From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul


My husband, Mike, is Italian, and I’m Puerto Rican. Mike is always trying to understand Spanish, and whenever my mother and I speak Spanish, he tries to pick up words. One day, he heard us say that a woman we noticed was chula. He asked what it meant, and we told him that it meant “pretty.”

When we went to my mother’s house for her birthday party the next week, he walked in the door, gave her a big birthday kiss and said, “Feliz cumpleaños, mi chuleta.” He danced her around the kitchen, calling my mother his chuleta, all the while thinking he was flattering his mother-in-law and impressing her with his Spanish.

My mother, who is soft-spoken and shy, raised an eyebrow and looked over her shoulder at me, but she didn’t say anything. The problem is, chuleta doesn’t mean “pretty” in Spanish; it means “chop,” as in “pork chop.” In some places it has a double connotation; it’s something a boyfriend would say to his girlfriend, but certainly not a son-in-law to his suegra! But Mike’s intentions were so sweet: He was trying to let my mother know how much he loved her and that she was still beautiful in her old age. I’m not sure what my mother thought he was doing. I just smiled and enjoyed the irony.

Pretty soon my brothers and sisters gathered in the kitchen to watch the dancing as Mike continued to call my mother his “little pork chop.” We didn’t tell him what he was doing because we didn’t want to embarrass him. But every time he left the room, we would laugh so hard that tears would start rolling down our cheeks.

Michele Capriotti

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