They say events from the past shape our future. No one thing is random and it all connects with the help of the Universe; a nurse today might have chosen her career due to a sick elderly neighbor who was kind to her in the past, a man choses to work in construction because it reminds him of the only nice gift he received for Christmas when he was eight—-building blocks, and then there’s me—a confused individual, that when experiencing a cold, doesn’t know if mixing Trim Spa with NyQuil will be detrimental to my health.
Well, that was the old me, the new me stays away from mood-altering substances—unless Pop Tarts count. Since October of 2008, I said good-bye to fat burners and now I lead a sluggish, miserable existence. But where did it begin? Why the burning desire to loose weight? What happened in my life that caused my horrible body image? Ah yes, I remember, my sweet, loving, and nurturing sister.
My sister Gloria (Eight years older and who we call “Gogi”) and I were adopted from separate families and brought together to create a happy home. My mom thought the name Gloria was too grown-up for a little girl and conjured Gogi as her nickname. From the day I was adopted and introduced to the family, Gogi loved me, cared for me and made sure no harm came to me. Of course, those were the stories she tells. Looking back, I have a different version. And by the time I turned six—well, see for yourself.
(Sometime in the 1980s)
Gogi: We’re having auditions next week and everything has to be perfect. Now, I need everyone to take some of these fliers and post them around the neighborhood—we’re only looking for the best of the best.
My sister, always the entrepreneur, decided to hold auditions for the next casting of MENUDO. They were the original boy band consisting of young Latin boys. A member would be replaced when he reached his 16th birthday, his voice changed or got too tall. And my sister was going to find the next replacement.
Talking to my cousin Tammy while following Gogi’s order to circulate more fliers.
Nando: I’m really excited! I can’t believe I’m going to audition. Do you have them?
Tammy: Yeah, it’s all here. (Revealing a matching headband and two wristbands she had crocheted)
Nando: Tammy, it’s pink, yellow, and baby blue. These are girl colors! I wanted all black to match my audition outfit that my mom got me at Sears.
Tammy: That’s all the yarn I had left. Don’t worry. It looks good. Trust me.
Nando: You really think so? (Trying on my new audition gear—looking like Rainbow Bright)
Tammy: Oh yeah, you’re gonna be the only one looking like a real MENUDO member—Do you have the money? These things don’t make themselves, you know?
Tammy was six years older than me and had recently taken up crocheting as a money making outlet. I was her only paying customer and at $2.00 a headband, it was a bargain and even though I had requested a more masculine and intense design, the artist always trumps the buyer or in this case, the left over yarn.
Nando: Are you going to audition? (Taping a flyer on the mailbox belonging to the crazy cat-lady’s house)
Tammy: Yeah, Gogi said I could.
Nando: But it’s only for boys.
Tammy: Gogi said she was going to revolutionize the music industry and market the first MENUDO female member. For that, I had to pay an extra $3.00.
I was glad I was a boy; I couldn’t afford any more expenses. Between my special hair gel (Charlie, one of the MENUDO members, had brought back the wet-look) and headband/wristband costs, I had $8.00 left, which was the amount my sister charged me to audition.
Nando: What song are you performing?
Tammy: I’m doing, “Subete a Mi Moto.”
Nando: That’s a good one; it has real motorcycle sounds in it.
Tammy: Yeah, that’s why I picked it. (Taping a flyer to the side of the drug dealers house)Will you do back-up dancing for me?
Nando: You want me to pretend to be on a fake motorcycle and dance behind you?
Tammy: What song are you doing?
Nando: I am singing, “Sabes a Chocolate.”
Tammy: Good selection.
Nando: Yeah, I can hit the high note towards the end.
We wanted it all—fame, fortune, and tight pants. Whoever won this audition would go one to be the next member of MENUDO, or so we thought. In reality, my sister had no musical connections; she was in high school and was barely passing her math classes but had tricked all of us into believing the hype. Little did I know her reign of evil and manipulation would cut deeper into my soul.
A week later, my mom, sister, and I arrived at my grandmother’s house. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Odessa, Texas. The pressure was on and the competition was in full effect. There were six contestants ready to audition. It was an odd crowd. It consisted of: me, my cousin Tammy, my cousin Andy—-who was four but didn’t speak, Bobby—-a strange boy who just showed up, Kwan–the only Asian kid in Odessa, and Sammy–the 35-year-old neighborhood wino.
The auditions were held underneath the peach, pear, and apple trees next to a small grape vineyardlocated located in the backyard. At the foot of the vineyard was a small section where my uncle Manuel grew his marijuana. This was a little known fact we all knew except my uncle didn’t know that we knew, you know? Oftentimes, my grandmother would rip leaves off the plants and place them in her bottle of rubbing alcohol as this concoction helped her arthritis.
Gogi coordinated the audition. We had light refreshments made up of my grandmother’s government cheese, ginger snaps, and iced-water from the waterhose. There was a small crowd present to support us and cheer us and our young hopes on. On the sidelines I could see my mom, my grandmother, my Aunt Margie—-Andy’s mother, our uncle the pedophile, and various neighbors.
