Tag Archives: being a teenager in Mexico

Working boy

My son has been carrying on like a typical teenage boy about how BORED he is with his life. So I decided it was time to find him a job. I sent an email to my local acquaintances listing his stellar qualities and work experiences and asked if anyone knew of a job would they let me know.

I also started scanning the streets for help wanted signs. There were a quite a number, however, for the most part, they were looking for empleadas (female employees) because they are “known” to be more responsible than male employees. Whatever.

Of course, the other glitch is that although my son looks 17 with his bitty ‘stache and impressive height, he’s only 14, thus underage for most positions. So our cruising around didn’t get us very far.

Then my boss’s husband’s sister sent me an email asking if my son was employed. If not, she could offer him some hours at the papeleria (stationery store). He’d work there before but was replaced with a ‘chacha (girl) after a few months with no explanation.

The catch is he would be working with the elderly mother as sort of a caretaker/salesperson until the daughter gets home from work and takes over. She’s well into her 80s and quite set in her ways, which makes it a bit challenging to work there and all. Well, we’d give it a shot.

The first week he was supposed to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday from 3 to 8. I took him to work, and the store was closed. We knocked on the door, and the old lady said his hours started at 4. So he went back at 4. Then she stated that I had said he would be starting at 5, which I hadn’t. I sent an email to the daughter and asked for clarification of the hours. 4-7:30 was the response. However, that changed yet again, now it’s 4:30 to 7:30. All righty then!

The days changed too. His days would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and not Saturday. Well, ok. But then on Monday, she changed them again. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and not Friday. My son changed his guitar lesson from Tuesday to Friday to accommodate the hours. Then on Tuesday, the days changed yet again back to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Well, the music class was already scheduled so he wouldn’t be going on Fridays. (See Music Lessons)

Meanwhile, my son was invited to be a chambelan for a quinceanera party. Dance training would be Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 pm. (See Attending a Quinceanera) Now he was up to his eyeballs in activities!

So, feeling overwhelmed and missing his computer time, my son didn’t want to work anymore. He said he “hated” the job. It was SO BORING. I told him that I would take him home right after school then. That wasn’t enough motivation. I said he would need to tell the girl whose party he was supposed to grace with his presence that he could not participate in the quinceanera because he didn’t have any money for the formal attire required. OK MOM I’LL GO TO WORK!

His arguments for not working were valid. He is only 14, and none of his friends have jobs. He doesn’t like it. It is pretty slow for the most part. He would rather work for himself. I said that would be great! Did he have any start-up money for his business? Nope, well, then he’d have to work at a ho-hum job until then. I reminded him how many hours I was currently working and he said that was different because I was a mom and it was my responsibility, but he was a kid and didn’t have to. So I replied that because I was a mom, I should be home baking cookies instead of working and as a male, he needed to be gainfully employed, that is if we were going to talk about stereotypes and all.

So now his hours are on Monday and Wednesday only so that he can continue with the guitar classes and begin the dance classes. I told him to stick it out until December and then we would talk again. He whined and moaned about that, but I think he’s going to try.

In the short time that he’s been working there, he has already made an impression on the local clientele. A teenage girl, maybe 16 or 17, stopped to pick up some supplies, clearly expecting to be waited on by someone else. When my son asked her what she needed, she sputtered and choked. He asked her again, and she mumbled and blushed. The third attempt allowed her to spit out her paper needs and my son packed them up in a bag. She then circled the block 3 times casting furtive, longing looks his way. He asked me why she acted like that when he had done nothing to provoke the response. I told him that teenage girls all go a bit crazy and act like that and he should just be kind when they are rendered speechless in his presence. I also told him he should be thankful that she didn’t run into a light pole. (See Knockout)

I expect as word gets out, business will be booming Mondays and Wednesdays between 4:30 and 7:30. Don’t you?

working boy

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Ladykiller’s room remodel

With respect to my son’s new status as a ladykiller (see Knockout), it was time for another room remodel. He’s already gone from the Spiderman themed decor to a simple red and blue theme (see Tianguis), but he was ready for something more adult.

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BEFORE the remodel

The first thing to go was the red paint. He chose a cream color to go with the rest of the house. OK, two coats and that was done. The blue trim around the windows and door stayed though as an accent color.

Then there was the bed. We had purchased the bed with a four-year-old in mind. It was only about a foot from the floor which allowed him to easily get in and out on his own. Well, my son has grown since then, so the bed was no longer at a comfortable height. There was also the issue of the two center bars having broken off. So now, when he would lay in the bed, the sides of the mattress would bow up, enveloping him in a cushioned cocoon.

