by Dani, 11th (non-fiction)
ALWAYS wake up in a good mood, or else questions like “¿Que paso..ahora que traes?” will come at you like bullets. Say you’re fine and tired, even if yesterday’s argument is consuming you. Get dressed and ready! But don’t forget to cover up your toasted skin because it will attract savages named men- as Mama says. Some days you’ll take a risk, but after 10 minutes of your body illuminating, you turn off its brightness because you don’t feel comfortable with it. It’s imprinted and you don’t know how to stop it. You hop into the car and stare out the window. Suddenly, you hear your Ma call your name. Expect “reminders” that your attitude must be leveled down, that you must not disagree with her. Mom is always right. After all, she took risks for you. We understand that. You pop in your earphones and let your mind drown into the soft tunes. You try to hold back your tears- it’s hard to. Pretend to yawn and smile. That’s the best way to play it off.
You’ve arrived at school and even though it’s full of lessons and assignments, you feel your body loosen from your parents’ grip. Your laugh and smile almost authentic and your mind is almost at ease. 5:30 arrives, sweat trails down your back and face, but you still walk slower. What should take you 2 minutes, takes 10. You get in the car, everything seems fine. Relax and start up a conversation. You’re curious and ask about sexual and mental health. Mom looks in the rearview mirror and your Dad continues to stare at his phone. Big mistake. “¿Y porque quieres saber de eso? Que andas haciendo?” Don’t be surprised by the lecture that’s coming your way. Mama states that she didn’t sacrifice everything for you to be focus on things that affect your well-being. Stick to the books, the books are your best friends. Focus your mind on assignments and daily studying. Do it all for your parents… and maybe, just maybe, for yourself.
The weekend flies through the door and hear your relatives are visiting. Get ready to look after the kids while your Mom and tias prepare the food and the stench of alcohol fills your Dad and uncles’ breath. Don’t be shocked when drunken opinions slam the table hard. You feel an urge to disagree, but you stop yourself. Mama understands your frustration, but your uncles live in older times, where men are always right and women and the youth stand out of their way. Accept their sexist and controversial norms or beware of being stared down at every family reunion. Your dad knows you, but don’t feel betrayed when he stands tall with his brothers. He can’t be seen as a “mandilon” or weak to his daughter’s beliefs.
Go to your Ma and release your anger. Explain it’s difficult to hear because you learned and were brought up a different way. She’ll gaze, then stare hard like predator and prey and be offended. Mama will argue that you’re giving into the silly American culture. Your eyes will want to go white as you recall bugging her about your ethnic culture, as well as its traditional practices- in which she responded, “We’re not too committed.” Don’t feel hurt when she calls you a “wannabe gringa” and that you’re ashamed of who you are. You’ll stand there for a minute or so, fighting the strong current of tears. Try not to half-ass your smile, make her believe you agree. Say “yes, Ma”, turn around and don’t say anything else. Remember everything they’ve done for you. They have the right to demean you. Keep everything to yourself, just like the perfect daughter should do.
Oakland | East Bay, CA