The Wrong Kind of White

blog post june 10th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

When I was a kid I was aware that my family and I were of Portuguese descent but I never really truly understood what that meant until I was much older. My initial observations of the culture happened to be negative and I found myself isolating myself from the Portuguese culture and focusing more on American traditions.

Aside from my dark hair and Portuguese features, everything else about me was Americanized. I enjoyed American foods, American music, American fashion, American actors, and so on. I never learned how to speak Portuguese either so I never really identified with that part of myself. I remember when I was growing up that all of our holidays incorporated Portuguese traditions. My mother would make Portuguese cuisine and desserts. My father was very active in the Portuguese community and was involved in many organizations for writers, artists, and teachers of the Portuguese culture. He used to drag us to different events when we were kids and I hated it. I always felt out of place. Everyone spoke a language I didn’t understand but regardless of the language barrier, there was something I understood even without translation. I was fat and that was something that always stood out to this culture. They didn’t want you to starve, there’s was always plenty of food and drink on the table, but heaven forbid you were heavy! The conflicting opinions held by this culture was unsavory to me and made me want to separate myself from them even further.

I visited Portugal once when I was seven years old. Both sets of grandparents lived in Portugal but I was only close to my maternal grandparents. We visited them the summer of 1988 and I remember so much of that trip even though it was over thirty years ago. I remember the foods, the smells, the beautiful locale of my grandparent’s home, and I remember the people. This trip would mean more to me as an adult than it did when I was a child.

When I graduated high school, I started exhibiting my first signs of independence. When I had to get my financial aid settled for college I realized that I wasn’t going to get any grants or anything. Although my name sounded ethnic, I am categorized as white. I have this conundrum of having a Latina sounding name but categorically I am white. I was never afforded any kind of special treatment. I was stereotyped and discriminated against because of my name, yet people considered me white.

When I got my drivers license, my name was truncated in order to have my name fit on my driver’s license. When I fought the woman at the DMV she asked me if I was a citizen of this country and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. The racist woman’s true colors became visible and no matter how much I fought the bitch, I wasn’t going to win and now every single time I show someone my driver’s license I have to delve into my pre-prepared speech as to why I sound like a not quite de facto Star Wars character.

This would be the general theme throughout my entire adult life. I realized that I didn’t fit in with the Portuguese culture because I didn’t speak Portuguese and I wasn’t a stereotypical Portuguese woman. I didn’t enjoy the Rancho and I don’t wear multi-colored outfits and dance and drink red wine on Portugal Day. I don’t enjoy random pig parts mulled together into an unsavory stew. I don’t like fado music. I don’t visit the Ironbound. I’m not a part of any Portuguese associations.

I’m not American enough, or white enough either. My parents both speak Portuguese. They both have accents. I didn’t realize that my parents were different until I was about fourteen years old. My mother encountered two separate incidents of discrimination. Once I was at the furniture store with her and she was looking for a new sofa and the man explained something to my mom. My mom got snippy with the man because he changed his policy and was not forthright about it. As punishment for my mom asserting herself, he blamed it on her accent and not understanding what he was telling her. I was so angry on her behalf, not just because of the insult, but it was also a sexist remark. The mere thought of women asserting themselves makes men feel the need to denigrate and degrade us.

Another incident involved a neighbor we befriended when we first moved to New Jersey. She was an elderly woman who was old-school racist. She would use horribly racist words and we tended to avoid her or just be polite and say hello and goodbye. My mom got into a fight with her once and she insulted my mom basically calling her an immigrant and to go back to her own country. This became a common theme in our lives.

I spent my whole adult life trying to find my place in the world. I have no identity. I feel that both sides of the coin have betrayed me at some point. I have felt bullied and oppressed because of my name. This name that weighs down on me yet I still keep more to prove a point than because of pride. I spent my whole life educating people that my name is pronounced Lopes as in slopes not Lopez with a “z.” When I was in elementary school, I even had a teacher tell me that I didn’t know how to pronounce my own last name. I even went home to confirm that it was indeed Lopes as in slopes and my dad laughed and told me my teacher was a bitch. So from then on, I got that whole “us vs. them” vibe not only from the Portuguese culture but from the American culture as well.

I never fit in with the Portuguese crowd. I went to a very diverse college, which I loved, but I failed to really belong in any one crowd. I enjoyed talking to everyone. I remember there being a big Portuguese community in that college but I was never welcomed in their club. I wasn’t one of the “cool kids,” which was fine with me because they appeared fake and two-faced anyhow and I associated the Portuguese culture, at the time, with lacking in authenticity. My limited scope of my culture was always with people who I viewed as snobs and unwelcoming which made me hate the culture.

