By Elizabeth B.
I wonder if my father ever curses the day he came to the United
States with my mother, and conceived a raging future feminist.
He got way more than what he bargained for, let me tell you.
Growing up, my father and I clashed over everything and anything,
which pretty much comes with the territory of being an only child, and a very
sassy one at that. However, when you throw internal conflicts over traditional
Latin gender roles into the mix, that’s where things tend to get a little more
On one hand, my dad wanted me to be top of my class. He always
told me school was my greatest priority and I should value my education over
everything, including men. On Friday nights, he would come home from work,
Bacardi bottle in hand, pull me in close, and give me the lowdown (basically,
“I don’t ever want you to end up stuck with any man. The day
you get married, you need to have a career, so that if he messes up or treats
you badly, you can show him the door, no problem.”
On the other hand, my father blew a gasket every time I didn’t
properly sweep the house or wash the dishes or scrub a pot hard enough.
“If you don’t know how to wash dishes or prepare a meal or
clean a bathroom, you are good for nothing! You need to learn how to do these
The day I told my parents I was going away to college (eight
hours away), my father stopped speaking to me for a few months. In his eyes, I
had no business, as an 18 year old girl, going away and living by myself. There
were plenty of great colleges I could easily commute to while still living at
home. Also, this is just not how it’s done in Colombia. You stay at home, you
help out around the house, you go to school and/or work, and you wait patiently
until the man of your dreams shows up, and asks you to marry him. Eventually,
my father forgave this transgression… until I came home from college, decided
NYC was not the place for me, and moved to California. He still hasn’t forgiven
me for that one.
These prescribed gender roles are so
deeply entrenched in his brain, we still have a hard time getting along. He
doesn’t understand why I’m so blunt, so outspoken, so unwilling to fit any
mold. However, despite all his complaints, I often hear through the grapevine
how proud of me he is because I’m super independent and super determined to be
successful on my own. I can also thrown down in the kitchen, and play susie
homemaker with the best of them. Just saying.
I know deep down he admires the woman I have become, even if he
can’t tell me that himself.
It’s our little secret, Dad.