If you look up the English definition for the Tagalog word “gigil” you’ll find something along the lines of, ‘the urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.’
Nakakagigil talaga ang bata.
That’s how my Lola would come towards me when she was getting ready to pinch my nose. With that intention to squeeze me, her lips sucked back between her gritted teeth, a look of love so intense only a Filipinx would understand.
It’s a contradiction that we understand, because we were raised with it. If you can imagine, it’s something so cute you want to hurt it. I never question that those moments with my Lola were pure love, and I look back at the memories with deep affection.
However, in those moments, when she was coming for my nose, she wasn’t just trying to hold herself back from hurting me because I was a cute kid. No, in those moments, she was trying to fix me.
Many Filipinxs have a wide, flat nose, but our obsession with European standards of beauty give preference to a pointy, high bridge nose. So our moms, our titas, our lolas would pinch us into a shape that was considered more beautiful.
Grow, grow little nose.
A colonial mentality is a form of internalized oppression, it’s a belief system that colonized people are inferior to their colonizers. The highly-colonial mindset of the Philippines means that, whether we were raised here or there, we were taught that we could be more beautiful with features that were more like our colonizers. Lighter skin, long straight hair, and that pointy high bridge nose to start.
For me, growing up in mostly white communities, there were a lot of features that my mother passed down to me that I resented. For example: my short, muscular legs. But people, both white and Filipinx, have often told me how lucky I am to be mixed-race, and this comment is always linked to the way that I look. They don’t have to say the exact words, but from their perspective I benefit from both the “exotic” look of my mother and the white features of my father.
Nevertheless, when I was young I craved the long skinny legs and other attributes of my peers. I wanted to be beautiful, and to me, beautiful meant white. The healing from that self-hate is an ongoing process.
So, here I am again, facing a different contradiction. I love my little, pointy nose; whether or not it’s a result of my Lola’s Filipinx nose job. I also love those memories of my Lola pinching me into shape. However, as I have come to understand the cultural context behind the pinching, it makes me sad too. We dedicate so much time and energy into trying to change ourselves into something we are not. We have internalized this belief that we are not enough, when in reality we are abundant with culture and beauty that is all our own.
I often reflect on contradictions and duality. It’s an overarching theme to my life. Sometimes our happiness and sadness are linked so closely, they are the same thing. Two different sides of the same coin. As I’ve gotten older, and have taken the time to explore these contradictions, I embrace that I am not two conflicting ideas joined together. I am whole, I am both, and I’m learning to look in the mirror and gigil myself.
Nakakagigil sa akin.
By Nicole 'Coley' curry
Nicole ‘Coley’ Curry is an artist, choreographer and dancer living in Arizona. She’s out here seeking empowerment, social justice, truth and love - one revolution at a time.
For collaboration or more information contact Coley at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram @aynako.curry