Gogi: Okay, I need all contestants to stand in line and hand me your tapes. The music better be cued up people. And will someone get that Bobby kid away form the ginger snaps? (Pointing to Bobby who was uncontrollably eating all cookies)
We all whipped into a straight line and awaited further instructions. Gogi took our cassette tapes and sat down at the table she had positioned in front of us. She plugged in the boom-box and my heart started to pound. I could see myself winning the audition and touring all over the malls of America with MENUDO. I knew all their songs and dance moves and with my matching crocheted headband/wristbands, I was sure to make a huge splash!
Gogi: I want to thank everyone who is here. You’re all winners in my book. And Sammy, thanks for the resume and headshot; you’re the only real professional in the group.
Sammy took a sip from his Coors Light beer hidden inside a brown paper sack and gave Gogi a “thumbs up.”
Gogi: Andy, you’re first.
Andy: (Nodded his head and signaled that he was ready)
The family never really understood why Andy didn’t speak, and since Aunt Margie never pressed the topic, we all just accepted his idiosyncrasy. “Mi Banda Toca Rock” began and Andy stepped up and displayed several hand gestures and broke into light dance moves.
I adjusted my wristbands as the sweat my body was producing was making the yarn wet which caused them to swell and reshape. I was about to re-tie the band on my head, when I spotted my sister waving.
Gogi: You, come here. (With her left index finger, she called me over)
Nando: (Looking to the sides, wondering who she’s talking to) Me?
Gogi: Yes, YOU! We need to talk.
Andy’s audition was still in progress, he hadn’t even hit the chorus part of his song, but he really didn’t do a good job at convincing me that he was passionate about being a MENUDO member. He wasn’t even moving his lips, it was all hand gestures and unmotivated dance moves. I mean who as a performer can get away with this; well, besides Ashley Simpson?
Gogi took me around to the side of the house away from everyone. Maybe she’s going to give me tips on how to win the audition? I really looked up to my sister. She was tall, thin, and had long silky black hair down to her waist. I never saw any of her flaws even when we’d go visit our cousins in Mexico and she’d wet the bed and would blame it on me. She’d explain that it was really mom’s fault for giving her too much Tang and since I was the “cuter” one, I could get away a more lenient punishment. She was my idol. My God. My destruction.
Gogi: How’s it going kid?
Nando: Good. Thanks. I’m a little nervo…
Gogi: (interrupting me) Listen, I didn’t bring you here to chit-chat.
Gogi: Who’s your favorite MENDUO member?
Gogi: Really? (Shakes her head) Here’s the deal, Junior. I can’t let you audition.
Gogi: You want the truth? ‘Cause I can lie if you want—but I think deep inside you’ll appreciate the value of truth. It’s up to you kid. But just realize, only babies want lies.
Nando: I’m not a baby, I want the truth.
Gogi: You’re too fat to audition.
Nando: What? (tears forming in my eyes)
Gogi: No one’s gonna pay good money to see a fat MENUDO kid, Junior.
Nando: I’m fat?
Gogi: I’d have to put Andy in as the winner before you.
Nando: But Andy doesn’t even talk.
Gogi: Well, people would rather listen to a mute singer than see a fat performer. Have you ever heard of the word obese?
Nando: A beast?
Gogi: Listen kid, you’re fat. There’s no way around it. Think about it, what section does mom take you when you buy clothes at Sears?
Nando: (In a shameful and hushed tone) The husky section.
Gogi: And there you have it. (Nodding her skinny head) And I can’t give you your money back, there’s a paperwork “processing fee” I have to cover. But, I can let you come back and audition in six months if you’ve lost a few pounds.
Nando: So I can come back? (Taking off my coordinating headband/wristband combo and using them to dry the tears that were streaming down my face)
Gogi: Have you heard of the cabbage diet? Johnny was on it before they let him in the group.
Nando: He was? (Clearing the snot with the bottom of my Sears audition shirt)
Gogi: Yes, he also was fat like you, and look at him now! I think we’re on to something here. And Junior, don’t tell mom, she doesn’t always understand these things.
Nando: You mean like when you wet the bed? (Sniffling)
Gogi: Hey, I’ve told you, it’s the TANG!
Gogi: Now, I have to get back to the auditions, but trust me, I’m gonna make you a star.
My uncle, the pedophile, came and informed Gogi that the auditions were running behind and he’d really wanted to see Bobby perform next. I asked if I could still perform back-up for Tammy’s number and she said that it wasn’t possible, the forms we signed clearly had a “solo act” clause.
I went over to my mom and asked if she could take me to Albertson’s grocery store to buy cabbage. She didn’t ask any questions; we left the audition and drove down to 8th Street and along with the cabbage, we got cupcakes from the bakery. On our way to the check-out line, I reminded her we were also out of Tang.