I Did the Math for You: Who Would Win, Mamá’s Chancla or Abuela’s ‘The Look™’?

Aug 10, 2017
5:30 PM

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this piece was published here.

Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash

Latinos who just read this title are probably shaking their heads right now because this is the kind of question you just don’t ask. This is like asking, “Which do you prefer? Knowing your friends are having fun without you for the night? Or sitting in a room and contemplating your mortality for 20 minutes?” It’s just not a question worth answering.

For those who don’t know, Latina moms are notorious for disciplining (er, loving) their children by slapping them across the face with their slipper whenever they act up (explaining it in plain words doesn’t do this justice, also it’s not as bad as it sounds… it’s actually worse).

Latina grandmas or abuelas lack the shoulder strength and the ganas to hit their grandkids, so whenever we turn into little monsters we get “The Look™” or “los ojos.” It’s basically a stare down. (Again, words can’t do this justice. When grandma stares you down you feel every one of your ancestors disappointment in you. Was it worth it? Was the cookie you tried to sneak worth it?)

So I normally wouldn’t ask it. But my friend Jonathan hasn’t texted me back and it’s already late afternoon on Saturday so I guess he fell asleep, and I’m left pondering this. So let’s dive in.


I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start. Is mom herself going up against abuela’s stare (or “The Look™”?) Why would mom be giving abuela the chancla? This upsets everything I know about the strict Latino family hierarchy. Am I watching this go down? Am I a little kid? Because 7-year-old René watching mom run up on grandma with a $2 Walmart flip-flop would probably have shattered every single iota of childhood in my kid soul

What would that even look like? I can’t even imagine it. It’s like trying to picture seeing an owl in the daytime, or seeing a clown riding a bus, or seeing Linda from HR minding her own damn business for once. I just can’t do it.

The only thing that comes close to what I think a chancla-stare down fight between mamá and abuela is this clip of an MMA fight between Yoshihiro Takayama and Don Frye from June 23, 2002.

I want you to watch this very carefully. Because it’s really saying a lot.

(Author’s note: I know nothing about fighting but how does every fight not end up like this? This seems like 100% efficiency on both sides. You’re landing every hit you take, so by the end of the fight, the person with the hardest punches and the most stamina would win. There would be no mistaking it. I should get into boxing.)

When Freddie Mercury look-alike Frye goes up against Super Saiyan Goku look-alike Takayama, and they go nowhere, this is what I truly believe we can expect out of our fight between our mom and our grandma.

But I’m not paid to give allegories or surface level answers, and Jonathan still has yet to text me, so we’re going in deeper.


I kind of wanted to get into the weeds here, which is a stupid idea because I have a degree in theatre (that’s “theater” but spelled the douchebag way) and not physics (that’s “fisics” spelled the right way). But I called my buddy Chris who got his degree in engineering to help me with the math.

He didn’t answer, so I have to guesstimate. Turns out a professional boxer can generate up to 5,000 N(ewtons) in one punch. That’s a lot of F(orce). It’s half a T(on) of F to be precise within Earth’s gravity. Given that 1 N and 1 W(att)/S(econd) are interchangeable, I can use the following equation to try and solve for 1 chancla slap.

1 chancla slap = 1 WTF per second

Okay we’re getting somewhere. I definitely know what I’m doing and I’m very smart. I have a degree in theatre.

So we’ve got a way to measure mom’s attack, but what kind of metric do you apply to “The Look™”? How do you encapsulate the sheer terror and the devastation those eyes leave in their wake into a single metric?

In my search for this answer, I read some articles about how nuclear bombs and meteors are measured in kilotons and how even that metric fails to convey the sheer destruction these things cause. There’s no human element to the metrics, and grandma staring you down after you knocked over her porcelain figurine of a little boy pissing into a lake is an experience that extends beyond any words ever devised by man or dolphin. Her eyes would stop Usain Bolt in his tracks.

That’s it.

We calculate how much Force it takes to stop Usain Bolt.

Usain Bolt holds the record for fastest man on Earth, with a top recorded speed of 27.8 mph. According to Google, Usain Bolt weighs 207 pounds.

Now to calculate Impact Force (how much Impact it takes to Force Usain Bolt to “Go to your room, metiche!”) we use this equation:

F = (0.5 × m × v²) ÷ d

I’m not messing with that. I’m going to look at the energy Usain makes in W(atts). His last name is Bolt. It makes sense that we convert him into electricity. This is how science works. I’m a scientist. I’ve played a scientist on stage.

Usain Bolt can exert a max of 2619.5 W in a short burst. We also know that he can exert 815.8 N of force. We know that N = F and we know that W= V(olts)*A(mps). Usain Bolt is worth 1V at rest because that man is always on. So those units cancel out. I’m pretty sure about this. We’re left with Amps, Watts, and Force. Since Watts are an expression of Force as expressed in Amps, it’s redundant to have both, so we’ll stick with Amps. People are always saying “Amp it up” and I’m 100% on board to do that. I haven’t worked this hard since I was 18.

So trying to solve for units of grandma’s scary factor, we’re left with A(mps) and F(orce) as our metric. So I’ve come up with our formula:

1 abuela stare = 1 scary AF

I’ve been texting Chris (my engineer friend) along the way to confirm that my math is right but he’s still not answering. Should I restart my phone? I’m gonna do that.

Okay, so the stage is set. We have our units. We know what we’re doing. It’s now into the evening on Saturday. I have nothing else to do. This is okay—it’s part of growing up right?

So which unit is measuring more? 1 WTF per Second? Or 1 Scary AF?

1 WTF per Second sounds like a lot. It’s per Second, the estimated duration of a chancla slap.

But abuela’s stare wins, and here’s why:

1 Scary AF is enough to stop Usain Bolt at peak speed. We’ve rationalized this. A chancla slap is going to slow him down for sure, but it’s not going to stop him.

Jeez, I mean look at that. He’s like a damn Loony Toon. The only thing missing from that gif is an animated smoke cloud dusting up behind him and all the other runners fall off a cliff that appears all of a sudden.

A chancla isn’t slowing him down, it would take maybe 100 chanclas to slow him down. 100 WTFs per Second = 1 Scary AF.

Abuela wins.


René DeLeón is an amateur professional writer and a recreational charlatan. Chris and Jonathan were both at the same party and said I should have been there. It was a blast. Yell at me on Twitter: @Rene4591.