Knocked Down By Machismo
Those of you who have read my work already know my stories are mostly inspired by everyday situations. For those of you who have yet to read my work and have absolutely no clue what to expect, I’ll tell you realism is my “thing.” There’s no magic penis that’ll cure anything and everything, but there’s a strong desire to be happy. There’s love, commitment, and there’s hope.
I’ll always try my best to make my readers part of my characters’ journey. Now, it’s never a quick or easy road, but my readers tell me they feel emotionally invested by the time they reach The End… or The Beginning. It always depends on which story they choose to read first. ;-)
As you may or may not know, I have a story coming out in a little over a month. Today I’m here to talk about machismo, one of the recurring subjects in Heavy Hitters (Goodreads). Thanks to Lisa and The Novel Approach for having me over and giving me a platform to talk a bit about my newest book, and all of you for taking the time to read.
I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, a paradise in many ways. Tropical plants, rainforest, sunny beaches, transparent water, soft golden sand…. Do I sound like a tourism commercial yet? *g* Down there people are friendly, family-oriented, and extremely lovable. They’re also mainly Catholic, and, to this date, ruled by machismo and gender roles.
Men are expected to be brave and protect the honor of their families. They’re supposed to have excellent work ethic, be good providers, and live up to their responsibilities. Women, even if they have jobs outside the house, are expected to clean, cook, care for the children, and take orders from the husband. As simple as that. There’s little—if any—room for anything else.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Women are highly regarded. They rule the house and keep the family united, but there’s no denying the patriarchal authority that exists in most every home. Dad says what’s allowed; he says when and how. In some cases he even subjugates his wife and resorts to domestic violence in order to prove his manhood. He wants his daughters to be like mom, and his sons to be little clones of himself. And I can tell you, not many dads are open-minded and accepting if one of their sons happens to have interests that are attributed to girls.
Such is the case with Julio Malavé, one of my main characters’ father. He’s belligerent on a good day, abusive on a regular basis, and he’s drunk most of the time. His mission in life is to make sure Santino becomes a boxing champion and behaves like a “real man,” and he has no qualms in destroying his son’s spirit in the process.
You see, coming out as gay isn’t really an option for many Puerto Rican boys. They face discrimination, mockery, bullying, and downright abuse. A lot of times they’re killed for their sexual orientation. I wouldn’t say Puerto Rico isn’t a safe place for gay men. Hundreds of them are out and proud, but they are the exception, not the rule, and there’s a price to pay.
Do *you* have any experience with machismo? Any stories or opinions on the matter you’d like to share? Leave a comment below for a chance to win an ARC, Also, I’d love to “hear” your thoughts.
THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
Heavy Hitters aims to explore the life journey of my Puerto Rican characters in a country closed-off to their orientation. You’ll meet Santi and Luca when they are kids, and follow them through the years until they reach their thirties and find their happily ever after. Hope to see you aboard for the ride, but be warned, it’ll be a bumpy one.
Below is an excerpt from Heavy Hitters. The scene takes place when our protagonist is a little kid and gets his first lesson on how to behave like a “proper boy.”
World Boxing Champion Santino Malavé has been fighting since he was a kid. Poverty, domestic violence, and emotional abuse were early contenders. Guilt and self-loathing were beaten into him by his homophobic dad at an impressionable age and now machismo, an integral part of the Latino culture, rules his life. In the ring he’s undefeated. Outside the ropes life constantly hits him below the belt. It takes a sucker punch from his best friend to finally knock the denial out of him and force him to face his true nature like a real man.
A natural born entertainer, Luca Betancur has grown up laughing, performing, and celebrating life among his tight-knit family under the scorching Puerto Rican sun. He has also dedicated years to deny his sexuality, study what the Bible really says, and pursue fame. Singing the wrong note on stage is not a mistake the multi-platinum award-winning singer would ever allow. Falling in love with a man is not a transgression his devout family would ever accept. The ties that bind him are strong, but the pull toward his childhood best friend may just be enough to tear it all to shreds.
Anger, mistakes, bigotry, and the need to conform put up a good fight. Can they break down the walls erected by Catholic teachings and a chauvinistic society, or will their relationship lose by technical knockout?
Excerpt: For years Santi had begged Mom for a dollhouse and a Barbie with a fluffy skirt and shiny top, only to be told again and again he couldn’t have it. Santi knew it upset Mom every time he asked, probably because boys weren’t supposed to play with dolls. Also, Mom didn’t have the money to get it for him. Santi never stopped asking, though. Not until that time when Mom dragged him out of the store and made him promise he would never ask for a Barbie again. They’d been to the store many times since then and Santi hadn’t asked, but he’d never stopped wanting it. Today he was asking again.
