Unpopular opinion: Hiding parts of your life from your parents does not make you a bad child. Some, not all, parents are simply not ready for the non-traditional, and nonconforming nature of our thinking. The stoic nature within brown families restrict the presence of intimacy, so much it becomes suffocating.
Mom, one day I will be able to sit you down and tell you about him. I’ll tell you how he bought me all those teddy bears that fill my room and how he was the one who went outside in the middle of the night in Puerto Rico to give me medicine for my deadly migraines. How he would take off the cheese from his fries and drop it on mine because…well, I love cheese. How the art set Lilly, your youngest daughter, got on her 7th birthday was actually from him. How he was the one that kept me company during my 3 hour long train rides to Bay Ridge the first time I ever got a real job. When the time is right, my mom will get to know me. I’ll tell her everything. Everything I’ve ever had to hide from her all those adolescent years, I will tell her, and she will understand.
I’ll tell her how that one night I came home at 4am wasn’t because of me, but because I was taking care of Jannatul who had gotten a bit too drunk. Or the real reason I stopped talking to Masha was not because she transferred schools, but because she got a boyfriend and suddenly forgot about everyone else. I wish I could have told you all these things. It would have stopped me from having to come up with illustrious excuses and maybe you could have added your own advice. But back then, I knew better than to tell you the truth. And I hope you know that too. When the time is right, my mom will get to know me. I’ll tell her everything. Everything I’ve ever had to hide from her all those adolescent years, I will tell her, and she will understand.
I’ll tell you about my first crush. How s h e was a fierce fire that illuminated parts of my heart I’d never felt before. How I fell in love with the way she spoke and to this day I try to encapsulate that exact level of fearlessness in my approach. How I didn’t even know she was my type until years later, when I realized I still thought about her uncontrollably exuberant aura. How my first kiss was at the bus stop right in front of my middle school, and he was a Shakespeare fanatic, at least he tried to be. He was really nice to me; he surprised me with flowers on his graduation, my first flowers. How I broke his heart because of his funny pre-pubescent voice and the way I’d get bullied for dating a guy who wore fake Polo. Yeah, those were not good enough reasons, but I was 14 then, I thought any boy would care for me as long as I was myself–but what did I know? I wish I could have told you all the drama that I went through alone. But then again, your first “boyfriend” was my father and you first met him at your own wedding, before you even understood intimacy, being coerced into a marriage for the sole reason of financial security. Mom, this life never gave you the chance to explore, to choose, to be bold. And for that, I am sorry. But it is not fair to restrict me from attaining that life because you didn’t. And this is why I never tell you, because you don’t understand, and you don’t try to. Maybe later. When the time is right, my mom will get to know me. I’ll tell her everything. Everything I’ve ever had to hide from her all those adolescent years, I will tell her, and she will understand.
I wish I could tell you about all the times I had to hide my tears as I came home from outside because the same boyfriend who showered me with warmth, was also depriving me of it. How I would stare at the mirror and find different ways to change myself– to make myself more acceptable to him, or his friends, or whoever it was this time that looked disappointed to meet me. How I would try so damn fucking hard to be “cool enough” after realizing I messed up for not enjoying weed as much as everyone else was. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my anxiety disorder could be a reason why I didn’t enjoy smoking, because it only made me more anxious. How I never forgave myself for being different than most people, and I only isolated myself more because of it. That only led me to be more afraid of joining parties and letting go, even during the times I actually did want to have fun because sometimes, I actually do end up enjoying the weed that tastes like popcorn or the dark liquor that burns my throat. To this day I struggle with my anxiety. I want to be able to go to a club with my boyfriend and dance till my feet ache but I feel like I shelled myself in for too long for anyone to ever expect me to do anything but work. And I’ve seemed to let their expectations cage me in, and I’m suffocating because of it. I can’t even tell you these things, because I “shouldn’t” even be doing them in the first place. Mom, all the emotions I’ve yet to even sort out, you will hear about them…and you will listen, even if you can’t understand.
I wish I could tell you how scared I am for the future. For my friends. For my siblings. For my parents. For my own kids. For my own grandkids. Because I can barely survive my teenage years and it’s not like the system we’re in is rooting for me to make it. Let’s not forget the very planet we’re residing in is literally deteriorating. Mom, one day I will tell you all my fears, and how vulnerable this cold world has made me…and you will understand.
Every brown girl leads a double life. The one their family sees, and the one their friends and the rest of the world sees. This may not be all brown girls, and if you’re one of those who has a strong, comfortable and open relationship with their parents and can share all details with them, then you’re one of the lucky ones–but this unfortunately isn’t the case for a majority of South Asian girls. It’s not because we’re out doing horrible things, we aren’t horrible people. We have simply chosen not to share intimate details of our life because our parents have not earned the right to do so. I feel a lot of people, especially outside the brown community, simply don’t understand this and thus, demote us for being so “secretive.”
Once in a blue moon, I will sit 1 foot away from my mother and strike a conversation. Amidst the laughter, I would suddenly get the urge to blurt out, “Mom, I’m in love,” or “Mom, I miss you” or “Mom, I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.” Sometimes I hear my mother burst out crying hysterically in the middle of the night and I become stuck between “Why don’t you just leave Dad?” and “Mom, I’m sorry this world has been so cruel to you because you are so pure and this world has treated you so unfairly.” But my whole life I’ve lacked the intimate bond with her that I say neither. I lay awake with tears falling down wishing I could simply get up, go to her room, and give her a hug. And then I realize I can’t remember the last time I hugged her. 4? 5? Oh shit. Am I a bad daughter? No. It is not your fault you were conditioned to associate love as a sign of weakness.
I wish I can tell you.
I love you, Mom.
And I will tell you, one day, even if you may never understand.