In my past life, I was the one in the family who cooked the food. Most of it, as requested by the controlling ex, had to be vegetarian. When I did try to create food out of meat and skin and bone, I was grossed out immediately and resigned myself to boneless chicken breasts. But in my old age I’ve learned to enjoy a chicken or too. But always cooked. No slime involved.
Lo and behold at Trader Joes, they have marinated and spatchcocked chickens. I made one last evening in the toaster oven. Or rather the toaster oven cooked my chicken while I was laid out in bed, thanks to Klonopin.
This chicken isn’t just a triumph over my fear. It’s a sign. I can do this. This bird came out well. And if a grown woman with multiple degrees can cook a chicken, what can’t she do? According to my mother, almost everything.
It’s been on my mind for a while. That record in my head, deeply etched by people who don’t love me and don’t want me to succeed for the fact that they can keep me in their lives as a servant…as an absorber of their pain and anger…as proof that my failure shows I never should have tried, if only merely as an extention of their misery. I have multiple degrees. I have skills she could never measure. I have friends who value me for me, not for picking up groceries when they’re sick or being a bridesmaid in their weddings. But for being a strong, ballsy role model of a bitch who doesn’t give two shits.
There’s a certain pain that only Mexican girls know of. If you read the book or have seen the movie “Like Water For Chocolate,” then you know what I’m talking about. We are the Tita’s of our families.
It is the abuse a Mexican mother will unleash on a specific daughter. This daughter becomes the beast of burden and her role in life is to be there for this mother who turns everything into a tale of her sorrow and sacrifice. EVERYTHING is about this monster.
And so the child grows with the knowledge that if she doesn’t take care for her mother, her mother will die and it will all be the daughter’s fault. And the child cannot live without the mother.
Really, the mother is a complete nightmare who doesn’t have friends and relies on her daughter to fill the role. And because this woman is so desperate for someone to listen to her and help her, she uses every opportunity to tell the daughter she is worthless. That her only worth comes from being the daughter of this woman. And that everything she does in life will lead to the girl’s ruin and the ruin of her family.
The kid doesn’t know she’s been brainwashed, only that she has to do everything in her power to keep the mother happy. Even if that means doing things she never wanted to do. Or it goes contrary to every survival instinct the child has.
It becomes like Munchausen by proxy. The mother gets to shine from her daughter’s successes, but she can only shine if she hobbles the kid. If it sounds like abuse, it’s because it is.
I’ve met others of my kind. Mexican women of my kind who never want to have children because of what was inflicted on us. And lest it be made small or we are told that we are ridiculous, may I point out that being mother is the biggest deal in our culture. The fact that we don’t want children isn’t some millennial affect. It is that our mothers are unmitigated monsters and our biggest fear is becoming monsters and inflicting these trolls on another generation of girls.
There is no dealing with these monsters. Everything can seem fine for a while, and then, in the blink of an eye, their insidious cruelty rears its ugly head to once again make us question our abilities, our loyalty, and our worth as human beings.
And it is a lonely place. Usually, our siblings have no idea what we are suffering. Or they know and they’ve escaped, so they’re not about to help us out. Sometimes, though, they are monsters themselves.
So we disappear into the world, filled with fear and loneliness, self-doubt and guilt. And everything feels wrong.
Until we find each other in the world and we can finally laugh because we are free.
I have found my girls. Comedians and writers. And we all escaped from the same baggage. We all cooked our own chickens. Unlocked the door. Said goodbye and know that we will be vilified for claiming our independence.
But when the only other life choice is indentured servitude, “FUCK YOU” seems like a pretty soft penance to pay to the women who never thought twice about turning us into slaves.
NYC isn’t going to be an easy transition. In rejecting my mother, I lose money. But in rejecting my mother, I gain the ability to shout the truth from the rooftops. Let her try and control me. It takes too much effort. Effort she could spend watching BRAVO and figuring out how she’s going to renovate her house, HGTV style. But mostly, she’ll just spend time recounting her glory days, before she married at 21, when her (now deceased) boyfriend was such a catch and every man in Nogales wanted her.
Try being the daughter of a woman who fantasizes about that boyfriend she had directly before she married your father and settled for the children they created.
Eyes on the prize, Veneranda. This shit’s not gonna fly in Brooklyn. You’re gonna be poor. You can’t call Daddy for money. But you can cook the hell out of a spatchcocked chicken. And that’s nothing to sniff at.