I remember moving to New Jersey and my neighbors to one side of our home were never very nice to us and they clearly are very racist as well. They had a daughter close to my age that they kept away from me because apparently being Portuguese was contagious.

I also remember taking a test in New York City to become a teacher and I was actually accused of cheating because I got near perfect scores. Apparently, you can’t have a name like mine and be smart too. I called them out on their racism and threatened to get the ACLU involved over it. I was just so sick and tired of the blatant racism and discrimination and oppression.

When I decided to finally become a writer full-time I was faced with a very important decision. Would I keep my name or would I develop a pen name? I thought about it a lot. This was a major decision for me. I was tempted to choose the name, Simone Lawler. Was I really going to be that person who hid her cultural identity for the sake of sales? And then I decided that I would keep my name; however, I would abbreviate it since my name is rather long. Those are my full initials and my own last name. This was the name my father gave me and I was not going to be ashamed of it. I wasn’t going to let the ignorance and blind hatred of others get to me. I realized that being a writer is a huge responsibility. My ultimate goal is to maintain my authenticity and I aim to be relatable and educational and responsible in what I write. I want to teach others to do better, to be better, and the way that I accomplish that is through my writing.

Now at thirty-eight, I am much happier and secure with my cultural identity. I embrace it and realize that just like everywhere else you’re going to meet good people and bad people and that’s with any culture. Just because I had a few bad experiences with the Portuguese crowds as a kid, that doesn’t mean that every single Portuguese individual is like that. I just had very limited exposure to individuals of my culture. Now, I have a lot of respect for my culture, I’m fully immersed in the foods, music, and rich history. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of my parents and all of the hardships they endured when they first moved to this country in the 60s. They are two of the strongest people I’ve ever known and my heart swells with pride for them both.

There are so many differences out there. That’s what makes us so interesting as human beings. Every single one of us has an amazing story to tell and it is worth listening to. To shun someone because of who they are is so ignorant and quite frankly boring. I am so bored of racist people who choose to remain willfully ignorant. I feel so sad for close-minded people who will never get a chance to know all of the wonderful people out there. I feel it truly is their loss! I’m done explaining myself, explaining who I am, explaining why my name is the way it is. This isn’t Ellis Island circa the 1800s. We are in 2019 and what do we have to show for it? What has changed really? There’s still so much work to be done!

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog. If you are interested in checking out my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page here: amazon.com/author/psglopes.

Also, please view my Patreon page here: www. patreon.com/themoonlitgoddess

I am looking to acquire funding for an editor and to create a song single for my upcoming release, John of Art, coming late summer 2019. Even a $5 donation would help. Thanks so much and I hope that you are all doing well.

 

The Healthcare System is Failing Us All

may 1 2019_blog

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

For many who truly know me, understand that I have not had the easiest life. I have endured several traumas in my life and as a result, I have been a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety. It has always been difficult for me to muster up the courage to go to any doctor and I usually only go during emergencies when I have an infection or bronchitis or anything like that. My anxiety is quite severe and I often have to coach myself to go and it takes me a few days of mental preparation unless it’s an absolute emergency that I can finally concede and buckle down and make the appointment.

I have never been fond of doctors. Every time I  go to the doctor it’s always the same thing, “you’re fat and you need to lose weight” and they’re always trying to pump me full of pills. Doctors have become pill pushers and develop creative ways of keeping patients coming back so they can keep siphoning people’s insurances. Doctors also want it easy for them too. They’re not interested in helping patients when there’s an actual problem that’s easy to fix for the patients.

After all of the things that have happened throughout my life, I have developed quite a complex. I am impossibly shy, I lack any sort of self-confidence, and for me to actually develop the courage to go to the doctor, those who know me well, realize how huge that is.

The other day I noticed that my town opened up a new hearing aid store. I was so impressed by my sister’s hearing aids (she went to a much fancier place because she has decent insurance), that I mustered up some courage to actually make the appointment and go get my hearing tested. I have been hard of hearing my whole life and that has been such a huge burden I have been carrying since I was a little girl. I remember being tested several times as a kid and my parents were told that I needed hearing aids but I never got them because my parents could never afford them for me.

The test was bittersweet. It indeed confirmed that I needed hearing aids and that I could get a reasonable pair with the crappy insurance I have. I actually got emotional during the test because I remembered the same words they spoke during the verbal part of the hearing test from when I had the same test done as a kid. When I heard the words “hotdog” and “baseball” I immediately started crying because I remembered what it felt like being a kid and being told I needed hearing aids and also being told I could not afford them. It was heartbreaking for me for so many reasons. But going to that hearing aid place I finally felt hope, which I don’t allow myself to feel very often because it’s always a terrible letdown. Today was no different.

