You’re a GRINGA, mom. You’ll NEVER understand

Sheilamary Koch
4 min readMay 1, 2021

My teen and tween daughters sit close together laughing and gossiping at the kitchen counter on tall wooden bar stools with woven straw backs. Music from the neighborhood, called “Barrio Cinco” streams through open windows.

It’s a duet (Christian Nodal and Angela Aguilar called Dime Como Quieres, my 16-year-old later filled me in) a young female voice warning a young male voice that her dad will run him off if he shows up to serenade her.

My 12-year-old tween reacts to that line of the song, saying something to her sister who responds with eyes flashing an expression of complicity, shared knowing or experience. Their eyes lock and laughter increases.

Curious, I stick my head into their sister space and ask what’s so funny. To which my younger daughter responds impatiently in English, “You’re a gringa, you’ll never understand.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I agree, “but give me a chance, throw me a bone here!”

No bones for mom. Backs turn to me as they returned to their orbit and their native language. Nothing out of the ordinary, they’re sisters, I’m mom. They’re Mexican by birth, I’m only Mexican on paper.

I ignored the gringo reference, whether that was right or wrong we’ll get to later.

It was more than not understanding the language or the joke, if you will. Though that wouldn’t be unusual as I tend to need jokes and double meanings explained, whether they’re in my first language, English or my distance second, Spanish. In my defense, I’m usually looking for something that’s actually clever, not just an obvious reference to sex or male anatomy.

No, it was their complicity on the themes expressed in the song I wanted to learn more about. I wondered how much they could relate to the song. What did my 12-year-old know about dating and this dynamic? I guess I was surprised that they seemed to identify with what I saw as the traditional, jealous, over-protective father eluded to in the song given that their dad’s a pretty modern guy in my book. Clearly I was missing something here!

Thinking back, he’d been anticipating or maybe even dreading the moment his daughters started to date…

Sheilamary Koch

Artist-educator passionate about equity, gender, conservation, creativity, mindfulness and breaking barriers for under-represented groups-especially girls!