[on gender & happy]
**A few caveats. First, a much needed statement, contextualizing what is to follow. This post is about sex. And sexuality. And Mexican mothers. Yes, folks, we’re going there…as appropriately stated in the title.
Also, I described a previous post as being one overflowing with self-disclosure, leaving me quite vulnerable in this interweb space I am sharing my thoughts in. That continues to be true. Buuut this one may take the cake. It leaves sooo much space for judgment and assumptions and musings on a very personal aspect of my being. The empowering thing with this is that I AM PERFECTLY OKAY WITH THAT. Judge. Assume. But please also Reflect (on how this plays a role in your life and your happy and that of those around you).
Final cautionary note: this is a much-needed-long-time-coming reflection on this topic. Translation: there are a lot of thoughts on this topic so this post is an attempt to consolidate said thoughts but potentially a failure in the keeping-it-concise department. Good thoughts. Lots of words. Fair warning. So here it is.
Mexican mother: Tú te entregas bien rápido
Clouds: ¿en que sentido?
Mexican mother: pues…en todo.
At face value, this brief snippet of conversation seems basic, vague, unimportant perhaps. Nonverbals and context state otherwise. For us anyway. I say this because this conversation was essentially the first of its kind, an explicit conversation about how I give myself to others quickly and, though not overtly stated, completely (emotionally, physically, sexually).
OK, let’s pause for a second. First, a bit of background on Mexican mothers may be needed. Correction, MY Mexican mother. I realize generalizations are often just that, general, ignoring the nuances that make individuals individuals, unique interactional beings creating meaning and change on the daily, intentional or otherwise. Nonetheless, generalizations sometimes hold a bit of truth. So take what you will from my experience with the topic of sex and Mexican parents.
My Mexican mother and I never had “the” talk. Well, let me rephrase; we had “a” talk, this taking place in the form of “don’t do it ‘til you’re married.” That’s it. That’s all the information I received. That, along with a wonderful video shown during my 4th grade year in the elementary school cafeteria filled with pre-pubescent 10-year-olds who glanced sheepishly around as our reproductive organs were mentioned and reproduction was described. That is how I learned and how I understood it, comprehending the basic physical and biological processes but also internalizing the covert message of sex as taboo, or at least sex-talk.
So I figured it out on my own. Or not on my own. But still, my Mexican mother thought she had taught me well; “hasta que te cases.” “not until you get married.” Simple, right?
Fast forward through high school. And discovery of sexuality. And “serious” monogamy (as monogamous and serious as a 17 year old girl and 19 year old boy can be). And college. And the temporary beginnings of sexual empowerment in the form of birth control and a one-night stand. All this leading to actual serious monogamy and love and all that jazz. With this came “the move-in,” sharing a living space with a partner for the first time. All of this while I was in another city and my Mexican mother, about 80 miles away, imagined me focused, studying, working, supporting myself through my goals. Most of that was true. I was focused, studying working, supporting myself. But I also made time for bad decisions life lessons. None regretted. And I made time to stumble into love. After months of living in one apartment and paying for two, we decided to save money, shack up, and break my Mexican mother’s heart. (only two of those occurred intentionally). And sex and sexuality and Mexican mothers? Yes, still on track, no worries. We broke the news of the move-in to my parents. And by “we” I mean the “I while he stood behind me, scared shitless of my Mexican father” kind of “we” (stories of reactions from my Mexican father may come at a later time). I remember my Mexican mother remaining calm. pulling me aside, alone, and asking “ya estuvieron juntos?” (“have you already been together”)…actually, recalling that conversation a bit more, she never actually completed the thought. All she had to say was “y ya…?” (“have you…?”) and the rest was understood, again as a shameful topic to not be discussed aloud, especially given the absence of a paper that was supposed to make that okay. I nodded. She cried. I hugged her. Me dio la bendición. I said, “amen.” We left. That was it.
After a couple of years with the same partner, conversations about “cuidandome” would take place. And by “conversations” I mean brief statements about how it was important to “take care of myself,” understood as family planning, followed by a random question or reflection in efforts to shift the topic of conversation to something more appropriate.
