A Latina's Sticky Past (And Present) With Her Mami & The Cell Phone

As wondrous as the cell phone was and still is, it’s easy to see how this technological addition to your life can add stress. For me, it has brought a decade of mixed emotions – frustration, relief, happiness, anger. Even before my fingers grew accustomed to its keys, I cursed the cell phone and the heavy responsibility it placed on me. I questioned whether my mom should call me this many times. Before I’d walk inside the school’s entrance, I would call my mom.

Me: “Mami, I arrived at school.”

My mom: “Thank God. Okay, mi hija.”

After school, I’d call her.

Me: “Mami, I’m leaving school and walking to the subway.”

My mom: “Thank God! Okay, mi hija.”

A block away from my house, another phone call. 

Me: “Mami, I’m walking up to the house now.”

My mom: “Thank God! Okay mi hija. Your food is ready.”

I was young and didn’t question this routine – or the incoming phone calls from my mom that never ceased. But as I grew older, I grew tired of checking in with my mom and began to go against the grain a bit. I would pick up less because, frankly, I preferred to talk to my friends than be stuck on the phone with my mom for a half-hour. Why did she have to call me so much? Why can’t she just give me some space? Damn this phone. If I don’t pick up the second or third time, will she involve the police? If I do pick up, I know I'm going to hear it from her. Yup, picked up and I'm hearing it. 

This complicated stickiness carried its way into college, when I moved about forty minutes away from my mother. It was during those four years that my cell phone was like a rigid, rectangular symbol of my mother’s love – or, as I often saw it, unnecessary worry. My other Latina friends had similar situations – our phones would often ring during outings with friends, study dates, classes… even romantic dates. Interestingly enough, this didn’t happen with my non-Latina/o friends – some of them spoke to their parents on the phone maybe once a week. Maybe.

The importance of family is no doubt deeply embedded in Latin culture, but there comes a time when this same importance is challenged and begins to hurt one’s desire for freedom. In my case, this has happened many times.

I remember going out with a guy to dinner once. Dinner turned to an unplanned movie at his place afterwards. Before the date began, I had decided that I would not pick up my cell phone. I decided, as a 22-year-old college graduate, that I would not pick up my mom’s call at the first ring. Instead, I silenced it.

What a grave mistake. As I smiled shyly at my date over dinner, my mom had called me a few times and, when I didn’t pick up, she called one of my best friends. When I didn’t pick up my best friend’s call, she called another friend. And another – and another and before I realized, I had a younger version of the Silver Alert out for me. When I checked my phone, I had a slew of missed calls and numerous text messages brimmed with concern – even a voicemail from an ex-turned-friend. That wasn’t a good night.