Life is full of surprises... And challenges.
Naïveté, not to be confused with ignorance, was my forte while growing up. Surprise! Little did I know that by being a woman I was wrapped in a fog of misconceptions. So, early in my teens I took upon myself to break out the bubble and dismantle stereotypes.Leaving my beloved island of Puerto Rico as a young divorcee to get a higher education brought down the cultural fallacy among my peers that I had to move back with my parents or depend on my ex for child support and alimony (I chose not to get either one). I went to Iowa State University, where I was the second Puerto Rican to get a PhD from the College of Veterinary Medicine. A Caribbean woman with a young child overcoming the fear of living in those frigid temperatures and studying for oral and written exams? Not. A. Problem.
Throughout my career as a defense intelligence analyst and then a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry I kept advancing the notion that I could bring up the image of women and minorities in science by wearing high heels with my white lab coat. Or wearing bright red lipstick with my hiking boots while looking for biological weapons in Iraq as a United Nations Special Commission inspector during the Gulf War.
Joining my family business in 2000 opened many doors to dismantle the belief that women could not be in positions of leadership in an industry controlled by men: cattle ranching. Today, my staff and team workers are recognized island-wide for our excellence in what we do, which is raising beef cattle with the utmost standards in nutrition, reproduction, and preventive medicine, not to mention our management practices of respect to the animals and the environment.
Within my generation it has been hard for many people to reconcile achievements with looks. Yes, the perception is that if you are going to be successful, vanity goes out the window. All kinds of epithets from floozy to bimbo are thrown at women who take pride in their looks.
Well, I am a woman and a fashionista. Along with my clothes, my look has to be impeccable. And boy, oh boy, are people surprised when they meet me. "You do not look like a cattle rancher" I hear all the time, as if a woman in the business has to conform to some irrational concept of what it takes to raise Angus cattle. Anna Wintour herself would approve of my style.
However, the years go by, leaving in their wake wrinkles, loss of collagen and sun spots which really put a damper on my teenage quest. ENTER Dr. Janowski into my life. And like magic the spark is back. A little here and a little there I mitigate the effect of living under a tropical sun, estrogen going AWOL and being a breast cancer survivor. I live indebted to him because he cares about my look and also to Jeanette who keeps my beauty creams in stock and to Laurel who makes sure my skin is healthy.
Yes, life is full of surprises... And challenges. Today, at 68 I still feel like that teenager dismantling stereotypes; this time less naive, of course, but empowered to tackle any twenty-first century cliche.
Can I make an appointment for my Botox now?