The day I lost my accent, my voice was called sexy, and I couldn’t help but think of my mother still repeating words for emphasis, as if the more she speaks, the faster she will gain approval, while I’ve become an exotic dish expected to fill him. I used to want to be more like my mother, now she wants to be more like me.
The females in my family are plagued with unsatisfactory lives, doomed by inaction, and regret. Sometimes I think of the sacrifices my tribal ancestors have made both physically and ritually, always throwing out tongues, words, hearts, bodies. Haven’t we already given too much?
The kitchen is where one learns womanhood. My Papa says I should know my place. He says, that way, I will find a man, but what about my chosen place? Like with her, her sheets, her bed, our sheets, our bed. I learned womanhood the day I learned her.
I am an angry woman: because I love my culture, but hate its bind, its grip, its harshness, its unforgiving reverence to religion, its force. Because I can be strong without a him. Because I have been taught to be quiet. Because there is nothing beautiful about this silence. Because I no longer want to be like my mother, docile, quiet, graceful. Her throat, full of everything she’s ever had to swallow because that’s what good women do.
I am still learning how to be a woman.
There are days I don’t want to be a woman.
My mother pleads with me to find my spirituality, she says that is all I will inherit. But I often question the value of her God, question if her prayers hold any worth, when she still goes to sleep wondering when my father will tell her he loves her for the first time after 23 years, when she will stop feeling used on nights when all she wants is a conversation, when she will begin to feel like a woman and not another piece of unfinished furniture. How many times must you share your body before you begin to feel the confirmation of your own existence.
My sister wants to die. She is only 13. She doesn’t feel smart enough. Pretty enough. Loved enough. She doesn’t feel enough. She thinks she takes up too much space. I’m beginning to sense a pattern.
I stopped wanting to be like my mother, like my aunt, like my grandmother, and I started wanting to be more like me.
Some days I still wonder, if I am woman enough.