¡Dale! One Day At A Time ¡Dale!
by Ian Carlos Crawford
I am a hard sell on sitcoms. I mostly like shows centered around teens, vampire slayers, stoners, or superheroes. I’ve never been into precious, family friendly shows. I also hate a laugh track and think using one in the year 2019 feels pretty archaic. Okay, I’m not just a hard sell on sitcoms — I’m a god damned snob about them.
But also, my family is Puerto Rican. My grandma, RIP Frances ‘Panchy’ Del Toro, was a strong willed, progressive, yet weirdly tradition Puerto Rican. And, duh, I’m a big nerdy queer. So, when I heard about a new show called One Day At A Time coming to Netflix, centered around a Latinx family, I decided to give it a try. I’d never watched a show that represented my family
(much to my mother’s chagrin, her gay son never got into Ugly Betty) and while the Alvarez family was Cuban and not Puerto Rican, I thought I’d give it a shot.
And if we’re being honest, while the first thing that drew me to One Day At A Time was the representation — their family wasn’t much like mine. My dad is (very) white and conservative, while my mom is a very loud, opinionated, albeit vaguely progressive Puerto Rican. My brother is so much older and so much different than me, sometimes it’s like we barely grew up together. My relationship with my grandma, however, was not unlike Rita Moreno’s Lydia and her Papito, Marcel Ruiz’s Alex.
My grandma Panchy would call me her Iancito. She always made sure I felt special — whether it was by telling me I was the handsomest/smartest, slipping me $20 and telling me not to tell the other grandkids, or giving me that look whenever another family member was annoying her.
Not unlike Lydia, she’d often tell her daughter (my mother) that she needed to put on her lipstick before leaving the house. When both my parents worked, she’d babysit me after school and we’d watch telenovelas together — where she’d have to explain most of what was going on because my Spanish has always been mediocre at best. Panchy was often hit on by other older
men but she’d always frown — the only love she had was for my grandpa Carlos, who’d passed away when I was 3. She refused to ever meet another man. When I came out my parents, they handled it not-so-great (but hey they got there) while my grandma, who had made empanadas for dinner for me that night, responded with, “Aye, your mother already told me and I’ll tell you the same thing I told her — so what? I love you. Now let’s eat.”
When Isabella Gomez’s Elena got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I thought, “Wow, am I her?”
And later, when Elena came out, I thought, “Wow, I am her.” Lydia’s reaction was not unlike my grandma’s — she took approx .5 seconds to accept her granddaughter. And I mean, can we talk about Mother of the Year every year since 2017, Justina Machado’s Penelope?
The show helped me heal after my grandma passed. The show made me want to write great Latinx characters. The show was political in a way that felt incredibly real and made me want to do better myself. It’s not often we get Latinx characters on TV who are just a regular family, existing in the world. But this show gave us just that.
I’ll miss relating to Penelope’s very real mental health issues. I’ll miss relating to Elena’s journey as a nerdy latinx queer. I’ll miss the smiles Lydia’s morning dance routines brought. I’ll miss swooning over Esneider. I’ll miss crying at the end of nearly every god damned episode. I will miss…everything about this warm-hug of a show.
And for that, I thank the entire cast, creators, and writers of One Day At A Time. I hope we see you all again — I mean, there’s always Hulu.
About the author:
Ian Carlos Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey and, like most people from NJ, he graduated from Rutgers University. He then graduated from New School with an MFA in nonfiction writing. His writing has appeared on sites like Geeks Out, BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, and other random corners of the internet. He currently co-hosts a podcast about his favorite thing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, called Slayerfest 98 and is shopping around his fiction manuscript (you can view the book trailer here). Follow him on Twitter @ianxcarlos