Calladitas No More

I Waved The Slut Flag In My Mom’s Face During The Holidays And It Actually Brought Us Closer Together

Every holiday season, I know to expect a cacophony of yelling over clanking pots and pans, feeding a spoonful of mashed potatoes to one of my sisters to see if it needs more salt, and wine. Lots of wine. Usually of the sugary $7 white zinfandel variety my mom and sisters prefer. There’s also usually one fight, and at least three breakdowns after someone mentions our late father. Wine usually enables that as well.

One thing tends to alter the family dynamic ever so slightly each year, however: my boyfriend, or my boyfriend that year.

I don’t feel the anxiety of bringing a new boyfriend home for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with family, mainly because I do it almost annually. I’ve got it down pat.

For the last eight years or so, walking into the holidays with my family hasn’t been met with my mom or tías grilling me about my relationship status.

Teresa / Televisa

For the last eight years I’ve walked into Thanksgiving like that ^

For me, “Y el novio?” is more like “Otro novio? Que bárbara!” or “Y qué onda con este nuevo?”

American Idol / FOX

It’s become a running joke that the holiday season is new boyfriend season. Every Thanksgiving it’s a new guy to overfeed, and at Christmas it’s buying the same clearance Gap sweater for a different, similarly-shaped body.

I’m not a serial cuffer. The thought of being single during winter months, or any month for that matter, doesn’t scare me. I’m just an old-fashioned serial monogamist or serial dater. I’m 33 and I date, and my family has a lot to say about it. And it’s been a long road to get to not caring what they say.

As NPR reported last year, the number of single people now outnumber the amount of married people in the U.S., and there are more single ladies than brides for the first time in American history. More women are choosing to marry later in life than ever before, putting education and career growth first. I’m one of those women.

Though I did attempt marriage for a short stint in my early 20s. Since my divorce at the tender age of 25, I decided marrying again would not be my top priority, nor would finding my “one true love.” I don’t really think that exists, though love is a beautiful thing I’m lucky to have felt a few times.

However, this all equates to a greater chance of having multiple relationships and sexual partners, which means an increased likelihood that my family will have to stuff turkey meat into a new mouth every year.

I come from a particularly savage family that doesn’t hold back on the roasting one bit. Slut-shaming me mercilessly for having the audacity to date regularly and openly comes easy to them.

Jennifer Lopez / VEVO

And it ramps up during the holidays, with an onslaught of getting called a hoe, puta or cabrona descarada sin vergünza.

Sometimes the slut-shaming happens in front of my boyfriend, and I just shrug it off even though it’s pretty rude. There’s a reason why I’ve decided to bring my dudes home rather than live in perpetual hiding of my personal life.

Years back, my mom, in full chisme mode, told me that my cousin doesn’t like sex.

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That her mom — my tía — told her that my prima never has it because it grosses her out. I knew this to be total bullshit, and some way for my mom and aunt to try and flex on each other in typical competitive fashion, who has the purest, most angelic daughter of them all.

I made sure my mom knew to never go around saying that sort of thing about me for a few reasons:

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A) It only serves to perpetuate archaic, sexist and misogynistic notions with regards to women, sex and sexuality.

B) There’s nothing wrong with liking sex, so insisting someone doesn’t like it spreads unhealthy ideas about sex and leads people to not have important discussions about sex that could be potentially detrimental to their health.

C) This isn’t an issue if my brother, male cousins or other dudes date, so it shouldn’t be if I do either.

D) Just so she knows, I have sex and I like it, so I would appreciate if she didn’t lie about it. She can choose to simply not talk about it if it makes her uncomfortable.

My mom was stunned into silence, seeing as her baby girl just waved the slut flag in her face.

Jane The Virgin / ABC

Over time, though, it has been great for our relationship and how my family communicates.

Jane The Virgin / ABC

The thing is, I don’t think I should have to hide the fact that I date or have sex, despite what social and cultural expectations have told me my entire life. While my mom doesn’t need all the details, I’ve worked to create an open dialogue about my dating life, and give her the space to talk openly to me about hers.

If I’m not doing anything wrong — and I strongly believe I’m not — then why should I lie? I choose to own my sexuality, rather than have others decide what it is for me.