Mom had told him he’d be allowed to choose one present from the thrift store for his birthday. Santi had prayed every night that no one bought the dollhouse because he wanted it more than anything in the world. God had listened to him. No one had bought it, and it was his birthday. That meant he could finally have it.
“What in the world do you think you’re doing?” Mom gasped. “How many times do I have to tell you boys play with things like cars and action figures? You shouldn’t be looking at this.”
Santi didn’t look at his mom. He was too busy trying to lift his birthday present without dropping it to the floor. “I’m getting my dollhouse.”
Mom tried to pry the plastic dollhouse from his hands, but Santi refused to let go. “Come on,” she cajoled. “Let me put it back before anyone sees you. They have rules about touching the merchandise if you’re not going to buy it.”
“But we’re going to buy it.” Santi smiled at his mom. “Can we pay for it now? I want to start playing.”
“We’ve talked about this, Santi.” Mom glanced around. “You promised me you wouldn’t ask for a Barbie and a dollhouse again.” Her voice was stern. She sounded like she was about to ground him, but that couldn’t be, right? It was his birthday. Nobody got grounded on their birthday.
“I kept my promise.” Santi took several steps back, holding onto the dollhouse. “I was good. I didn’t ask you for a dollhouse for a very long time, and I’ve behaved. I’ve been good and helped you in the house and— right, Julito?” he asked when Julito and Omayra joined them. “Tell Mom I’ve been good and deserve to get my present.”
“Oh, lord.” Mom wrung her hands together. “Please, don’t do this,” she begged, looking over her shoulder.
“Put that back, Santi,” Omayra whispered, her eyes as big as saucers.
“You’ve been very good,” Julito said. “Mom knows that.”
Santi smiled at his big brother. He could always count on him to take his side.
“You’re always good, mijo,” Mom confirmed with a tremulous smile. “This has nothing to do with that.”
Julito added, “I think you should put the dollhouse back.”
“Why?” A frown promptly replaced Santi’s smile. “I want it so much… I told you that. Don’t you remember?”
Confusion at why Julito wasn’t helping him distracted Santi from the fact that his mom had almost taken the dollhouse from him. He yanked it back with such force that he fell on his butt, and the dollhouse and the Barbie doll landed on the floor with a loud thud.
“Because Dad won’t like it,” Julito said, “and you know how he gets. I don’t want you to get grounded, buddy. Do you want to get grounded?”
A store employee ran toward them. “Is everything okay?” She crouched next to Santi and reached for the dollhouse.
“That’s mine,” Santi yelled.
“Don’t be disrespectful, Santi!” Mom snapped, crouching next to the lady and offering a tremulous smile. “Everything’s fine,” she said in a lower voice, then glared at Santi when the employee nodded and left. “Don’t you ever raise your voice to an adult, you hear me?”
“She was going to take my present away,” Santi whined, reaching for the Barbie doll.
Julito crouched next to him and grabbed his arm. “Come on, Santi.”
“Why are you doing this again?” Omayra asked. “Do you want to get your ass whooped?”
“I told you this isn’t a good idea,” Julito continued. “If Dad ever finds out you want to play with dolls—”
“I don’t care if he gets mad.” Santi clutched the Barbie doll in his hand and looked at Mom, silently begging for what he must have. “I want this Barbie and the dollhouse as birthday presents,” he said in a trembling voice, just in case Mom couldn’t read his eyes.
Omayra bent down and kissed him on the head. “You’ve got to get something else,” she urged. “Don’t do this to yourself.”
“Put the doll down,” Mom ordered. “We need to go.”
“Let’s go find something else you’d like to get.” Julito said, pulling on his arm.
Santi ignored his brother. He ignored Omayra and his mom, and also the store lady who had just come back. He knew Mom was getting really upset, and that he’d be in big trouble if Dad saw him like that, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to get his ass whooped, but he couldn’t give up his Barbie doll.
“I don’t want something else!” Tears burning his eyes, he slid back on the floor when the store lady moved closer. Still clutching the Barbie with one hand he reached for the dollhouse with the other. “You said I could have whatever I wanted from the thrift store for my birthday, Mom. You told me every time I asked you.”
“I didn’t mean you could have a dollhouse,” Mom clarified with a sad look in her eyes.
“It’s my birthday,” Santi sniffled. “I blew out the candle on my cupcake this morning, and I wished we’d find exactly what I wanted. My birthday wish came true. I want my dollhouse.”
“You can’t have it,” Mom said, and Santi could tell she was running out of patience. “Come on, now. We’ll get you a different toy. Maybe they have water guns or a basket ball.”
“I want my doll house,” Santi whimpered. “I wished for it…”
“Choose something else,” Omayra said. “Please, Santi, choose something else.”
“Listen to your sister.” Mom’s mouth tightened. She looked angry. “If I have to tell you again, you’ll get clothes instead of a toy.”