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As my husband had made our bed stand, he said he’d make another one for our son although he’s far from proficient in carpentry. This involved cutting and drilling and quite the afternoon project. Myrtle even lent a hand with the power inverter. Finally, it was done and the bed in place.

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My son also wanted new sheets. I had brought Spiderman sheets from the States oh so long ago, and although they were still in good condition, he wanted something more grown up. I dug around in my things and found a cream sheet set. Looking good!

His blanket had disintegrated this past winter, so he needed a new one. I dug around some more and found enough material to make a blanket for his bed on my treadle sewing machine (See Seamstress). While I was at it, I made a bed skirt, pillow case, throw pillows, and matching curtains.

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Everything came out of his room and was carefully approved before reentry. That gave him quite a bit more space. His armoire was bursting at the seams, so I set about searching out a chest of drawers to complete his new room. The first week was a total bust as I had forgotten that Moroleon stores traditionally close Thursday afternoons. Ni modo. (Nothing more to be done) I’d have to come back.

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I found a lovely handcrafted set of drawers, but when I asked the price, I nearly fainted. 6,500 pesos! Well, as that was almost the cost of 5 windows for our second floor, it wasn’t going to happen. We found another set of drawers at Coppel for about $1,500 pesos, but the workmanship was just awful.  We finally found a set of drawers at a roadside tent outside of Valle de Santiago.  It was also $1,500 pesos and real wood. That’s the ticket!

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Then there was that matter of a new headboard.  The black metal headboard from his old bed was too short.  The guy doing our windows (See Window Installation) gave us a headboard, but my son didn’t like it.  So we took a trip to San Pedro, which is where we usually stop on the way back from immigration stuff in San Miguel Allende.  We checked out several furniture stores.  One store had one we were interested in, but the muchacho (boy) who was running the joint was down the street at his mother’s buffet.  We waited a bit but then left.  On the way back, we stopped at a carpinteria (carpenter shop) to ask about prices.  We didn’t really like any of the models that he had available, so we went to the guy who did our interior doors.  My son sketched out what he wanted, and the guy said he could do it for $500 pesos with delivery in 2 weeks.  Trato hecho (It’s a done deal!)

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Then since every growing boy needs a mirror to admire himself in and to do his hair, we set out on our quest for a mirror.  Again, we were frustrated with the quality and availability.  It took several months, but finally, one of my students happened to be remodeling as well and had a metal framed mirror that didn’t match the new decor. Said student’s mom offered me the mirror and I snatched it up.  We brought it home and oops, the wind knocked it over before we had it hung and the mirror shattered.  So now with 7 years of bad luck, we had the glass replaced and hung it up right away.  With repairs, it ended up costing $500 pesos, but my son was happy with it.

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His room is still the freshest in the house and now mostly uncluttered too.  Of course, the uncluttered part didn’t last long.  You know teenagers.

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Knockout

My baby is growing up!

The other day my son left school as usual. A girl in his class was running on the other side of the street, but couldn’t keep her eyes off my son. She ran smack dab into an electric post, knocking herself out. She was taken to the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to be checked out.

Girls in the upper-class hover near my son during the lunch break. He’s busy minding his own business or horsing around with friends when the girls start with their “pst, pst” so that he looks in their direction.  This seems a bit rude in my opinion–sort of the equivalent of construction worker catcalls, but hey, maybe their mothers didn’t teach them any better.

The boys in my son’s class call him “Steroids” because of the muscles in his biceps. He doesn’t actually take steroids (as if I have to clarify that) but daily living in La Yacata makes sure he’s not a floppy string bean–which apparently is so much out of the norm these days that both boys and girls in his class (and in other grades) have noticed as you can see.

Here are some of  his daily exercises:

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Pumping iron

cam04405.jpgThe garafon lunge
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and a little parkour thrown in just for fun

And every now and then, an hour of moto pushing from Moroleon to La Yacata when the moto is descompuesta (broke down)

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It’s no wonder my son has become quite the ladykiller. By the way, the girl that knocked herself out was just fine. She recovered enough to go to the movies with the class and snagged the seat next to my son, goose egg on her forehead and all.

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Attending a quinceañera

at the party

My son and his group of galanes (young men).

My son was recently invited to his first quinceañera party. What a milestone! While my son was not a chambelan (one of the male escorts) at this particular event, I’m sure that it won’t be long before he is requested to act as one.