Mean Girls / Paramount Pictures

So when they come for me at Thanksgiving, Christmas, a baby shower, a Tuesday or any other time, I lean into their insults. You’re damn right I’ve got a new dude. I might have another new one next year. I’m not stuck with some asshole for the sake of being in a relationship. To each his / her own, and my own means I have more freedom, exciting career prospects and that my hard-earned paycheck goes all the way to whatever I want. And for that, I am very thankful.

Even with their slut-shaming and jokes, my mom, sisters and other family members will pull me aside and say “good for you.”


READ: F* Your Machismo, These Women Take Back Womanhood

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Día De Los Reyes Was The First Time I Allowed My S.O. To Experience My Culture

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Día De Los Reyes Was The First Time I Allowed My S.O. To Experience My Culture

For many who regularly take part in the holiday season, Christmas traditions are strongly tied to religious beliefs and practices. The ways in which the customs around the holiday season are carried out often deeply rooted in cultural rituals and they often vary from family to family. For my Puerto Rican family, the holiday season is drawn out well past the first of January when radio stations reel back on the jingles and Mariah Carey classics. For us, the Twelve Days Of Christmas sales or songs we know of don’t relate to the days leading up to December 25, but rather the twelve days in between Christmas Day and January 6 The Epiphany, a biblical day that marks the final leg of the  Three Wise Men’s journey to deliver gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus Christ.

Día De Los Reyes has always been an especially important day for my family. The fact that “reyes” is my mother’s maiden name has only made the day a little sweeter.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

A more popular holiday back on the island, my abuela and abuelo Reyes brought their traditions to the mainland with them in the 1950s.

On the evening of January 5, each member of my family from grandfather to my youngest sobrino pull out cardboard shoe and clothing boxes (all marked with our names, drawn on and decorated over the years with crayons, markers, and glitter pens) to take part in a tradition that we hold dear in our hearts. After we’ve filled the boxes with snacks like carrots, lettuce, and sometimes grass for the Three Kings’ camels to munch on as they pass through our town we stick the boxes under our beds. Finally, just as we would with Santa Claus, we write the Three Kings–Los Reyes–a handwritten note wishing them safe travels as the journey to see the baby Jesus hoping that as they did with him on that first Epiphany, they’ll leave a small gift or token of some sort under our boxes.

Dia De Los Reyes functions similarly to Christmas Eve in my family. We all wake up and check under our boxes to see if we were good enough this year to receive any gifts. We’d go to mass together, where as kids we’d hope that maybe Los Reyes stayed in town with their camels long enough that day to be at the church community center to pose for photos. We would visit family and eat pernil and arroz con gandules, dishes reserved for celebrations and holidays.

As I got older I went to mass only sometimes and stopped looking to get my photos with Los Reyes.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

I never stopped checking my box for gifts though, or remembering each rey by the names older relatives taught me to write in my letters: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. As an adult I focused on new ways to celebrate “being a king,” as my family would say, and took on the role of expert coquito maker.

When I started dating and began wanting to bring boyfriends home for the holidays, part of my new role during the holiday season also unintentionally became one of both gatekeeper and teacher of my Puerto Rican culture. As a sophomore in college, I brought my then boyfriend home for December for the first time. In my household, Noche Buena, Christmas Day, New Years Day, New Year’s Eve, and Dia De Los Reyes were all days set aside for family, exclusively. I knew not to ask for exceptions, and in the past had willfully or grudgingly passed up holiday and New Years parties to honor the expectation of being en familia.

But in my twenties I badly started to yearn for my first New Years kiss and wanted, even more, to share part of my twelve days of Christmas with somebody who mattered to me.

My parents, on the other hand, were hesitant. Dia De Los Reyes was about Los Reyes, as in my family.

My boyfriend was someone they saw a few times a year and knew of only from phone calls, letters, texts, and video chats. Someone so unfamiliar certainly wasn’t considered family, and moreover someone who wasn’t Latino couldn’t possibly understand the sanctity of the day we’d honored so lovingly all our lives.

Most concerning of all, Dia De Los Reyes is also known among some circles as “the poor man’s Christmas,” my grandparents’ explanation being that back in the days of Jesus, being a king didn’t mean wealth like it means today. It meant that the giftschildren and observers receive in their boxes today are small, like a $10 gift card, socks, some mittens, or maybe candy. The last thing my family needed was for some guy they didn’t know to reach into an old shoebox of all things, pull out socks, and think we were cheap. With some convincing and a little grumbling, my family allowed me to write my boyfriend’s name on a box, fill it with lettuce and put it under my bed on January 5.