Once that relationship ended, my Mexican mother, hurt as much though in a very distinct way than I, consoled me as best as she knew how. I, in my own attempts at consolation, did what seemed to be best at the time, freeing myself to liquid solace and physical connection. Late nights turned to concern and witticisms from my Mexican mother in attempts to hide disagreement in lifestyle and choices. “No vengas tan tarde…o temprano” (“don’t come home too late…or too early”) she’d say with a smile and a look that held more than could be said. Given my 5am, 6am, and even 7am returns home, the one-liner was quite fitting. She, along with my Mexican father, assumed the worst, with the “worst” in their eyes being expression my sexuality in any form. The topic of sex was never explicitly discussed. Simple statements of “te portas bien,” with emphasis on bien, being understood as proper, “like a lady,” whatever that means. I’d nod. Me bendecía. And I would leave, knowing well that I would continue to find physical connection as remedy to emotional pain. While all of this was found with the same trusted partner, shame still accompanied it. This, coupled with said partner’s forwardness and strong demands, drew me away from owning any part of my sexual identity; my sexuality was no longer mine, it was theirs.
Once that relationship ran its course of ups and downs and lessons learned, I reflected and decided that exploration should take place, uninhibited, free to do what I wanted in the most self-absorbed sense of the phrase. So I did. I met people. Connected socially. Connected physically. Reconnected occasionally. But through this, I lost myself. I relied on my sexuality to define me. Let’s just say feeling seen as only a sexual being can do more than its fair share of damage to your confidence and shake your identity a bit…a lotta bit actually.
So I broke down. And picked up.
After that lovely moment took place, true self-reflection began (as opposed to the previous guise of empowering myself though sexual liberation that I had previously held). I really began to look at the hows and whys and, most importantly for me, the whats; what was it that I wanted for myself, absent of worry of judgment and preconceptions of how others thought I should behave and of the labels that accompany certain actions. I reclaimed my sexuality. I felt comfortable interacting with someone of the opposite sex, knowing that whatever happened would be a mutual honest decision between two adults, not one guided by my fears or needs to fill something with essentially nothing. I was done using and being used (…although this is not always a negative; we all serve a purpose to others). It has been indescribably amazing to own, truly own a piece of yourself that has always been explained as needing to be silenced.
And my Mexican mother? Well, it seems as if she’s gone through her own journey of gaining comfort. While sex and sex-related words are still not spoken, she references it a lot more during our conversations. Some judgment remains, assumptions of liberal actions and interactions seeping through, classifying me essentially into a category that I wouldn’t consider myself to be in. but still, conversations are starting to take place. Just the other day, the following conversation occurred:
Mexican mother: ¿ya tiene 19 anos y no ha tenido novio. Para esa edad, cuantos tuviste tu? (“she’s already 19 and hasn’t had a boyfriend. How many had you had by that age?”)
Mexican mother: ¿y cuantos “amigos”? (“and how many ‘friends’?”)
…yup, she said that. A statement filled to the brim with numerous implications and boundless assumptions. And this was not the first of its kind. My Mexican mother has made frequent reference to her assumptions of my having “amigos con derecho,” never mutual, non-sexual companionship; instead, friends with benefits with all males I engage with in late-night interactions. While I run the risk of my Mexican mother essentially thinking I’m a whore given the taboo of being open about my sexuality, I think the bigger risk is if I ignore this as part of my being, silencing an important aspect of my identity. If I do this, I feel like I am saying that I am ashamed of my actions and, more concerning, ashamed of my sexuality. this is far from where I am. I am not done in my reflection. and growth. development will undoubtedly continue. But finally, my sexuality is mine, not theirs.
“Love me or leave me but please don’t deceive me
And say you love me how I am
You love the way I fit some ideal
Not the real woman you’ve yet to understand
See love ain’t all heaven, and I am no angel
But I do the best I can
You always wanted something more from my body
And said you needed something more from my loving
But all you got was me and that’s all that I can be
I’m sorry if it let you down
But I’m not gonna sit around
And waste my precious divine energy
Trying to explain and being ashamed
Of things you think are wrong with me” – Esperanza Spalding