaca or Babe. I wish I could reciprocate this to all the people in the world, but I am not cool enough to pull it off. I grew up being called “little girl” and calling other people “little girl”, so what can you expect.
Back to hiatus until I finish my prospectus…