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House Rules

Published in ¡Pa'Lante! in May 2023.

Photo credit: Matthew Leland


We wear our best when we leave the house. Our clothes are from the segunda but we keep them clean and always ironed. Filippo Totti jeans from Tijuana are just as good as Vidal Sassoons.


Our head is not a piñata! We flatten our curls with brilliantina. Especially on Sundays, to look and smell good for the Lord.


We don’t listen when people say to us, “go back to where you came from.”


We talk with our voices low. We don’t act like those mujeres off the street. Why is there gum on the floor? Mujercitas do not chew gum!


We eat after the boys eat.


We chew with our mouth closed, and we don’t take a drink while chewing - only horses do that! Wasting food is a sin. We clean our plate and who cares if we don’t like liver, we eat it anyway.


On Mondays at noon, we watch two episodes of The Twilight Zone and eat tuna sandwiches on toasted bread with cherry Kool-Aid. Then we play outside because the electricity doesn’t pay for itself, you know!


When we have a quarter, we walk to BoBo’s liquor on Studebaker and Rosecrans and buy candy. We used to take the alley, but we got chased by Rick the bully that one time so we gotta take the long way now. If we get thirsty, water from the water hose is cool and crisp.


If our ball lands in Doña Juana’s backyard one more time she’s gonna stab it with a knife. Doña Flora to the right is ok but stay away from her daughter Gemi, who will steal your tacos when you’re not looking.


We go to church every Sunday and we give limosna even if there’s no money for tortillas. We don’t make Sister Mary Catherine mad because she has boney knuckles and it hurts like hell when she punches us in the back of the head.


We say our prayers every night when we go to bed or the cucuy will come get us. We make the sign of the cross when we get on the freeway so that we don’t crash.


We don’t laugh in church at the man who sings too loud or the usher who looks like Charles Bronson from that Death Wish movie we weren’t supposed to watch, you know, the one where he beats the guy over the head with a sock full of quarters – focus! On the Lord who died for our sins.


We will marry a Mexicano, even if he’s short, and only owns one pair of pantalones and has no papers. We will not bring gabachos into this house!


Keisha and Durrell down the street will swap us cornbread for tacos. Tam and Tuyet will give us noodles. Melissa and Joseph only have Hungry Man’s from the oven but they’re alright. And if Debbie comes around asking for “tack-os,” make sure she pays up the Twinkies and Pop Rocks she owes for the last time she was here.


We must be home before the streetlights come on or we’ll get the fajo from papá.


We can’t walk to K-Mart because it’s past the 605 freeway and we’d have to cross the riverbed where that white boy drowned last year.


We don’t go into B&B Pharmacy by McCoy’s Market because the lady with the beehive who looks like a pig accused Leti of stealing and slapped her on the hand. That lady hates us. We hate her too.


We stay away from the neighborhood locas and their cholo boyfriends. Those guys stole Chuy’s bike last Halloween and we never got it back.


We don’t run with the boys or ride skateboards or do wheelies or jump off roofs or climb fences or play soccer or baseball or go to the dump to look for any good junk.


We are not rancheras! We say hello and goodbye and we dance with our cousins and entertain our Tios when they visit. We bring them beers and laugh at their stories and we do not call them borrachos to their faces. We don’t say anything when Tio José gets so drunk he passes out on the sofa and we hear him giggling in his sleep.


We never, ever talk back or we will get it in el hocico. We say mande usted and porfavor and gracias, and we always, always ask for permiso before we leave the room.


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