SPOTLIGHT: The writers of Mothers & Mijas at Off The Tracks – Ramona Pilar Gonzales
My Crone, My Self By Ramona Pilar Gonzales
I was addicted to The Joy Luck Club for a brief period in 1999. I had seen the movie when it was released theatrically and loved it. It has everything you could want in a woman’s melodrama: tradition versus self-determination; cheating, abusive husbands; mother-daughter conflict; gorgeous, soft cinematography; epic, moody string based music; and crying, lots and lots of cathartic crying. Beyond being an excellent cry-fest trigger, The Joy Luck Club is special to me because it was one of the first movies I noticed that showcased grandmothers’ stories and honored the full lives those women had as daughters, women, mothers and grandmothers. Both the book and the film made the point of showing the entire scope of a Woman’s life – starting with a death and ending with a rebirth.
Contemporary Popular Culture is littered with stories featuring the ingénue trope – hot young thing bursting at her fruitful seams with burgeoning womanhood. For better and worse, the culture American society creates has an affect on our understanding of life. As it is right now, American Culture is focused on maintaining youth, which does us a great disservice.
Because I am a staunch observer of my American culture, I know it is customary for me to being worrying about aging. It is customary for me to lament the transmogrification of my body as it begins to show the signs of age, to bemoan every infinitesimal crease that lingers on my skin no matter how much water I drink or sleep I get. I am virtually required to continue feeling bad about my body, but now it is for losing elasticity, something I cannot prevent, something that was hard wired into my DNA by powers and forces that are older than stardust.
I turn 35 this year and I’m only going to get older after that. As a good friend pointed out, we are effectively in the 35-80 bracket which means pre-menopause can start at any time from this point on. There’s a high probability that on this road to death I will develop Rheumatoid Arthritis like my mother, and like her mother before her. I’m not interested in hating myself for getting old or fearing the deterioration of my body or brain. I don’t want to spend my life fearing death or trying to wish aging out of existence.
There has to be another way to age.
I created the character of Nana Reina for that reason. I wanted to see a woman who looked into the twilight of her life head on, who was proud of the decisions she made. She is ageless, as in she would never admit to her age. She is full of a boisterous energy that invades the room. She loves to dance, even though her arthritis makes her once fluid movements stiff. She is the stuff gay icons are made of, a combination of La Lupe, Celia Cruz and the powerful Amazonian women in my family.
The stories I heard from my matriarchs echoed the stories from The Joy Luck Club in a lot of ways in that some of them include cheating husbands, abuse-induced miscarriages, desertion and a whole lot of sad tragedy. But the stories I treasure are the ones where they stand up for themselves, where they are the ones who leave, where they defy convention and embrace Life rather than be victims of it. Nana Reina is an amalgam of the stories of their strength and the kind of mature woman I would like to be.
There are so many years between the ingénue and the crone. Those years can go to waste if spent desperately trying to hold on to youth out of fear of age. The bulk of a lifetime exists in those in between years when women are at their absolute best and most beautiful. If fruit does not age, it cannot get riper or sweeter. It will never reach the pinnacle of its beauty without maturity.
Ramona Pilar Gonzales is a writer/performer and native Californian. Her prose (essays, review, columns) has been published in LatinoLA, CreepyLA, La Revista Magazine, the Highland Park News and more. She has also written and produced several short plays and films. Her dramatizad essay, Del Plato a la Boca, El Ritmo te Toca, received a grant from La Plaza de Cultura y Artes Foundation. She is a founding memeber of the theater performance group Tongue in Chíc*ana. She has performed with the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, Casa 0101, Cornerstone Theater Company, the Denver Center Theater, and East Los Angeles Repertory Theater Company. Ramona has a B.A. in Film and Cultural Representation from UC Davis and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.
Mothers & Mijas: A Special Mother’s Day show celebrating women, life, love, & family! April 29th & 30th and May 6th & 7th. With original works written by Gerardo Davolo, Fanny Garcia, Ramona Gonzales, Gabriela Lopez de Dennis, Carmelita Maldonado, Rosalva Reza, Selene Santiago de Nasseri, Felix Umana and directed by Carmelita Maldonado. All performances at 8 p.m.(Doors open @ 7:30 p.m.) $10 donation/ Moms $5
OFF THE TRACKS 5068 Valley Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90032. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-383-3291