Eggplants and Peaches and Pimples, OH MY!

conversations with hank

Here we go again!!


Me: (walking into the living room with Molly’s OOTD aka outfit of the day, pause noticing Hank watching YouTube without asking permission first)

Hank: (noticing my noticing) Ooops… Sorry, mama. May I watch YouTube?

Me: Hank, (sitting down on his level) I am not mad so we are going to stay calm through this whole conversation, agreed?

Hank: (nervous) Agreed.

Me: I know before your epic 1989 punishment you didn’t have to ask to watch YouTube, but do you understand why you do now?

Hank: Kind of.

Me: You have to ask permission to watch YouTube and give me an idea of what content you plan on watching because we need you to understand that watching YouTube is a privilege you are still earning back. More often than not this week I have caught you watching before asking permission. Today is the last day. If I catch you again I will delete the app from your phone and you will lose your phone for a day are we clear.

Hank: Yes. (putting down the phone)

Me: (picking it up to check the history and finding his passcode has changed)

Hank: Oh yah it’s now ****.

Me: (serious) I am the first person to know when you have changed your passcode. If I can’t get into your phone when you are not here it is mine for the foreseeable future.

Hank: I’m sorry. I just changed it.

Me: When you change your passcode you are to walk into the kitchen and write it on the white board. Got it?

Hank: Got it.

Me: Okay. (opening his YouTube app and bringing up the history)

Hank: Mama, before you begin there is one video that I selected by accident and when I realized it was Grand Theft Auto I left immediately.

Me: Thank you for telling me. I will be able to confirm this by seeing how much of the content you watched. Scrolling… Yes. I see that is exactly what happened. Less than 30 seconds is clearly a mistake.

Hank: It is that “next video” automatic thing. Sometimes the video is just playing before I can do anything about it.

Me: AND IS THAT WHAT EXPLAINS THE FACT THAT YOU WATCHED THIS? (pulling up a video entitled “My parents caught me…” AND AN EGGPLANT?!?!

Hank: (calm and honestly puzzled and babbling) I have no idea what that is so I am going to say that yes that is the same thing yes that is what happened I don’t remember seeing that ever what is that and why is there… (pause to breathe) What is the eggplant for?

Me: (facepalm, deep sigh) Motherhood today is so much harder than my parents had to deal with. Hank, you have no idea! Jeesh! Right… Okay. (wishing I had drank coffee before this conversations) I am not mad. I can see that you watched less than 30 seconds of this content.

Hank: It is that thing where the next video automatically plays!!!

Me: I hear you, buddy and you can turn that off.

Hank: I know.


Hank: Okay! I will. Can I do it now?

Me: (handing the phone back)

Hank: (deselecting the auto-play feature)

Me: Hank, this is important AND the only reason I even know this is because your Aunt Kelly is a teacher or I too would be clueless because I am old and am not hip to the kids these days. (already regretting those words leaving my mouth as they make me feel way older than I actually am) AN EGGPLANT in a text message or on a video thumbnail means sex. It is an eggplant but it means a penis.

Hank: WHAT? Why? Eggplant is food.

Me: I will let you figure this one out on your own and in your own time but what I am telling you is important. I want you to avoid any videos with eggplants or peaches, especially eggplants and peaches together (shudders)…


Me: Please, for once just take me at my word. Even if the thumbnail is a farmer in his field with a pitch fork and muddy boots if those emojis are on the image that video will have sexual references and is not appropriate for you.

Hank: (to himself) Why peaches?

Me: In time… all will be clear in time. And speaking of time, when you are given a sim card for your phone in the future I will also be reading your text messages so file this away for the future: (dead serious) Your aunt Kelly is a teacher in America and she will always know the secret codes of tweens and teens before they cross the pond for your use and that means I will know so don’t even try to sneak anything past me when it comes to kissing or…

Hank: MOM, GROSS! No, I don’t even…

Me: (hand up , interrupting) You will someday and if you don’t ever want to kiss anyone then that is okay too but if you follow the majority of teens someday you will be interested in sex and that is when with no fear or shame you are to talk to any or many members of your tribe: Prima, Papa, me, Ana, Leslie, Aunt Kelly, your Uncle Jesse or Tio Daniel, Renato, Maria Miguel… Just to name a few. Got it.

Hank: (embarrassed) Got it.

Me: Now the reason inappropriate content keeps getting suggested and auto-played is because you spent a solid two days consuming videos for a more mature audience…

Hank: I did?

