There are only three things I remember about our short two years in Dallas: 1. Being sent home from preschool for eating the wallpaper off the classroom corner I was sent too for talking too much, 2. Jumping off of our fireplace, onto the vacuum and crashing my head into a stone corner bathed in blood, and 3. Wearing this dress.
My mami made me wear this dress, de Jalisco, in preparations for a folklorico dance class she had enrolled me in. I was four years old, and she stood me in front of our new house for over an hour, trying to get me to smile. She sang. She waved. She fake laughed and even guffawed. She danced, and even called my sister to try and joke with me but nothing worked. Nothing inside of me was charged with happiness. Our whole family had just been plucked from Brownsville, TX and transported to Dallas; ten long, flat, boring hours from mi primer amor, my grandma Olivia. I was miserable without her and Dallas was cold, something I was not used too. The dress was itchy and my body felt trapped. All together, the days before this picture was taken was a recipe for disaster.
Looking back at the photo, I can see the beauty my mami wanted to capture, the cultura she wanted to awaken and preserve in me, especially so far from our bordertown. I can see the tenderness she used to approach me and I can see the beauty of the danza of my ancestors. She posed me perfectly, with my hands on the dress like I was about to break out in a full on baile, but I wouldn’t smile. For an entire hour, I wouldn’t smile. As the story goes, she wasted a few polaroids on my frown, until she finally said, “I’m sending this one to your grandma!” And, I smiled just like that.
Fifteen years ago my grandma died. She never saw the smile I wear today, comfortable in my butch body, in love with Erika, raising two brilliant young women, reading my sexy lesbiana stories to grandmas and grandkids, all in pants and button downs, with a skin tight fade – never a dress. But, I’d wear this dress again, if I had a chance to share with her a polaroid of how I turned out today, but only then would I wear a dress.
Anel I. Flores
(c) Sept 10 2018