16 October 2019
The Ugly of Self-Discovery
In today’s world, women are slowly but surely becoming more and more independent from men and the idea that men are the providers and caretakers of women. This concept that women need a man’s approval in order to be self-sufficient is broken down in Sandra Cisneros’s “Bien Pretty”- a short story included in her book titled Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Throughout the story, the main character Lupita quickly falls in love with a man named Flavio, who is very in touch with his Mexican heritage and abruptly leaves her with little explanation. Although difficult, this heartbreak leaves Lupita no choice but to live alone and become comfortable with herself, leading her to realize she does not need a man to feel complete. Lupita uses her heartbreak, hopelessness, and lack of confidence to learn how to become an independent woman who is confident in who she is, rather than looking for acceptance from others.
Lupita met Flavio when he exterminated her home after she moved to Texas alone after a previous break-up. The moment she saw Flavio, she thought he was the perfect model for a painting she had been working on, and wanted to use him as Prince Popo (warrior from an Indian myth) because of his prominent hispanic features- exactly what she had been searching for. Throughout the story Lupita touches on how insecure she is that although she is hispanic, she is out of touch with her heritage. When she sees Flavio as the “perfect prince” she sees more than just beautiful facial features, she sees everything she wishes to be in him. This is demonstrated when she made a comment on what he was wearing because he did not dress the way she envisioned Mexicans would: “I don’t have to dress in a sarape and sombrero to be Mexican. I know who I am.”. To this, he clarified that being Mexican is a simple trait that does not need to be proven. This significant comment emphasizes the main issue Lupita repeatedly experiences- Flavio being certain of who he is reinforces her insecurity of not understanding who she wishes to identify as. After some heavy consideration, Lupita thought, “It was true. I am not Mexican” (Cisneros 151, 152). This scene clearly displays Lupitas envy of Flavio, and her misunderstanding of being Mexican looks like.
The feeling of infatuation, and love, Lupita had for Flavio was not reciprocated when he did not think twice about suddenly leaving her to go back to Mexico due to family obligations. While he breaks the news to her, he also reveals that he has multiple children, and two ex wives in Mexico. Obviously, Lupita was never truly special in his eyes, she was nothing more than another female partner. Him carelessly leaving her made her feel empty and lost- she had to be alone and no longer had anyone to mirror who she longed to be. While she experiences heartbreak for this man, she admits that she has always been in love with “a man”, and goes on to say that despite nothing truly changing in her life, “When I look in the mirror, I’m ugly. How come I never noticed before?”(Cisneros 160). Saying “a man”, and not identifying a specific person, shows that Lupita had a desire to have a man quite literally. To her, it does not matter who this man may be, as long as there is one in her life to make her feel fulfilled and accepted. Being ugly in this story is not to be taken literally, but is Lupita’s own interpretation of the word which describes how she feels about herself now that she is alone. She is ugly: purposeless, missing a piece in her life.
Unfortunately, women have emotional dependence on men that affects their self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. Research conducted by School of Behavioral Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia has concluded there are “negative impacts on women who have emotional dependence on men,” as Lupita had with Flavio. In this study, women completed anonimous questionnaires regarding their personal life-satisfaction, gender roles, feminist attitudes and general dependence. In contrast, the “women’s overall confidence and self esteem was higher when they had men in their life” (Henderson). Although this conclusion may not apply to all women, this research provides why a man’s absence in Lupitas life was directly related to her lack of confidence, and why she was unsure of who she was when her lover left.
With extra time on her hands now that she isn’t spending her days with her lover, Lupita takes up watching telenovelas to pass time- which also fulfilled her interest in Mexican culture. When watching the shows she became angry at the female characters because of how weak they are, and began to have dreams about slapping the women to their senses because she wants to see women who “make things happen” (Cisneros 161). She admires women who are in charge, who are passionate, fierce, powerful, brave, etc. This is highly ironic in regards to her own life because these are all traits she is failing to display simply because she lost Flavio. Her dreams symbolize who she truly wants to become and foreshadows that she will later be a woman of these traits, she just needs to be “slapped” into her senses. She later runs into a fellow Latina at a convenience store where they carry a casual conversation about their favorite telenovelas. They treated each other as equals, regardless of where they came from. This small yet impactful conversation was a huge turning point for Lupita during her grievance for Flavio where she finally realizes he does not need to over exaggerate who she thinks she needs to be, she can simply go to the supermarket and be herself where strangers accept her for who she is.
Cisneros opens the story with Lupita saying, “He isn’t pretty until you love him”. The first line foreshadows the entire story and theme: Lupita felt ugly until she loved herself. She felt ugly until she learned that she is accepted just by being herself, she does not need to put up a facade to be worthy of identifying as mexican. By the end of the story, Lupita finds peace with who she is and throws away any expectations she had for herself. Although her breakup with Flavio was disheartening, it was a necessary experience to learn the lesson that not only is she a strong woman by herself, but she does not need to live up to a man’s standards to find life satisfaction. Cisneros made a powerful message to any readers who may be self-searching, or have experienced disconnection with their heritage that these expectations are unnecessary and don’t have to define them. Acceptance is not a prerequisite to contentedness.
Henderson, Susan N., and John D. Cunningham. “Women’s Emotional Dependence on Men: Scale Construction and Test of Russianoff’s Hypothesis.” SpringerLink, Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00289888.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Bloomsbury, 1993.