Me: Grand. THEFT. AUTO!

Hank: Oh, right.

Me: So we need to teach the algorithm that you really aren’t interested and that you are nine. UMK. Because you don’t want the parental filter.

Hank: You can’t see hardly anything with the parental filter. It blocks EVERYTHING.

Me: Right so you want to learn the trick?

Hank: How do we do this?

Me: Well, we go to the home page and scroll through suggested videos and (scrolling) BAM see here!! We have a video for Grande Theft Auto by, isn’t this the lady who makes the SIMS videos? (clicking on the video by accident) Whoops… shoot. (then because of lack of coffee select and even WORSE VIDEO) Good GAWD! Rewind. (get my uncaffeinated bearings)

Hank: Yes, but she is now playing other games BUT I ONLY WATCH THE SIMS ONES.

Me: Perfect. Okay, but look at the thumb nail. DOUBLE WHAMMY!!! Grande Theft Auto with eggplants and (pointing to the second suggestion covered in eggplants) Don’t even get me started on THIS ONE…

Hank: All the eggplants! Seriously?

Me: So we just click these three dots on the side and then select “not interested.” And wave goodbye to the unwanted content.  That is how you reprogram the algorithm.

Hank: Okay. I can do that, but mama, how do you know how to do this? Normally, you need my help with these things.

Me: (deep sigh of regret) Once I watched a video where this mother popped a huge cyst, which is kinda like a pimple, on her daughter’s ear and it was the oddest thing ever the amount of everything that emerged. Lord! It was like a train wreck! I just couldn’t look away.

Hank: Gross.

Me: I am not proud of it, but after watching that video the algorithm decided to flood my home page with other such content and even grosser videos. It was insane but also I felt comforted by the fact that I was not alone in my moment of sick fascination. Pimple popping, apparently, it’s a thing. People love pimple extrusion as much as they love cute internet kittens.

Hank: I am not one of those people.

Me: HA! Word. So I had to clean up my YouTube suggestions by letting the program’s filter know I no longer am interested in that kind of content.

Hank: And I thought eggplants were weird.

Me: (riots of laughter)




One of things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…


(after dessert, sitting at the dinner table)

Dr. Blaha (Urban Family* member visiting from The U.S.): Ahhhhhh, good times.

Pai: (raising his glass) Cheers to that.

Me: (raising mine) Let’s make this the best two weeks visit ever!

(all three of us cheers to that)

Molly: O pai (Hey, dad)? (walking back to the table after refusing to eat and pulling an epic two year old struggle for power nigh on 30 minutes ago which ended in a stalemate and Molly being excused from the table)

Pai: Sim, filha (Yes, daughter)?

Molly: (wide doe eye, sweet voiced, endlessly cute almost whimper voice) Tems fome (I’m hungry).

Pai: Oh, you’re hungry? Well, would you like some beans? (gesturing to the table full of food and specifically our evening side dish of braised pinto and white beans with potatoes, onions, carrots and rosemary)

Molly: (eyes firmly on her papa, not breaking eye contact for a second) SIM! (holding on to the arm of his chair and bouncing)

Me: Bravo, Amália. We’re so happy you’ve decided to join us for dinner.

Dr. Blaha: The beans are so good. You will love them, Molly!

Pai: I will get you a plate.

Molly: BEANS! Sit down? (pointing to her high chair)

Pai: (proudly picking her up, kissing her cheek, putting her into the high chair and pulling her bib over her head) Claro (of course).

Molly: (wiggling with excitement) Beans. Yum, yum! (nodding)

Pai: (proud she finally wants to eat something other than yogurt and jello) Here you are. (puts a plate of braised beans in front of Molly)

Molly: (there is a pause, she shakes her head trying to etch a sketch erase the image in front of her, the excitement drains from her face, she literally deflates, she whimpers as if she’s been kicked by the invisible manifestation of the indignities of life, she dramatically folds her arms protectively over her chest and looks as far over her left shoulder as possible before saying in the most pathetic voice)
No, thank you.

Pai: But you asked for beans.

Molly: (doe eyed, looks up at her favorite person in the whole wide world) Not beans. BEANS.

Me: (stumped)

Dr. Blaha: (curiously furled brow)

Pai: (eureka) OH! (chuckles) Oh no. Amália, did you want jelly beans for dinner?

