I am still afraid of my mother. And it’s not because she’s 5 foot 8 or she hit me with a pastel pink belt when I was 10 years old. I deserved the whooping. Always a picky eater and a clever little girl, I had the brilliant idea to hide pieces of boiled platanos inside a napkin. After staring me down for about an hour, forcing me to eat, Mami couldn’t hold her urine anymore. She ran to the bathroom, and I took that opportunity to dispose of the yucky plantains.
From my seat, I flung the stuffed napkins toward the window. I became a pro basketball player and hit every shot. Flying out the window, went the platanos. I was victorious!
“Sujeiry!!!” I heard my mother shout from the bathroom. Only the voice wasn’t coming from the bathroom. I crept up to the kitchen window and saw her menacing stare. She had popped her head out of the bathroom window to spy on me. Mami was always one step ahead.
Still, that is not why I am afraid of Mami. Like many daughters of Latina mothers, I am mostly afraid of her mouthiness. Lourdes Milian feels the same. At 34 years old, she was pregnant with her second son but didn’t tell her mother for months. “She didn’t want me to have a second child,” Milian, 35, recalled. “Granted I was having my second child with my husband, not multiple men,” she said with a laugh. “Still, I kept it from my mother because I was afraid of what she would say. I just didn’t want to hear her mouth. And my mom has a big mouth!”
For others, their fear stems from their mother’s intimidating presence and toughness. “I come from a line of tough broads,” says Cindy Naranjo Romero, 31. “I’ve seen my grandmother kill a snake with her bare hands. So their wrath is nothing you want to stir up!”
For this very reason, Cindy has never gotten a tattoo. “I love tattoos but still refuse to get any because of my mother, who is anti-tats,” she said. “My 40-year-old brother has a bunch of them, but there is no chance in hell my mom will ever find out. He makes sure of that!”
FEAR OR RESPECT?
But what of those who respect their mothers so much it feels like fear? “I am not scared of her, but I respect her to the fullest,” Milagros Torres, 39, explained. “Because of the respect, you would think I was scared.”
Yes, I also respect my mother. I hate hearing her complain and never want to disappoint her. I don’t want to hurt Mami, so I keep things to myself. I don’t want to embarrass Mami, so I, too, would hide tattoos—if I had any. I don’t want to be reprimanded like that 10-year-old little girl, even at almost 34. Why just two weeks ago I feared she would yell at me over spilled wax. While waxing my eyebrows, I knocked over the wax kit. Yellow, sticky wax oozed down the porcelain white sink. My eyes bulged out of their sockets. My heart raced. I could hear Mami’s footsteps coming closer. From the corner of my eye, I saw her turn the corner toward the bathroom, towel wrapped around her body. I panicked and locked the door immediately.
“Sujeiry!!!” She shouted.
“I’m taking a crap!” I replied, trying to hold her back.
There I was again. In the scene of the crime. The bathroom that once gave me away wouldn’t do it to me a second time. I blew on the wax, hoping it would dry quickly so I could scrape it out.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Mami was at the door, becoming increasingly impatient. I took the soap dish and placed it over the wax, now dry. I unlocked the door and began washing my face as Mami showered. This was my chance. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Inside the bathroom again, I distracted Mami with conversation while the shower ran and I scraped off the wax. Little by little, I peeled off the dry wax from the sink. I felt sweet relief when big chunks broke off. Finally, I was done. Mami was still in the shower, and she would never know. She could never know, especially since she’d demanded I stopped waxing in the bathroom a week before. She always feared a spill and there I was cleaning up the very mess she had warned of.
Mami was always one step ahead. Only this time I was victorious.