Day 17: Culture Wars—Mom why are you like that?!

30 Day Writing Challenge

The other day I went to visit my friend in NYC for a comedy show and dinner. I showered, put on some clothes, did my hair and walked out the door.

Long story short, when I came back to my mother’s house in NJ, where I was staying, I scrolled through instagram and saw my friend posted a picture of us earlier that night.

I leaned over in the bed I was sharing with my mom and showed her the picture. Her exact words were, “You went to NYC like that? How will you ever find a husband looking like that?”

“You went to NYC like that? How will you ever find a husband looking like that?”

Knowing my mother, I tried to laugh it off and said, “If my ‘husband’ can’t love me at my worst, he can’t have my at my best.” She looked at me with a disturbed expression and said, “What’s that suppose to mean?” Here we go, I thought.

My mother was born and raised on a farm in the Dominican Republic. She was raised to learn how to do a bunch of cool things, like farm and harvest rice, churn butter, wash clothes in the river. It was a hard life but a simple life. She’s always telling me stories about growing chickens and riding horses in the country side.

On the flip side, she was also raised in a culture that believes women are set on this earth to be wives and mothers. Women should always look their best in public and “take care of themselves.” The old saying goes, primero muerta que sencilla. Women, like the one’s my mother thinks we should all be, never leave the house without hair and makeup laid. That’s what she was referring to when she looked at the picture— I wasn’t wearing any makeup and my hair was in a simple topknot. I wasn’t “husband ready.”

Despite having been born and raised by my mother, we are two birds of different feathers. She taught be to be a “lady,” I’ve just rejected it. Who made up the rules here? Why should I live my life in the hopes of “landing a husband” as if I was landing my dream job? Why is my self-worth tied to being married and having children?

It’s not that I feel somehow I’m better than my mother because her self-worth is tied to the patriarchy and mine isn’t. In fact, we are both products of a patriarchal society, whereby the former accepts and abides by the rules and the latter rejects and denounces the rules.

Coming full circle to the start of this story, I don’t believe my mother is wrong. There is beauty and love and resilience in building and maintaining a family. There is pride and joy in seeing your children grow and flourish into different versions of yourself. This is not what I’m speaking out against.

The thing that bothers me is that we are all different, even mothers and daughters, and yet, we feel the need to force our own beliefs and values onto others. Isn’t that what wars are build on? Isn’t that what partisanship is build on? What I don’t understand is why we can’t respect each other’s differences? Why can’t my mother respect that I may not take the same path as her? Is there any hope that one day we will be able to have a decent conversation with someone who thinks differently from us without anger and bias? I don’t have the answer, only questions….

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