woman time


I first met Adlet on the soccer field.  In the beginning, he was the only one, on our college campus, in China, who would pass me the ball and would treat me as a real teammate. I was excited to finally have a male friend that viewed me as an equal—so I thought.   His English, especially at the beginning of our friendship was limited but still better than my ability to speak to him in one of his other three languages (Kazakh, Russian and Mandarin).

Aldet and Elenamary

Aldet & Elenamary

I tried to explain to him one day before going out to play soccer in the city that I was cramping and had my period.  I tried the words “period”, “menstruation”, “menses”, “monthly cycle” but nothing seemed to click and so I simplified and said “I have blood coming from my vagina.  Blood between my legs.”  He was horrified and told me I was dirty and that I should stay away from him for one week.  This of course upset me and I very directly let him know I was angry, and not dirty and that I didn’t want to talk to him.  Aldet, not understanding, why I was so angry or how he should respond, consulted with some Nordic European male friends of mine about if and how he should interact with me when menstruating.  Being products of their culture, my dudes told him that he didn’t need to do anything, just be nice as always and see if he could do anything for me.  A month later while again on my period Adlet asked me “Do you have woman time?”  I answered that, why yes, I in fact did.  He smiled and responded “I be nice to you! What you want?”
I had a lot of respect for how much he had changed but we of course were still learning lots from each other.  Months later we went to the beach with our mutual friend, a French woman, Claire and because there were three of us, we took two motorbikes. Adlet drove his with Claire on the the back and I drove mine.

claire and elenamary

claire and elenamary

When we stopped for dinner at the end of our beach day Adlet told Claire he was not used to having to drive carefully because he had a woman with him, that he only ever drove me around and that I was “strong like man”.  I questioned him, what did he mean that “I was strong long man” he explained he meant it as a compliment that he was a feminist (I’d recently taught him the ‘f’ word).  Again, I shared my viewpoint and that it was different than his and that I understood he meant well. He now says things like “Elena, is strong like woman!”  I’ve also overheard him say that before he met me, he had been raised to think that you always trust what a man says over a woman, you listen to the woman but if it contradicts what any man says, the man is right.   I was shocked because I never knew that he’d ever thought that way.  Thing is though, I learn just as much if not more from Adlet.  He grew up in rural Kazakhstan, a firm follower of Islam, and is like all of us a product of our environment. Adlet, is intelligent and non-judgmental, a tool and a virtue that make him very open to change.  I am giving all of this back story because something amazing happened recently and Adlet surprised me once again.
This week, I found out that a health clinic that provides abortions had been vandalized with red paint.  I contacted my friend who was working at the clinic as soon as I saw the news and asked her if I could take her for drinks at the end of her shift.  She said no that she was exhausted and more than anything wanted to go home but that if I wanted to help, I could come help paint/clean the building.  I headed out and invited friends to join me as well. Pictures of us cleaning and a group photo post-clean up was on facebook and Adlet “liked it”.

clean-up crew

clean-up crew

I figured he hadn’t understood what were doing or what he was “liking” and so I had a discussion with him, sharing what had been done, and what we did to address the situation.  Turns out he fully understood and he responded  “Yes i understand, good job !
And it’s good idea put photo on Facebook, it mean u guys together never give up))
I mean u a together more strong”.  I have infinite respect for this man, who can change his views based on logic compassion, I need to do more of that myself.



Dear Dudes

Dear Dudes,

I write this because I like dudes and I want to keep liking dudes. Stop sending dick pics. I don’t know of any women (I am sure they exist) who upon receiving a picture of some dude’s genitalia think “Yes, please, I want that. Oh put it in me”. If you want me specifically to like you, or to at least engage with you and respond positively, try instead sending me a book, an intriguing journal article, an interesting blog post, a new song, something that makes me think. Please, stimulate my brain and I will be way happier than I ever could with a picture of your man bits.

-Elena Mary

PS I tend to think that like physical contact, sexting requires consent—get some permission before you start messaging.