Molly: (so relieved she is finally understood, nods while her chin begins to quiver and a single tear rims her eye ready to drop) Sim. Gelly Beans. Not beans. Gelly. Gelly beans, please papa? Not beans. (shaking her head no and looking dramatically away letting the tears fall freely)

Me: (practically hyperventilating hysterics into my dinner napkin)

Dr. Blaha: (sympathetic) Oh my, (giggling) that was a misunderstanding.

Pai: But Amália you didn’t eat any dinner.

Molly:(nodding, hopeful, tears falling, sniffling) Dinner gelly beans. Dinner gelly beans, please?

Me: She has us painted into a corner.

Pai: How do I say no?

Hank: (from his video game) You can’t. She won. She’s not bossy she’s the boss, pai (dad).

Molly: (silently crying, tragically wounded expression of a martyr)

Pai: I can’t believe I am even considering this.

Me: This is the definition of a first world problem.

Pai: We never would have done this with Hank.

Dr. Blaha: Because you forget HANK ATE NOTHING.

Me: (gasp out loud, hand over my mouth remembering Hank barely surviving on avocado, sweet potato, milk, watermelon [Hank used to tantrum for watermelon when offered a cookie], bananas and the occasional Cheerio until the age of three) TRUTH!!!

Dr. Blaha: This wouldn’t have been a parenting dilemma for you guys the first time around.

Molly: (tiniest voice possible) Gelly beans, please?

Pai: (in defeat, walking into the kitchen) The things we do to have adult conversation!!!

Me: I’ll tell no one. This will be a secret between us five.

Pai: Don’t lie, you’re so putting this on the internet.

Dr. Blaha: NO! You have to put this on the internet.

Me: (eyebrow raised in gleeful compliance) Well, in that case….

Pai: (scattering a small handful of Brach’s Jelly Beans loving brought over from America on her high chair tray) So help me… This could only happen in this house, in this family, in our urban family!

Molly: (brightening up, posture straitened, wiping her tears on her sleeve realizing she has finally communicated clearly and her desires were being met) YAH!!!!!!! (clapping) GELLY BEANS!!!

Dr. Blaha: Man, I love our urban family*.


*Glossery of Hanford-Pereira Family Terms

Urban Family: A family member that is not blood related or related by marriage but a fully fledged member of your tribe, an aunt or uncle to your children, cemented by years and tears and laughter and often times PhD programs.



The Cost of Being a Woman

conversations with hank


(on our walk home from school)

Hank: … And that is about it. How was your day, mama?

Me: Good. I worked at the Casa de Memória (heritage museum) in the morning and then (deep frustrated sign) I spent the entirety of my May budget for “Fun and Activities” on bras which was depressing.

Hank: On bras? Like the whole thing? Meaning you don’t have any money for fun things next month?

Me: Meaning exactly that. No chocolate or gummies or concerts or movies. May will consist of a lot of walks in the park, picnics on the beach and fruit, which isn’t bad, so I am only mildly complaining.

Hank: You couldn’t find bras on sale?

Me: Hank, I am going to fill you in on the reality of being a woman. Being a woman costs money. Now I am not talking the nonsense the patriarchy feeds you like woman are expensive because of makeup and beauty treatments and clothes and jewelry, blah, blah, blah.  I am talking about reality. Every single month my menstrual cycle costs me money.

Hank: And it hurts and it’s not nice.

Me: Truth. Another expense that I have no control over are bras due to my particular lovely shape.

Hank: You’re all about that bass.

Me: I am curvy and have always been and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but due to this fact not all stores carry my size in stock and when they do my bras are always, no matter what, €60 a piece.

Hank: Wow.

Me: And because the gods wanted to smite me this month I lost my two everyday bras in a week and a woman needs at least two everyday bras minimum as well as special occasion bras like strapless and razor back, but those aren’t everyday bras as they are effective when wearing a particular kind of dress or garment but otherwise highly uncomfortable.

Hank: Oh.

Me: But the upside is I get my bras from Çelia in our neighborhood and so I am supporting a woman run local business and I shouldn’t have this expense again for another 3-5 years.

Hank: Because you buy quality made, good bras.

Me: Yes.

Hank: But mama, do you have to wear a bra?

Me: I don’t have to wear a bra, but I will be honest with you. I don’t like how some men look at me when I am not wearing a bra. Their gaze is not something I want to attract. My shape, my blonde hair, my sense of style and the fact that I am foreign already attracts their gaze as is, but if I left my house without a bra and walked down the street I wouldn’t feel as safe as I do wearing one.

Hank: Why wouldn’t you feel safe?

