Many of the stories in Woman Hollering Creek portray growing up as a process full of contradiction and uncertainty. The children in these pages are striving to understand many things at once: social class, sexuality, cultural and national identity, religion, and attraction. Often times they ignore the complexity of things they don’t completely understand, as is the case when—for example—the narrator of “Mexican Movies” says that she enjoys being told to leave the movie theater when the characters onscreen undress, since this means she can go buy candy in the lobby. What’s interesting is that this simplistic mindset (in which nudity is ignored in favor of a more innocent pleasure) is actually complex in its own way. Indeed, the narrator of “Mexican Movies” enjoys being treated like a kid precisely because it enables her to go to the lobby without her parents, thereby granting her adult autonomy. So while she may not fully understand the implications of why she’s being asked to leave, she does understand the grown-up freedom the experience enables her to have. As such, naivety turns into a form of maturity. This happens throughout the collection in a variety of different ways, such as when the narrator of “My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn” is jealous that Lucy gets to sleep in one bed with all of her sisters. On the one hand, the narrator naively fails to grasp that this is an indication that Lucy’s family is financially strained. On the other hand, she proves herself capable of experiencing the very adult feeling of loneliness. Children and teenagers alike undergo similar moments throughout Woman Hollering Creek, navigating the world with partial understandings of complex concepts. In turn, these partial understandings frequently lead to self-awareness and maturity, proving that coming of age is a complex process that actually depends upon a child’s capacity to comfortably exist in uncertainty.
Coming of Age ThemeTracker
Coming of Age Quotes in Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
I’m sitting in the sun even though it’s the hottest part of the day, the part that makes the streets dizzy, when the heat makes a little hat on the top of your head and bakes the dust and weed grass and sweat up good, all steamy and smelling like sweet corn.
I want to rub heads and sleep in a bed with little sisters, some at the top and some at the feets. I think it would be fun to sleep with sisters you could yell at one at a time or all together, instead of alone on the fold-out chair in the living room.
This is when I wish I wasn’t eleven, because all the years inside of me—ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one—are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put one arm through one sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the other arm through the other and stand there with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren’t even mine.
That’s when everything I’ve been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price put the sweater on my desk, finally lets go, and all of a sudden I’m crying in front of everybody. I wish I was invisible but I’m not. I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody. I put my head down on the desk and bury my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming out of my mouth because I can’t stop the little animal noises from coming out of me, until there aren’t any more tears left in my eyes, and it’s just my body shaking like when you have the hiccups, and my whole head hurts like when you drink milk too fast.
Salvador inside that wrinkled shirt, inside the throat that must clear itself and apologize each time it speaks, inside that forty-pound body of a boy with its geography of scars, its history of hurt, limbs stuffed with feathers and rags, in what part of the eyes, in what part of the heart, in that cage of the chest where something throbs with both fists and knows only what Salvador knows, inside that body too small to contain the hundred balloons of happiness, the single guitar of grief, is a boy like any other disappearing out the door, beside the schoolyard gate, where he has told his brothers they must wait.
Yours is the one with mean eyes and a ponytail. Striped swimsuit, stilettos, sunglasses, and gold hoop earrings. Mine is the one with bubble hair. Red swimsuit, stilettos, pearl earrings, and a wire stand. But that’s all we can afford, besides one extra outfit apiece. Yours, “Red Flair,” sophisticated A-line coatdress with a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, white gloves, handbag, and heels included. Mine, “Solo in the Spotlight,” evening elegance in black glitter strapless gown with a puffy skirt at the bottom like a mermaid tail, formal-length gloves, pink chiffon scarf, and mike included. From so much dressing and undressing, the black glitter wears off where her titties stick out. This and a dress invented from an old sock when we cut holes here and here and here, the cuff rolled over for the glamorous, fancy-free, off-the-shoulder look.
Every time the same story. Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie’s boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, Okay? Kiss kiss kiss. Then the two Barbies fight. You dumbbell! He’s mine. Oh no he’s not, you stinky! Only Ken’s invisible, right? Because we don’t have money for a stupid-looking boy doll when we’d both rather ask for a new Barbie outfit next Christmas.
I’m not saying I’m not bad. I’m not saying I’m special. But I’m not like the Allport Street girls, who stand in doorways and go with men into alleys.
All I know is I didn’t want it like that. Not against the bricks or hunkering in somebody’s car. I wanted it come undone like gold thread, like a tent full of birds. The way it’s supposed to be, the way I knew it would be when I met Boy Baby.
But you must know, I was no girl back then. And Boy Baby was no boy. Chaq Uxmal Paloquín. Boy Baby was a man. When I asked him how old he was he said he didn’t know. The past and the future are the same thing. So he seemed boy and baby and man all at once, and the way he looked at me, how do I explain?
The truth is, it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t any deal at all. I put my bloody panties inside my T-shirt and ran home hugging myself. I thought about a lot of things on the way home. I thought about all the world and how suddenly I became a part of history and wondered if everyone on the street, the sewing machine lady and the panadería saleswoman and the woman with two kids sitting on the bus bench didn’t all know. Did I look any different? Could they tell? We were all the same somehow, laughing behind our hands, waiting the way all women wait, and when we find out, we wonder why the world and a million years made such a big deal over nothing.
I know I was supposed to feel ashamed, but I wasn’t ashamed. I wanted to stand on top of the highest building, the top-top floor, and yell, I know.
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