That night as I lay in bed, I did feel nervous knowing that I was bringing somebody into such a special part of my life that no one had ever seen before outside of my parents. Earlier in the day, I made sure to explain to him how seriously my family took our family only traditions, and how it wasn’t just about the religious holiday but the namesake that ties us to one another. I felt silly as I highlighted decorating beat-up boxes as one of my favorite traditions, something I hadn’t ever admitted out loud. Quiet and reserved, he listened to my stories but didn’t ask any questions.

In the morning, I still had my family only morning mass and our opening of gifts, but later that day my boyfriend was invited over for pasteles, coquito, and the checking of his first and only Three Kings Day box.

My parents observed with critical eyes as he went through the motions of our traditions, seeming charmed by the gifts of a hat and gloves left resting on top of torn up shreds of lettuce, proof that Los Reyes had come through our house. As he followed our lead I sat hoping that by participating in the events himself, he might better understand where my love for my culture comes from, or maybe even briefly feel the same sense of childhood joy I do on that day each year. Admittedly, it was an awkward day for everyone involved and not filled with all the magic I had hoped for. Nonetheless, I still felt proud of myself for being able to break down a barrier that had long existed between myself and not only romantic connections but a friend, too.

I wanted the opportunity to show those outside of my family the part of my identity that I hadn’t always made transparent in my daily life, even if that meant that they didn’t understand or wouldn’t “get it” at first.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Even though the person who got to take the test run of my family only traditions and I aren’t together anymore, a few years ago he broke the mold for being able to bring others into a part of my life I was using to shutting so many close to me out of.n Maybe he did think that of us, our gifts, or the day we celebrate as cheap, but after the fact I, didn’t care. In the years that have followed, what has mattered most to me has been that I could start sharing Reyes, this name that laid down the foundation to who I am before I was ever born, and all the nuances that come with it with those I want to know me better.

This Dia De Los Reyes will be one of a few Reyes family festivities that my current boyfriend will be participating in, and another year where my family pulls out his box and welcomes his extra cheer into our holidays. While he’s still learning about my roots, I’m still learning that I can take these moments and use them to bring myself closer to my culture and my loved ones.


Read: Twitter’s Latest Hashtag Fights Back Against The Normalization Of Death And Violence Against Migrant Youth

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The #1 Tip I Learned To Not Go Broke Over The Holidays

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The #1 Tip I Learned To Not Go Broke Over The Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, from the music to the outfits to the food. The one thing that isn’t wonderful, though, is our collective money spending. It’s pretty predictable, year after year: We completely forget to save for Christmas and then, a month before December, we freak out because we aren’t really sure how we will afford all the extravagance of the holidays. From the gifts for family and friends to the hostess gifts for all those parties you plan to attend to Christmas cards for your distant relatives and ex-coworkers, it can all add up. Thankfully, there IS a way to budget for the holidays without going broke (or going crazy!).

Thanks to these 20 tips (especially #1 and DEFINITELY #20), you can go into the holidays resting assured that you won’t go broke for once. Although some of these tips might serve you better if you haven’t done all of your shopping yet this year there’s a lot we can all learn about budgeting for the holidays… and not going broke while still enjoying the Christmas season.

1. Download a personal finance app.

youneedabudget/Instagram

If you are planning to not spend a fortune this holiday season but still don’t have a dependable personal finance app that you rely on to track your spending, then get on it! I’m personally a huge fan of You Need A Budget (YNAB), which has four simple rules and a software system that allows you to track your spending and save for those big goals you have down the road.

2. Look at what you spent last Christmas.

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A great way to figure out what you might be spending on Christmas presents and holiday stuff this year is to go through and see what you had spent last year. It might be scary but make sure you go through your credit card bills and banks statements from November and December. Also, don’t forget to calculate if you bought some presents earlier in the year! It all needs to be added up to give you a good sense of the coming year.

3. Include buying things like wrapping paper and shipping presents.

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Did you forget to add in all the extras that come with the holiday season and gifting, such as wrapping paper, labels, shipping, etc? Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. I almost never think about the fact that I need to buy new wrapping paper basically every year and yet somehow it always adds to my overall costs. The same goes for shipping presents to any family members and friends that you will not be seeing this year.