Me: (pause, questioning if I should take the conversation further) Because some men weren’t raised to respect women as equal. Some men think that it is their right to objectify women. (pause) And some men when they see a woman dressed a certain way they feel it is their right to sexualize her and then there are the few men in the world who would brutalize a woman because of something she wore and say it was her fault because she was dressed “sexy” and therefore wanted the attack.

Hank: (whispers) What? (looking around shocked) Really?

Me: Every day, Hank. This happens every single day.

Hank: Is this only in Portugal?

Me: Oh no. This is a universal problem.

Hank: That is ridiculous.

Me: I know.

Hank: A woman isn’t about the way she dresses. A woman is her… how do you say smartness?

Me: Intelligence.

Hank: That’s it. A woman is her intelligence and her heart and her kindness; her style is just how she feels most confident. It is like when you put on makeup. You don’t do it every day, but when you wear it you always tell me the same thing.

Me: And it is true. I tell you, “I am as beautiful as I was five minutes ago, but today I decided to highlight my beauty for myself and not for other people.”

Hank: Yes. I like it when you wear makeup because it means you are feeling good that day or feeling bad but wearing makeup to make yourself feel a bit better and I like you without makeup. It’s all the same.

Me: Not all men think like you, Hank. I feel naked walking down the street if I don’t wear sunglasses because I walk with my head held high, high enough to make eye contact with men rude enough to think they can wink or say something dirty or look me up and down from head to feet and then turn to do the same to my backside. This also happens to me in America and London and France and Spain. ARGH, I hate that feeling when a man is looking me up and down, I hate the feeling of being objectified, so I wear sunglasses, I try not to make eye contact, I ignore the gaze of others and I dress in a modest, classic style. But I am a woman and therefore objectification is unavoidable. WHICH IS DISGUSTING.

Hank: (serious) Do all girls go through this? Do girls or just ladies? All ladies?

Me: Yes all girls and all ladies. Everything about a woman’s body is critiqued, criticized or coveted and next year it will start for your colleagues. (emotionally angry) Around age 11-12 all of a sudden your girl friends will be taught they have to be careful about how they sit, how they play, how they dress and whom they trust, (biting back bile) BUT nothing will be taught to the boys. Not enough people have this conversation we are having with their sons. It is always a girl’s responsibility, even when she is still a child.

Hank: What!

Me: Yes.

Hank: That isn’t fair.

Me: I know and now you know. There is a cost to being a woman and that cost is financial and emotional.

Hank: This will happen to my sister.

Me: It will, but we will be here to help and support her.

Hank: This will happen to my friends and if I have a daughter…

Me: Hank, you and your generation has the power to stop this. It is my sincerest hope that by the time you have a daughter that we stomp out the patriarchy and this culture of objectification ends. YOU NEVER EVER HEAR ONE STORY THAT BEGINS: I MET MY HUSBAND BECAUSE HE OBJECTIFIED ME ON THE STREET, FREELY STARED AT MY TITS AND RUDELY SUGGESTED HE’D ENJOY HAVING SEX WITH ME. (nauseous) That behavior gets you nowhere.

Hank: GROSS!


Hank: And this happens to you?

Me: (nodding, sad and nodding) All the time.

Hank: Just like Donald Trump.

Me: Exactly like Donald Trump.

Hank: This is how he treats women.

Me: Yes.

Hank: He does that.

Me: Yes, he does.

Hank: And they let him be president?

Me: Worse, Donald Trump was elected president, which means the electoral congress chose him to be president. He was chosen.





Hank: Mama, I think this is the first time I have ever wanted to use a palavrão (swear word) in my life.

Me: Completely understandable.

Hank: How do we stop it?

Me: With you! With BOYS! By having this conversation with every boy, by breaking the cycle, by teaching boys that women’s issues are neither disgusting or inconsequential, through education and especially with ENDING THE CYCLE OF SHAMING YOUNG GIRLS AND WOMAN FOR THE BODIES THEY WERE BORN WITH. It begins with me having this conversation with you.

Hank: And then it is my turn to be there for my friends and my sister and for all ladies all the time when I see rudeness.

Me: Yup.

Hank: I had no idea.

Me: And until we start talking to boys and men about what women silently suffer through no one else ever will either. I hate… I RAGE-HATE HAVING TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THIS! But if I don’t you can’t be the change we need in the world.

Hank: (taking my hand because Hank is nine and still holds his mother’s hand occasionally) I understand. I hate this too.

Me: Then together we will hate it enough to do something about it.