Being hearing impaired always has been a source of contention for me my entire life. Since my parents could never afford them for me, I basically lived my entire life as if I was submerged in water. I learned to read lips and basically “faked it til I made it.” If I didn’t understand someone when they spoke to me I would ask them to repeat once, maybe twice, and by the third time, I’d just laugh awkwardly as if the person made a joke and would just awkwardly walk away. This became the norm for me, a coping mechanism. I avoid the telephone at all costs. I don’t like to socialize because I’m too embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves over and over again. It became such a huge complex of mine that I consider myself somewhat of a recluse. I just prefer solitude most of the times because I have developed such a fear of being mocked, shamed, or embarrassed because of my hearing loss amongst my other shortcomings– real or perceived.

When I got colds, my hearing would be even more severely limited. I remember one time I had gone to school when I was fifteen years old and gave my English teacher a doctors note asking that I not be called upon to read aloud in class because I was profoundly hard of hearing due to my cold. I was essentially deaf that day. I heard nothing. It was like life was completely muted and I was living in a world that lacked any sort of depth in terms of sounds. My English teacher, being a nasty bitch, of course, had to call on me. I had no idea she was speaking to me and I had my head down pretending to follow along with what the class was reading. One of my classmates happened to shake my sleeve to get my attention and told me that I was being asked to read. Not knowing where we left off, I just randomly started reading any passage. I looked around and everyone was visibly laughing at me. My teacher finally showed me mercy and told me to stop reading. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. And one that I still carry with me to this day.

This was the norm in my life. Constantly being mocked and shamed. The shy, nice girl always getting shit on by the world and today was no different.

I went to my primary care provider to ask for a prescription for hearing aids because that was the only stipulation from the hearing aid place that I needed the prescription. When I made the appointment on Monday, the doctor’s office never told me that they could not write me such a prescription and that I had to go to an ENT in order to get the prescription I needed. I wouldn’t have cared about this bit of news in the least, except for that fact that my doctor dragged me into the office unnecessarily when the receptionist could have told me right away that he did not write prescriptions for that. To make matters worse and to add insult to injury, his assistant, who looked like she belonged in a Britney Spears video, mind you, told me that I needed routine bloodwork and to continue taking medicine that I was never prescribed and to come back routinely to be checked up periodically. I laughed at the little girl’s face and said that I only go there when I have a cold but thanks anyway and took my paperwork and left. I had informed the hearing aid place of the situation and they had tried calling on my behalf but also failed to get anywhere with the doctor’s office as well.

I was so enraged by how horrifically I was treated from the very moment I walked into the office. Because I have such shitty insurance I am always treated horribly whenever I am in need of medical attention. I am always asked questions that no one would dare ask the elderly or a man, for that matter. People also question the clothes that I wear as well which is so beyond rude and don’t realize that the majority of what I wear is donated to me and I do take immaculate care of my clothes so they are always in good shape. I also live at home, so yes I am well taken care of in that regard. Even though I don’t have the typical 9 to 5 job with steady pay and traditional insurance that by no means makes me lazy, and many don’t realize just how much I bust my ass every single day doing so many things not just for my own business but for my family as well.

After my despicable treatment, I ran home and immediately signed up for a different primary care doctor. I deserve much better and I also deserve a female doctor and not that crusty old man that keeps trying to get me to use a sleep apnea machine or pump me full of pills. Instead of shoving pills, why not sit down and talk to your patients? Get to know them, know their struggles, and teach them ways of fixing their problems, not simply trying to shove pills down our throats and make people think they can’t live without them. Granted, obviously, people out there do need everyday care and rely on medications in order to continue living, I’m not referring to those individuals.

But this guy doesn’t even know any of my background because he never took the time to ask. He doesn’t know I have depression and anxiety and that I was treated by my old doctor before she passed away in my 20s and I never found anyone after that to help treat my condition nor got the courage to find someone who was as good as she was. He doesn’t understand that I’m an emotional eater and I eat myself to death because I’m so fucking miserable over my situation. Of course, I hate being poor, of course, I hate being fat, of course, I’ve tried so many fucking times to find paying jobs. And I, PSG Lopes, don’t need you or anyone else to validate my existence.

I’ve learned how to live my life in a way that’s just good enough to get by without the help of others who lack empathy and sympathy for myself and my situation. I know nobody will help me, I know nobody will listen. Everytime I try to open up and develop the courage to go out there and try to fix something wrong with myself I’m always horrifically embarrassed and that really sets me back months. I can literally spend a lifetime recalling those few moments beating myself over what happened and I will constantly find new and creative ways to completely hate myself. So if that guy accomplished anything today, it was making me feel even shittier and making me feel like more of a loser than I always do anyhow. So thanks for that, dipshit. I hope you choke to the death of the food you buy with the money you stole from me today!