‘Athletes come in all shapes and sizes’

While seeing the awesome pictures of Amanda Bingson: ‘Athletes come in all shapes and sizes’,  I am glad because it is something we all face with social constructed ideas of what does fit look like and what should it look like.  Although,  the images are empowering, make sure you read her interview too.

Amanda Bingson - Competes in the Hammer Throw

While ESPN’s coverage and writing is unsurprisingly problematic, I am still pleased as Bingson generally has an attitude I much admire: “You might be prettier and skinnier than me, but I’ll kick your ass in a game of one-on-one.”  Which is for sure how I felt yesterday (minus the pretty part—I know I am the prettiest ;-)   )

I had a woman I’ve never met, come-up to me yesterday in a ropes class during the water break and tell me to “not give-up” that I could “do this” and I wanted to respond “Bitch, do I look like I’m giving-up or doubting my own abilities?”  I turned to the instructor and asked “When is the warm-up over? I am ready for the real stuff to start.”  Also, that was my third hour of exercise at that point in the day (each a different training).

The women I train with have given me lots of confidence, like National Strong Woman Sharon Moss and World Champion Power Lifter Hannah Ghindea; but not just my competitively elite friends but the numerous badass women around me who set personal goals and train to become fiercer for themselves. Those goal setting women invigorate me. The stronger we women become the more we give zero shits about what others think and the more we love what our bodies are capable of—it is liberating.

Sharon and Elena Mary

Sharon and Elena Mary

Amber, Elenamary, Hannah

Fierce Women (Amber, Elena Mary, Hannah)

No athlete I’ve trained with, no coach, no physical therapist, has ever expressed doubt in my abilities because of my body (this isn’t to say I haven’t encountered douchebags).  I’ve been lucky but generally those who are good at knowing how to push their bodies (and others) know that much of what we push our bodies to do is mental.  Yes, of course physical training and ability is necessary but at some point, it becomes wanting it more than anyone else, working harder than anyone else, and being in the right place at the right time–and none of those have to do with body size or type.

Which also reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
“I’m just into physical intensity. I’m not saying, like, clamp my nipples and stick pins in my nuts. Because that’s like some passive please-hurt-me thing. Ask any Olympic athlete, they’ll say, ‘God it hurts, but it’s awesome.’ It’s the pain that comes when you try to achieve.” – Henry Rollins

Also, speaking of  “clamp my nipples and stick pins in my nuts”, remember my boobs last summer after a triathlon?

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou’s

Phenomenal Woman

Many women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Third Culture Children and their soundtrack

Third Culture Kids is one of my favorite topics.  A friend was sharing with me (a TCK herself) about a conference she recently went to where a woman was researching on the differences in identity within third culture siblings.  Same parents but depending on age, stage of development, geography and experiences, had skewed their own third culture identity and views although they had grown-up in the same “household” as their siblings.

I’ve most definitely felt this with my own siblings.  The three of us are, in age sequence, one year apart, and we fall under many of the stereotypes of third culture children.  We take longer to finish university, tend to have more formal education than the general public—in our case the 3 of us were in our mid-late twenties when we finished our bachelors, we marry later — in our case none of us are married, multilingual — check, travel more—yup, tend to be leaders within roles we do take — yup.  However, our own views as third culture children and our identities within that are extremely different.

If you were to ask my siblings who was the “most Mexican” of the three of us, they would agree it was me.  As the oldest, I got to travel back to Mexico more with my mother.  I got to go on my own and develop friendships during adolescence that I maintain to this day.  The two of them may visit Mexico but their experience is different from mine as I return to stay with friends, go to my friends weddings, baptisms, graduations.  They return and only stay with family, who culturally they have little in common with–they feel even more out-of-place than me.  However, there are other places they “fit in” better than I do.  Even the views on the economics of the household we grew-up in is quite varied.   Oddly, enough if we were to ask who was the most “American” of the three of us, I am not sure we would agree…in my case I would argue that it is my brother.