4. Consider if you want to send out holiday cards.

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Holiday cards are super adorable and great to receive, but they have to go into your overall holiday budget too. A pack of cards can cost you and don’t forget about the stamps, either. I ended up spending something like $20 on stamps this year and another $20 on cards… So although it seems like small costs, it all adds up. Put it in your budget if this is something you want to commit to!

5. Count everyone you got presents for.

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Part of budgeting for Christmas includes everyone that you bought presents for. After you’ve added up all of the costs you actually incurred, you’ll want to also write down everyone that received presents from you this year. From your immediate family to your distant cousins and your college besties, everyone has to go on the list even if they got something small… Like a Christmas card. This is part of the evaluation process, so trust me on this.

6. Evaluate if your list is the same this year or if you can cut some people (or add others).

about.desiree/Instagram

Every year, you probably keep buying presents for all of the same people that you have always bought presents for. But since this year you are doing a deep inventory, this is the perfect time to evaluate where that list you made in #5 actually still makes sense. Is there anyone that you’re actually not that close to that you can cut? Or are there people you need to add? Think hard about this and make sure that you remove anyone off your list that you’re just not that close to anymore because, let’s face it, you can’t afford to keep adding people all the time. And guilt over not sending a present this year isn’t really a good reason to send a present.

7. Be realistic about the people you really WANT to gift.

fleursdeparis_official/Instagram

This is where you have to be really, really harsh. Think about the people who truly bring you joy and the people that you love, see all the time, who are there for you and who you would be there for any time of day. Are there any people that don’t fit this description that are still on your Christmas shopping list? Think about why they are there. Is it more a sense of obligation or guilt, rather than the true spirit of gift-giving? Those are the people that you should be removing, guilt-free. Honestly, they will probably feel the same about you and be more than happy to no longer have to send you something just because they feel obligated to.

8. Think about whether you want to give personalized, DIY gifts.

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There might be some people on your list who you don’t really love giving gifts to but you don’t yet want to remove them off of your list completely, amirite? These people might be the perfect candidates to receive homemade, DIY gifts from you. Although DIY gifts can sometimes not be that much cheaper than something else, other times they can be a great way to cut costs and also give people you appreciate something a bit more personalized. For instance, one year I made a huge batch of salsa verde and gave that to all of my friends. Another year, I did a homemade spice mix and did the same. And let me tell you, those gifts were SERIOUSLY appreciated.

9. Go through your closet for items you can sell.

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This isn’t technically a way to cut costs during the busy holiday season but it IS a good way to “find” extra money that you can then funnel into your holiday budget. Everyone has at least a few items in their closet that they no longer wear or don’t see themselves wearing. Well, no time like the present to clear out your closet and give it all away!

10. The same goes for your electronics, unused/unopened makeup, etc.

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Just as there are things in your closet that you could sell, I bet there are other things around the house that you could get rid of too. Sure, some items are best donated (which is a great thing to do during the holidays, too) but other items can definitely be sold. For instance, my husband has an old phone that is still in great working order but he hasn’t sold yet… Now is the time. The same goes for my 2-year-old Kindle that I haven’t touched in 1.5 years.

11. Look at your budget and add in money for travel.

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Remember when I told you to look at how much money you spent on Christmas presents last year? Well, you also want to look at how much money you spent on travel. This is easily done if you usually fly somewhere else for the holidays but should also be done if you do a lot of driving between different relatives’ homes around the holidays. Filling up the car’s gas tank can add up, too, so this needs to be thought about and factored in.

12. Don’t forget to also add in what you might spend on going to parties.

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Sure, going to family parties for the holidays is a given when it comes to traveling but I bet that you will be going to other parties, too. From your work party to your coworker’s shindig to your bestie’s annual Christmas Eve party, there is always more that you are doing this year. Factor in the travel costs between all of those parties as well as how much you are spending on hostess gifts. Remember: Those bottles of wine and plates of cookies you bring to every party don’t pay for themselves!

13. Come up with a realistic budget.

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Here’s where sh*t gets real: You need to take a look at ALL of your holiday expenses from last year and figure out what you can and should spend this year. Are there places you can cut, like with DIY gifts and by bringing cookies to parties instead of your usual pricey bottle of wine? Look at how much you owe, too, and figure out what makes sense for your family. There is never a good reason to go into debt and that especially includes the holidays. You shouldn’t spend money you don’t have, so keep that in mind as you cross people off of your Christmas gift list. They would NEVER ask you to go into debt for them, trust me.