“Let go of the doll,” Julito said, pulling at Barbie’s legs.
“No!” Santi’s screech froze everyone in place, and he took advantage by getting up and picking up the dollhouse from the floor. “I don’t want to let it go. I don’t want clothes either. I don’t want those ugly pants and T-shirts you make me wear. I like pink and purple T-shirts. I want to wear pretty things and you don’t let me.” Santi sobbed. “Why won’t you let me look pretty, Ma? Why?”
“That’s enough.” Mom grabbed the dollhouse and the Barbie so fast he didn’t have time to hide either from her. She put them back on the display table. “Calm yourself down and listen to me very carefully.” She cradled his face and forced Santi to look her in the eye. “You’re a boy. That means you can’t wear pretty things. Not now, not ever. Pretty things are for girls. You can’t have dolls, and you can’t tell anyone you want to play with dolls.”
“But why?—hiccup—“I”—sob—“like”—sob—“pretty things.”
“Those are only for girls, you understand? If people hear you say that you like dolls, they’ll make fun of you. Do you want them to call you pato?”
“Why-why would”—sob—“they”—sob—“call me a duck?”
“Because pato is what people call boys who act like girls, and no one likes that,” Mom explained. “Boys climb trees and ride their bikes.” She wiped his tears with trembling fingers and kissed him on the cheek. “I want you to play outside. I want you to start your training with Dad. How about we get you some boxing gloves instead?” She kissed him again. “I want you to start sparring with your brothers. I want you to exercise and get strong. I want you to win fights and make your father proud. I want you to stop thinking about Barbie dolls and pretty shirts. Okay?”
Santi took several deep breaths. “It’s my special day,” he repeated, fresh tears running down his cheeks as he looked at his mother pleadingly. “I’m supposed to be happy today. I don’t want a basketball or-or a water gun. I want t-to get-get something I re-really like for my birthday. I want to see Granny Esperanza and my-my f-friend Luca and I want to play with the doll-dollhouse without”—sob—“getting grounded”—sob—“or being called a pato. I don’t want my own bo-boxing gloves yet, Ma.” He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “I want a Barbie doll.”
“What did you just say?”
Mom turned around at the sound of Dad’s thunderous roar.
Julito and Omayra got to their feet immediately.
Héctor stood quietly behind Dad.
Santi held his breath and stared at his father’s corded neck and reddened face.
Dad stepped forward and yelled, “What the hell did you just say?”
Santi didn’t have time to answer. He didn’t have time to blink before his father reached his side and struck him across the face so hard that he fell on the floor and saw stars. He didn’t even have time to cry out before his father kicked him on the side twice. Then he grabbed Santi by the hair, forced him to get up, and punched him on the chin.
Santi fisted his hands, closed his eyes, and bit the inside of his cheek.
Don’t cry. You know he’ll hit you harder if you cry in front of him.
“We’re going to the sporting goods store to get you a pair of boxing gloves,” Dad announced through gritted teeth. “Not because you deserve them, but because Julito was right when he said you’ll be a good fighter. The sooner I make a champion out of you, the better. We need you leeches to start winning fights and bringing some money to the house.”
Dad started walking toward the front door of the store without releasing Santi’s hair. No one in the store said a word. No one intervened on Santi’s behalf. Most adults thought kids needed to be disciplined with whips if necessary, and his family knew better than to try to stop Dad when he was so mad.
“After we buy you the gloves we’re gonna head home.” He turned sideways and smacked Santi on the face. “No visiting your grandma today and no birthday cake. We’re gonna go home, and when we get there you’re gonna glove up. You’re gonna spar with Héctor and Julito and you’re gonna show me what you got. Then you’re gonna spar with me, and I’m gonna keep punching you until I’m convinced you aren’t a goddamn pato and can fight like a man. You’re gonna live to make me proud.”
Santi’s face throbbed. He could barely walk from the pain on his ribs, but he managed to swallow his whimpers along with the blood from the cut inside his mouth. His shoulders shook in silent tears when he took a last look at his Barbie Dream House out of the corner of his eye.
“Pray to God I never hear you say that you want to dress in pussy colors and play with dolls,” Dad said as they approached their car. “If those words come out of your mouth ever again, I’ll make you wish you were dead.”
About the Author: Taylor V. Donovan is a compulsive reader and author of gay romance and suspense. She is optimistically cynical about the world; lover of history, museums and all things 80s. She is crazy about fashion, passionate about civil rights and equality for all, and shamelessly indulges in mind-numbing reality television.
When she’s not making a living in the busiest city in the world or telling the stories of gorgeous men hot for one another, Taylor can be found raising her two daughters and their terribly misbehaved furry baby in the mountains she calls home.