From the August 2014 magazine.

Raised in Loisaida

On New York’s Lower East Side, she did it her way and drank like the boys

I grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, in a traditional Hispanic home with three brothers and two sisters. The boys were allowed to come and go as they wished, but the girls had to learn how to be housekeepers, in order to become good, submissive housewives. Well, I wasn’t having any of that, especially after I had my first taste of alcohol. I just aspired to drink like the boys.

At the ripe age of 12, during a holiday dinner, my mother, feeling a bit liberal, gave each of my sisters and me a glass of sweet sangria. Oh my God, it was euphoric. For the first time in my young life I felt alive. I felt the blood rush throughout my body, and my checks flushed. I was a very shy kid and didn’t think I was pretty. I didn’t like my hair much: I had wild curly hair, which I always wore in a long, tight braid. Well, by the end of that evening I was grabbing the bottle from my mother’s hand and guzzling down the sangria. My poor mother had no idea what she had done. I let my curly hair loose and went downstairs to my neighbor’s house to flirt with the boy who all the girls wanted. He told me I looked beautiful. I blacked out, but somehow I managed to make it back upstairs. Then I drank some more, threw up and passed out. That was the beginning of my life with alcohol, and the insanity that lifestyle brings.

-- Vicky B.

New York, New York

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