14. Recognize that it’s okay to spend less and save more.

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Here’s the thing that is going to take some real work and might actually be one of the hardest things about budgeting for the holidays: You need to be OKAY with spending less money. Often, we do things simply because that is the way we have always done them. We keep giving that gift to our college roommate just because we have been doing it for years even though realistically you never talk to this person outside of the yearly holiday exchange. Do you really need to be doing that? I bet you can come up with several more examples of this, too. But it takes time to adjust to your financial reality and treat your finances with care and thought, so get started on this now. It might take you a few years to really get to where you want to be but it’s well worth the effort.

15. Don’t feel that you need to please absolutely everyone.

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Here’s the biggie about spending LESS for the holidays: You don’t need to get everyone an expensive gift and it doesn’t need to cost the same gift as whatever they get you. Sure, that might seem more “fair” but if you are measuring your relationship to a person by how much they are giving you and you are giving them, then this isn’t a healthy relationship. Instead, work on learning to let go of pleasing everyone and focus on pleasing yourself (and your wallet). If there are people that you have to not give a present to this year or that you won’t be spending as much money on, that’s okay. But you need to learn that it’s okay and that’s a process.

16. Be cool with re-gifting.

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Here’s a dirty little secret that nobody ever wants to admit: Everyone re-gifts. I’ve never met a person who hasn’t done this or who hasn’t at least considered it and then opted out because they were “ashamed.” But what exactly are you ashamed of? Like, how many times did a friend come to your house and say, “hey, I want to see that thing I gave you for Christmas three years ago.” NEVER. Sometimes, the gifts we get seem great in theory but we never end up using them. And sometimes, abuelita gets us something that is just… so wrong. Well, those unused gifts might be perfect for someone else, so don’t be afraid to save them and re-gift them later. It doesn’t make you a cheapskate. It makes you thoughtful because you knew that someone else in your life would actually LOVE this thing that would otherwise be collecting dust at your house. Do it!

17. Plan ahead by the person.

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One of the best ways I have found to “save money” every holiday season is that I plan ahead the people that I want to give gifts to and I keep them in mind when traveling or going to interesting stores. You might not be able to do this one in 2018, but you can certainly keep it in mind for the future. Here’s how it works: Once you have your Christmas gift list ready, every time that you travel or go somewhere interesting, remember the people on your list and keep an eye out for them. I’ve gotten at least 1/4 of my presents this way for years now. Not only does it cut costs in December but it also makes me a little bit less stressed because I know that at least a portion of my gifts are already taken care of.

18. It’s okay to shop sales.

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Just as there is no shame in re-gifting, there is also no shame in buying your loved ones things that you find on sale. As long as the gift you are getting is heartfelt and chosen with care, there is no reason why you can’t also save a little bit of money. This is another reason why planning ahead (#17) is a great idea since you can take advantage of things like Prime Day when doing your holiday shopping early. And yes, that’s a true story. I bought one of my best friends a gift this year during Amazon’s Prime Day in JULY!

19. Add in a little extra for self-care money.

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I know it might be a stretch to stretch your holiday budget even further by spending money on yourself but trust me when I say that this is a definite necessity. I know that this time of year is super busy and stressful, which is precisely why you need to dedicate a small portion of your budget on some extra self-care. For instance, go get some pretty perfect-for-the-holiday nails. Or buy yourself a facemask for some self-care at home. Or go get a blow-out for a particularly great party. Whatever it is, don’t forget YOU during this time of year.

20. Create your holiday budget for next year, RIGHT NOW.

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And here’s the biggie and my best piece of advice for you: Create your holiday budget, right now, for NEXT year. After you have done all of this work to get your holiday budget under control for this year, don’t forget that next year is just around the corner. The best thing that I learned through my personal finance app, YNAB, is that part of budgeting is calculating your yearly expenses well before they happen. Here’s how to do it: If you are planning to spend $1200 on Christmas travel, gifts, cards, etc., every year, then you need to start saving that money in January, NOT start freaking out about it after Halloween. So once you know and have set your budget (whatever that number is), divide it by 12 (months of the year) and that way you know exactly how much to put towards holiday stuff every month next year. This is a genius way to make sure you will have money to do all of the things you want to do next Christmas AND it will make your holiday season super stress-free. All it takes is saving $100 a month (or so?) and you will be able to rock Christmas 2019 like no other.


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