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.