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Manny Santos & Reinvention in Time of Quarantine

Before I begin, I'd like to say that I am in no way trying to make light of or ignore the seriousness of COVID19. Being able to be home during this time is a privilege and one I don't take for granted. I'm keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers during this time and urge you to stay inside. During times like these, sometimes we need something to distract us from the scary world, and that is all I aim to do. Please stay safe everyone.

Like everyone else I know, I've spent the majority of my time in quarantine rewatching some of my favorite old television shows. Main case in point : Degrassi. The classic television series was responsible for teaching me many life lessons (aka don’t talk to strangers on the internet and that any and all ravines are infectious cesspools). It also introduced me to one of the best characters to ever exist on television : Manny Santos.

Manny was a character that almost any girl in adolescence could relate to, but I hadn’t expected to resonate with her even more as an adult trying to work on herself during quarantine. In the episode “U Got The Look”, Manny decides that she’s over being the cute girl that everyone knows her as. Tired of the cheek pinching and the condescending pats on the head, she decides that this is her time to reinvent herself. Enter : Sexy Manny.

This scene has gone down as one of the most iconic in Degrassi history, and for good reason. The effervescent glow radiating off of her as though she held the sun within her skin. The confident strut down the hallway that made every boy turn in awe and every girl in jealousy. And, of course, the iconic cobalt blue thong peeking out from her low rise jeans, giving us 2003 Britney Spears fierceness. This moment had icon written all over it.

As I rewatched, I was excited for the coming of this new Manny. I understand, now more than ever, what it’s like to want to change when you grow tired of the way others treat you. Once upon a time I was the annoyingly excited cheerleader, with a smile too bright and laugh too loud. But that schtick got old once I learned that being too nice to everyone gets you no respect. So then in college, I became the sarcastic unenthused sorority girl. But when I got slapped with the label of Mean Girl, I realized that I wasn't really that big a fan of that girl either. Regardless, I was always given space, by my parents and friends, to change myself as needed. Unlike Manny in this episode.

The people around her (I mean seriously, fuck you Liberty) were all really uncomfortable with Manny’s awakening. Chalk it up to be young and in high school, but none of her friends seemed to understand how important this glow up was to Manny. As she was reaching adolescence she was ready to explore new sides of herself, and this was a leap to figure out if this was a version of herself she really wanted. It wasn't really about the thong (okay, maybe it was a little bit about the thong). But it was about what the thong represented, evolution and change. And that scared people. They were disappointed when this new Manny didn't accept their advances, or ignored their discouraging comments. I will admit maybe (strong maybe) Manny let the attention go to her head, but the argument stands that if this change in wardrobe and attitude is something that she needed to explore, she deserved to do so.

The point is we have never owed people stagnancy. We all have the right to wake up and decide to be something else if that's what we choose. To experiment with ourselves until we find the version that finally feels right. People have this habit of trying to dictate who they expect you to be. They want to keep the version of you that makes them feel comfortable, and sometimes growth/ reinvention makes them uncomfortable. But we don’t owe it to anyone to stay stuck to one version of ourselves simply because that’s what they know. And as I spend more time with myself now than I have in a very long time, I feel like Manny, itching to break loose of the mold I felt stuck in.

When I step out of this quarantine, I want to feel the way Manny did in her bedazzled thong. Except my “thong” will be stronger boundaries. It will be being more honest with people even when it's hard. And trusting my own intuition even when other people doubt me. This is the evolution I'm working on and I don’t plan on limiting myself because of the concerns or discomfort of someone else.

So when I see you all next, please do not be surprised I've changed. To be honest, I'll expect that you'll have changed too. This time has given many of us the opportunity to reflect and search for something more, something we’ve craved but haven’t had the chance to because of the restrictions of work, and friends, and family. And when we all do meet, whenever that may be, let’s just promise not to be anybody's Liberty.

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