Am I late all the time because I'm Latina?

Although I have lived in the U.S. all my life, one of the remnants of my "Latina-ness" is my very relaxed attitude about time. Interestingly, this is only in my personal life. In my business life, where I am much more "gringa," I have learned all kinds of tips and tricks to fight it. I out and out lie to myself about how much time it takes to get places, giving myself what looks like a ridiculously excessive amount to get to things like job interviews, only to find (shockingly) that it gets me there with only 10 minutes to spare. I set multiple reminders for meetings, sometimes on both my Outlook and my phone.

I have learned, the hard way, that gringos have very little sense of humor about tardiness. Bafflingly, they seem to consider it some kind of moral failure to be late. After a lifetime of living and working with the blanquitos,  they still sometimes give me cause to shake my head in wonder.


I remember the first time I threw a party with a non-Latino guest list. I had moved in predominantly Latino circles in my high school years so it wasn't until my early 20's that I started socializing with gringos. I wanted to show off my first place to celebrate a birthday so I sent out invitations asking people to arrive at 7 p.m. Like any good Latina hostess, I jumped in the shower at 6:55 p.m. When the bell rang at 6:58 p.m., I jumped out in a towel, wondering if neighborhood kids were playing ring and run or if someone had accidentally buzzed me when they meant to get upstairs.

But, no. There was my first guest, thrusting a wrapped present and saying, "You said 7 p.m., right?" I was flabbergasted. Obviously everyone knows that 7 p.m. means 8:30.  But not my gringo friends.

It hasn't gotten better since becoming a mom. This past weekend, my son had a party to go to. The invitation said 3 p.m. and I figured it would take about 10 minutes to get to the local bowling alley where the party was taking place. At 2:45, my son began tugging on my shirt, "Mommy, come on, I don't want to be late."

"We have plenty of time," I tell him.

When we get into the car, I notice the red "low gas" light is on. I can make it on fumes, but it makes me nervous to try. Plus, filling up takes a minute, tops, and it's on the way. When I get to the gas station, the attendant is taking his sweet time and there are two cars in front of me. Finally gassed up, only then do I remember I have the gift card (points for putting that in my phone's reminders and picking it up after work one day last week), but I don't have a card holder. A quick stop at the store, and we've got a very cute card.

My son arrives at the party at 3:30, fully a quarter of the way through. He's missed the first half of the entertainment and they're running low on tokens. Guilty, I shell out some bills so he can go catch up.

I don't know why, exactly, a part of me hangs on to the lax attitude about timeliness. It's part optimism, it's part denial...and, if I'm being honest with myself, it's probably part control, a way of saying, "No one can contain all this fabulousness with things like schedules." I remember once reading that Marilyn Monroe liked to keep the whole set waiting, sometimes for hours, just to feel like she could. That girl must have had some Latina in her somewhere.

These days, the people who love me roll their eyes when I walk into parties late, accepting that I'm on "Maria time."  At work, I channel my inner "Americana" and play by their rules but, at heart, I am always on Latina time.

Are you late all the time? Is there such a thing as "Latin time"? Answer in the comments below.

Topics: raising bilingual kids  multicultural kids