I ended up finding a new doctor and making an appointment with an ENT that actually accepted my insurance but it will take a few months but I am determined to not let pieces of shit like that legalized drug pusher and his back up dancer assistant to make me feel inadequate. He and his playboy bunny assistant can go eat a bunch of dicks for lunch.

Despite all of my shortcomings, I was still able to put myself through college and I worked on my bachelors, masters, and doctorate. I worked since I was eighteen years old and have held several jobs over the years. Sadly; however, I was never able to find a lasting full-time position in the education field. I was a substitute teacher for over fifteen years and have worked in several districts and have taught all grades and all disciplines over the years. Whether I was flat out fired, laid off, or I’d quit, I realized I was stuck in a vicious cycle and I couldn’t continue on this way. My last teaching position, which I actually enjoyed and did exceptionally well at that year, I was laid off from due to lack of funding for the following school year. Realizing that I couldn’t keep going backwards in life and couldn’t face going back to substitute teaching yet again being laid off prompted me to leave education once and for all and that’s when I decided to create The Moonlit Goddess Writing Line and become a full-time writer. Aside from my writing, I am also one of the full-time caregivers of my father who has been suffering from advanced dementia for the past six years. Now because of all of this together, I realize I don’t make much money so my insurance is god awful.

People hear that I’m a writer and that I work remotely from home and they come with all sorts of conclusions about it. They assume I’m lazy, that I don’t want to work, and all of these other silly assumptions that couldn’t be further from the truth. I just happen to have a vision, I am ambitious, my degrees are in business administration and I hope to someday expand my writing line to a small publishing company. I am working hard every day and engaging in many opportunities to help me get there. I am nothing but proud of my accomplishments to date and I have nothing to be ashamed about but yet I still feel compelled to explain myself in order to get the message across that this is my chosen path and I will not allow anyone to mistreat me or disrespect me in any way, shape, or form.

To date, I have won an award for my short story “Breath of Freedom,” I have self-published eight pieces of work: Dark Musings Poetry Anthologies: Volumes 1 (1st and 2nd editions), 2 (which features my award-winning short story “Breath of Freedom”, and 3, two children’s books: My Papa and Me: A Children’s Book About Our Journey With Dementia and Little Stan’s Lucky Day, a novella: A Wynter’s Tale, and my single, “In Recovery.” My novella was just made into an audiobook. I have been featured in two newspaper articles this year. And I am nowhere near done with my ambitions for this year! Every artist and writer goes through a rough patch in the beginning as they begin to build their portfolio and start networking with individuals. Just because I’m not loaded doesn’t make what I do any less meaningful or important and I am incredibly fortunate enough to have a family who understands me and takes care of me as I pursue my dreams.

My father’s healthcare is not that much better. He is also treated like shit within the healthcare system and that infuriates me further because that man did nothing but work his entire adult life consistently putting money towards Medicare for others over the years and when it’s finally his turn to get people to help him he is denied or it takes months to see any progress. He needed a walker, it was denied. My mother ended up buying one out of her own pocket. He needed a wheelchair, it took forever and by the time we got one he was basically bedridden. The diapers, the wipes, the toiletries, the medicines, everything that my dad needs to ensure he is cared for properly all costs money and insurance doesn’t pay for any of that except for a portion of the medicines. The insurance won’t cover a home health aide past a certain amount of time and that too my mother pays out of pocket. We are lucky to have a nurse practitioner come and visit him once a month. The second the insurance stopped covering it, the social worker stopped accepting our calls. The system is corrupt and only the rich get the help that everyone should be entitled to get.

My family has basically always been blue collar our whole lives but we all worked hard and all deserve the same amount of respect. We deserve to be treated with dignity and equally despite our socioeconomic differences. Don’t judge a book by their cover. You don’t know what everyone’s story is. You don’t know what burdens everyone carries. Before you say, “that woman has nice boots, I wonder how she can pay for them if she’s not making any money!” My boots were bought with my own money when I was working as a full-time teacher. The things I have I keep and take very good care of them. People have this antiquated image of poverty but it really has many faces. I am lucky to have a mother and sister who have always been there for me through my hardest times in life. The things I can’t pay for, they help out. What I do in return is I drive everyone around to their appointments, I run all errands for the household, I help with gardening, feeding all of the animals my family takes care, taking care of dad’s daily needs, and so much more along with all of my own writing responsibilities whether it’s my passion projects or freelance work that I’m paid to do. So, call me fat and lazy all you like. Everyone has a purpose on this earth and I know mine and I don’t feel sorry or guilty for anything because I go to bed with my body in bits with all the physical work I do for my family day in and day out. I’m invaluable and I do have worth and I do contribute positively and I don’t need to be shamed, embarrassed, or discriminated against because of a lack of empathy or understanding from others.