The author circa 1995. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times.
I thought I was a hyphenated American because I chose to call myself a Mexican-American. But looking at my resume, I realize I earned the designation because I've worked as a free-lance journalist, a teaching-assistant, and an assistant-editor.
That must be why I am on un-employment.
Always a bridesmaid, never an executive. That' s my story. Employers don't want to pay me to be an editor, a professor, or a president because they think I'm too easy to hire. I've been around. But really, I'm trying to settle down.
Back during that naïve spring quarter before I finished graduate school, my fiancée was anxious to set a wedding date.
"How about a year after I've been working full-time," I said. I thought I could use 52 weeks to get adjusted to my new job, make sure our grad school chums and my work chums got along, get my finances straight, play the lottery.
Well, the fall quarter just ended. I've got three unemployment checks left and I'm hassling her to come with me to the justice of the peace, so I can be covered by her university plan. (She's a teaching-assistant and has a year and a half left with the hyphen.) Slowly but surely, she's warming to the idea.
Since I earned the degree in May, all I've been able to do with my master of fine arts is visit museums and say, "Yes, that art's fine. That's fine too." And I still have to show people my degree for them to believe me. Earning just a bachelor's degree might have meant I'd be single forever.
We wanted to have the wedding out here in California, but some of my relatives in Texas were wary of visiting since Proposition 187 passed. I told them not to worry. As long as they mispronounced the Spanish names of towns they'd be just fine. "San-Joe-Say," I told them to practice. "Sand-Lewis-Abyss-Po."
My parents are very supportive (grocery money when we really need it), but I can see the desperation in their eyes even though they try to hide it behind their tears. "All those diplomas," my poor mamacita cries in Spanish, "Kindergarten, eight grade, high school, regular college, graduate school, and still, still you're not married."
I've had three graduations more than anyone in the family, but I'm also the only one to have to have three part-time jobs that don't add up to 40 hours a week. I'm an intellectual migrant worker.
When I was still in grad school (remember that naïve spring quarter?), folks told me I wouldn't have a problem finding a job; I'd not only have a master's degree, but I spoke Spanish too.
So far, being bilingual has meant only that I can read the back of the unemployment insurance claim form as well as the front. And to the folks at all those cocktail parties who told me that it was a "hot time to be Latino," I must admit that it seems our Nielsen ratings are suffering.
But I'm keeping the faith. Instead of scrambling for 25 job leads next week, I'm going to hustle 50. Instead of six hours sleep, I'll settle for five. (That's still a luxury. My father never slept until he turned 30.)
I know that soon I'll come across my dream employer's want ad for the position I perfectly satisfy. She'll write, "Looking for a writer who can handle day after day of exciting challenges and irregular hours, high pay and a thrilling environment. Unpublished preferred. Who wants this post?"
If only she'd give me a ring, I'd shout, "I do! I do!
What it trickles down to is that some guys are married to their jobs.
I'm just trying to get a commitment.
Author's note: This was my first national publication and appeared in the Los Angeles Times "Laugh Lines" Section February 6, 1995.