His invitation spawned a flurry of activity on my part. I had no idea what he should wear and the uncertainty of whether he should bring a gift or not. So I went asking about. Since he was not a chambelan, he wouldn’t need a formal suit. However, church clothes would be appropriate. Well, he had grown out of his dress pants, so off to the store we went. We had to shop in the men’s section! Where did my little boy go? A pair of sensible black pants were purchased. Then he needed a shirt. After several options had been discarded, he picked the black shirt with striped sleeves. I think it was a good buy because he’ll be able to change it up a bit for future quinceañera parties (wear a vest, tie, open over another shirt, etc.Spanish young). His school shoes and socks were just fine–but he did need a belt. So we spent about 500 pesos on his outfit alone. Then there was the gift, a simple necklace, and the gift bag–so another 100 pesos or so.

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My beautiful niece in her quinceañera dress.

Traditionally, the quinceañera festival was a coming oyoung Spanish ladies. This custom was brought over to Mexico after the conquest and remains an integral part of a Mexican girl’s life. The traditional quinceañera gathering would have been the first time she was presented formally to the community as a woman, not a child. Her chambelanes (escorts) would have been eligible young men of her social class from which she would choose from and marry within the year, more often than not. While it’s less common these days for girls to marry before they turn 16, brides of 17 or 18 are fairly common, especially in the more rural areas.

I’ve had the honor of attending a quinceañera here in Mexico and was amazed at the ritualization of the event. Of course, I attended with my mother-in-law and that made the event even more memorable as you will see.

The day of the quinceañera, there is a formal mass in the big church downtown. I’ve been in several houses where a wall-sized picture of the quinceañera before the altar is displayed. It’s quite a thing to behold. After the mass (and subsequent picture taking session) there is a social event usually hosted in a rented salon (hall). The wealthier the family, the more lavish the event.

The guests are invited to arrive before the quinceañera so that she and her “court” can make a grand entrance. The first dance after the entrance is between the quinceañera and her father. Much like a wedding reception, there is symbolic of the passing of custody from father to the new “man” in her life as the father passes his daughter to her escort for the second dance. Following the escort dance, there are several other choreographed dances, performed by the belle of the ball and her court, before the floor is opened up to the general public. I was a bit surprised that the main song was  Total Eclipse of the Heart. I wasn’t expecting an English theme song for such a traditional event, much less this particular one, which seemed to me inappropriate for the innocence of a young girl’s coming out party (although it happens to be one of my favorite songs ever). But whatever floats your boat I suppose.

While these dances are being performed, the invitees are being served food. The standard fare in our area is carnitas (fried pork) which is not one of my favorites. At the quinceañera that I attended, my mother-in-law asked for several plates to go. Then she had another waiter bring her plates for now. Before too long, she had a pile of food in front of her stacked nearly nose high. She was ready to leave before the dances were even finished, and she asked for a two-liter bottle of soda to go. Then, of course, she needed a bag for all her foodstuff.

I was pretty embarrassed by this point. I come from an area where the leftover food is left to the host, not divvied up in doggie bags among the guests. Oh, but it didn’t stop there. She snatched up the tortilla basket, napkin and all–AND the decorative centerpiece from the table. I guess my surprise (or horror) showed on my face because she told me matter-of-factly that the hostess told her she could have one of the decorations. I imagine the hostess meant after the party was over though. Then my mother-in-law asked if I wanted one, thinking maybe I was jealous. No thank you.

This seems to be a fairly common practice, as ill-mannered as it seemed to me. As we were leaving the party, I overheard several older ladies debating which adorno (decoration) they were going to take when they left. My sister-in-law L. also has a number of centerpieces she took as momentos of various quinceañera and wedding receptions littered about her house. As she doesn’t have any tables, they sit on the floor in the corners of various rooms, gathering dust.

I refused to help my mother-in-law with her stolen goods and walked on ahead of her in some attempt to distance myself from her and her ill-gotten gains. I declined additional invitations she extended to accompany her to other events (well except for that party crashing Christmas posadas in December) after this.

My son had a far better time. He told me it was medium-fun. The music was loud. He danced with a girl. He received two compliments on his outfit (from girls) and was served a quarter glass of margarita, although the other boys were not. He thinks it’s because he has a mustache and the waiter thought him older than 13, which is probably true. They had tacos and were pretty good.

We picked him up at 11 pm, which was early for this type of event, but I reminded him he is only 13 and there is no reason he needed to be out later than that. I’m sure this is just the first of many such events in my son’s life!

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