Code Switch

Blog 51 Five Faces
Image: “Five Faces” by Toniko Kanashiro Martinez, pen/ink on paper, 2002

CODE SWITCH
for every woman who code switches several times a day because we do


When you answer the phone from the office, your mother accuses you of being asungot. Where’s her sweet girl who speaks in sweet obedient tones no matter how old she gets?

When you speak during an interview, your badass confidence shadows the jokes you’ll crack to show you have a sense of humor, when you don’t find your interviewer all that funny, but you go along because you know when to laugh, when to pause, when to get down to business, and prove, I’m a fucking badass.

When you speak to your boss, the light gone out of your voice but a dry robotic thud as if the wildfires burning across Napa, the typhoon slamming the Motherland, and Pharma drugs causing cancer mean nothing.

When a male on the street tells you to smile, you look straight ahead, don’t speak, and pretend you’re a walking dead fish lest he threatens to hurt you.

When you speak to your waiter, gracious and friendly but distant as he pours you water.

When you speak to your waiter, gracious and flirtatious as he pours you water.

When you speak to people in the elevator about the weather as if it’s the most fascinating thing in the world and climate change is no joke.

When you speak up in class, your heart races as you share a thought, the intellectual climbing out of your mouth like a hesitant snail thrashing across a freeway.  

When you default from English to Ilocano when children are around because it’s easier to remember what olo, mata, agong, ngiwat, ngipen, lapayag, buoc, ima, pusod, angin, tudo, pudot, lamiis, culibangbang, gay-yem, wen, saan, inapoy, and danum mean, flowing out naturally because they’re the first words you learned before English took over with its whiny crackly-crack butchering the embrace of first words, of Lilong and Lilang, of Mommy and Daddy, of first Home, and you want this first Home to be children’s first Home.

When you speak to your husband in baby voice, cooing as he’s your sweetest gift.

When you speak during sex, or not speak, but scream or moan, Oh Baby, until you careen off the tracks and implode and fall asleep, and then ask nonchalantly upon waking, What’s for dinner?

When you speak to your girlfriends at fever pitch, laughing so hard as if the walls could collapse and your stomach is in knots while you try to catch your breath.

When you speak to yourself. Who cares? What the fuck! Oh shit. Wait. Badass. Tripping. Loathing. Beaming. I. I. I. I. And I.

Categories Creative NonfictionTags , , ,

2 thoughts on “Code Switch

  1. This is so powerful, Elsa. The constant weave & wave to navigate the days. Really lovely. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nick. Code switching is one of those things that we do so naturally, but if we thought about how many times we did it, it’s pretty incredible how we don’t exhaust ourselves daily, or maybe we do.

      Liked by 1 person

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