Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Monday, December 31, 2007

stick to sir and m’am you’re better off that way

My parent’s generation of Nuyoricans is old school Latino. They were raised with the traditions and sense of moral etiquette of their immigrant parents that at times seems lost on Americanized Latinos and Americans. A common pet peeve among old school Latinos is having strangers address them as “mami” or “papi”.“Mami” and “papi” means mommy and daddy however among couples it is a common term of affection meaning “baby”. In our culture it is considered lecherous and disrespectful to have someone you are not in a relationship with address you with this term. However here in NY the words have become part of the urban slang and used freely by non-Latinos and let me tell you something old school Latinos are less than thrilled. Especially old timers like my grandfather…

My grandfather was just finishing his lunch at a local diner with my mother when the waiter approached my mother, “Mami do you want anything else?” My mother cringed and shook her head no while trying to catch her father’s eye. He was glaring at the waiter. Mom shifted in her seat. The waiter turned his attention towards her father, “Papi what about you? Would you like another cup of coffee with your dessert?” Mom reached out and put her hand on top of her father’s hoping to stop what she knew was coming. My grandfather looked at my mother, he was irked but he caught the hint. “No thank you. We’ll take the check as soon as you have a minute.” Several minutes later the waiter came back and handed the check to my grandfather, my grandfather handed him the amount of the check plus a generous tip because even though he had breached etiquette until then the service had been excellent. The waiter smiled at my grandfather, “Gracias papi!” Grandpa looked at him as if he wanted to kill him.

The waiter looked at my mom’s plate and saw she had not touched her apple pie, “Mami would you like me to wrap that up for you?” My mom shook her head no; her father stood up and leaned his mouth down towards the waiter’s ear so no one around them could hear what he was going to say.“Young man do not call my daughter Mami. It is very disrespectful for a man to call a woman mami, especially in front of her father. It implies you have been intimate with my daughter.” The waiter look dumbstruck, “I-I’m sorry papi I didn’t know. “My grandfather crossed his arms over his chest, leaned back and looked the waiter in the eye, “Can I ask you something?” he asked. The waiter smiled at my grandfather and said, “Sure papi.” “You’re NOT my son and I’ve never been into men so obviously you and I have never had sex. So why do you keep calling me papi?”The waiter all red faced apologized to my grandfather. My mother looked at him with pity in her eyes and then turned to her father, “Papi! Stop picking on the poor guy he doesn’t know.” The waiter nodded his head in agreement.

My grandfather looked at him and smiled putting his hand on the waiter’s shoulder, “If he’s going to act like he knows my language then he it’s good for him to learn what’s proper and what’s not. See she can call me papi, she’s my little girl. My wife when she was alive used to call me papi but she could do that because she was the love of my life. But you my man no way.” The waiter smiled at grandpa as mom shook her head, “Ay papi!” “No mija I tell him this for his own good heaven forbid he comes across one of those macho crazy Latinos and calls him “papi” or worse calls his woman “mami.” You know the drama that will be up in here?! What if your husband or one of your brothers was here and this man called you mami?” My mom contemplated what was said and then looked at the waiter, “Look from now on stick to sir and m’am you’re better off that way.” The waiter agreed.

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