Friday, August 24, 2012
Mommy, One More time
I thought I had beaten this topic (Mommy) to a pulp, but something just keeps popping up and I keep falling for it.
Okay, so I am now resigned to being called Mommy by all (except by my peers and elders, the remaining few whose vital organs refuse to be atrophied by advance age) wherever I go.
Just when I am getting comfortable with this label, I suddenly earn a new one—Nanay, Mommy in Filipino.
When I heard it the first time last month from a hospital security guard, I searched my brain. What brought this on? It was very early in the morning and I was rushing to have my regular blood chemistry tests. (It had to be at that hour otherwise my all-night fasting would be all for naught.)
"Saan kayo, Nanay? [Where to, Nanay?]” the security guard asked.
“Lab,” I replied, asking back, “Did you just say 'Nanay'?"
"Yes, po, Nanay," he replied.
Why? I writhed in something close to the sting of the syringe that the nurse stuck into a vein in my arm.
The answer came in the hospital glass door that reflected my image: Unkempt hair, still-asleep eyes, distressed denim shorts, grubby t-shirt, rubber thongs, and bare hands.
I picked up the results several hours later—but this time in my business/professor look: coiffed hair, Lauder-shadowed eyes, dangling earrings, faux pearl necklace, red blazer, shiny black slacks, stiletto heels, and hands decked with a watch and bangles, a designer bag from my cousin Minna, plus a hint of Bulgari perfume from my friend Mabel.
The same security guy, the polite one who called me Nanay, opened the same door for me and ever so politely, tipping his hat, said, "Good afternoon, Mommy!" coupled with an urban swagger.
I turned from Nanay to Mommy in a matter of hours.
Just to test my new Nanay-Mommy theory, I mimicked my look at the hospital for a short trip to the village parlor that same week. I was right! Not a soul called me Mommy. Everyone—from the tricycle driver, the village guard, the street sweepers, to the banana vendor—all addressed me, Nanay.
Mommy . . . Nanay . . . it doesn't really make any difference. They mean exactly the same thing.
But why do people use one and not the other? Is there a mental juggernaut somewhere? What triggers the label choice?
Sad, but true: outward appearance. When one looks plain and bare, people generally categorize you into a level. When one is dolled-up and perfumed, people generally assign you to another level.
"When you travel to another country, dress up!" my boss used to say.
I was stubborn in those days. On a short hop from Paris to Madrid, I wore my jeans and sneakers. At the immigration, I was stopped and asked to go to a room, spartan like a prison cell, while the well-dressed passengers were allowed to keep going. In the room, my luggage was examined and my things overturned.
Judging (or misjudging) people by their outward appearance is cross-cultural!
Today, I can morph from Mommy to Nanay quite easily, depending on my get-up. And although this labeling is a sad state of affairs, it is a hard fact of life.
I thank our gracious God for not judging me by how I look on the outside. He calls all those who believe in and follow him—youngster or oldie, clotheshorse or fashion victim, wrinkled or unlined—the same endearing tag, "My child."
“But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)