My brother was effected by gender and economics (as we all are) and I felt bad for him when he told me his Mandarin was better than his Spanish, and that it was possible that so was his Japanese.  My mother spoke of talking to him on the phone, he exhausted and barely awake with a 12 hour time difference from my mother, she said he kept slipping into this hybrid English-Mandarin-Spanish and that it made no sense and that he fell asleep mid sentence.   My mother it seems with age has slipped back into Spanish, and my brother the longer he lives in Asia the rustier his Spanish becomes.  I worry that one day they will not be able to communicate as effectively as the both desire.

Our experiences are different, our opportunities are different. I remember when I first started to learn Mandarin (which I don’t actually know) I kept dreaming in German, a language I have never been conversational in, but my brain was scattered and nothing seemed to fit right.  Sometimes thoughts fit easily within language without pensiveness other times expressing these thoughts or feelings are a struggle.  There is a struggle to know a concept exists in one language or culture and not another.  That struggle is frustrating when I am dating a monolingual non-TKC, how to explain an emotion or a sentiment when they have no concept of it?  Which may explain the smile across my face when I think of the relationships some of these TKC musicians have.

As of late I’ve been really into the music, art, activism of  the following third culture children, Jarina de Marco, Stromae, and power couple Maya Jupiter and her partner Aloe Blacc.  Jarina de Marco was born to parents from the Dominican Republic and exiled to Brasil then later to Canada. Stromae was born to a Belgium mother, a Rawandan father, in Beligum and from what I’ve gathered in reading, raised in a French community in Brussels but attended a Dutch speaking university.  Maya Jupiter born to a Mexican father, a Turkish mother and spent much of her childhood and adolescence in Australia. Aloe Blaac*** born in the white suburbs of Orange County California to Black Panamanian parents (I say this because I think skin color play a deep role in third culture identity in this country).

***(I’m not actually sure I would identify Aloe Blacc as a TKC rather than more of a child of immigrants but I’ve personally found that black men raised in white communities have much in common with TKC.  To grow-up in America as not white, but within a white community allows you to have an ability to identify with TKCs.  Although, now that I think of it, I had a black-American boyfriend who grew up in a Mexican-American community and he had the ability to identify with TKC identity issues in a way I think most men, within the accepted standard of norm do not have—perhaps just growing-up outside the “norm” allows empathy—this is to say, more simply, what the hell do I know?)

All are political engaged, and globally aware, as tends to happen with third culture children.   It made me smile when I saw that Aloe was active in the Day Laborers Movement (if you recall my sister Cristina Tzintzún is Executive Director of The Workers Defense Project — an organization for Day Laborers in Texas)  I couldn’t help but think, yes, of course he would be supportive.

Anyway, go listen to their music, they are brilliant and we are lucky they share their minds via their music with us.  With these artists this is just a taste of their work and their ranges are wide so go find some of their old and new stuff and enjoy discovering them for yourself.
Here is a video from each

Jarina De Marco

At the age of five got kicked out of D.R.
Revolution from the start
Baby girl pack your dolls
Next stop Montreal
Parlez vous Français
Oui monsieur I do….mix race, pretty face, we embody all the nations


Maya Jupiter
It will take about 5 seconds before you realize she is brilliant

Aloe Blacc (this video was made by Alex Rivera — I’ve blogged about Alex Rivera before..but can’t seem to find the link, he has also been a big supporter of Cristina’s Workers Defense Project and is the artist who made the very moving documentary The Sixth Section AND he was just here in Ohio too to present his work to students in a new project I’ve taken on —I’ll blog about that later)

I was torn which video clip to put here.  His song Formidable is one of my favorites and I love the sound he produces with his “R”s  (yes the letter R).  However in the video I chose,
he  has a beautiful way of playing with identity including within gender roles, and breaking cultural standards of normativity and so that is what I am going to roll with.