Mami was a good girl from Los Naranjos in the Dominican Republic. She was the second of nine children, which means my abuela and abuelo were very, uh, loving. Being second in command, mami had many responsibilities growing up, including wiping baby butts, pelando platanos and washing pounds of clothes in los rios.Then, Mami met Papi.
As the story goes, he zoomed past her on his motorcycle and was immediately smitten by the young woman who sat on the porch. Her father (my grandfather) was against the union from the start. My father was an arrogant bad boy, claiming, “Esa mujer va ser mia!” just like a line from a telenovela.
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Perhaps predictably, the good girl also desired the bad boy. They married a few years later, although Papi was still unworthy in my grandfather’s eyes. Three years later, Papi proved him right, as he was unfaithful many times over and had a nasty temper besides! And so Mami was a single good girl once again.
She remained single, caring for her two daughters and son, just like she had for her siblings. And she complained of men often. “Los hombres no sirven!” she would snap while watching an infidelity special on Cristina. “Mami, it’s a television show. Relax,” I’d say, rolling my eyes. But she never did. Mami never dated or had any men over. Her lifestyle was that of a good girl and it would be no different for her daughters.
This poses a problem for me—a big problem!
I’m living with Mami and I find her traditional practices and beliefs stifling, to say the least. I often wish I could bolt through the door, curve-hugging dress rising and revealing my (wait for it, mother) tanga. That will prove that we’re different! She doesn’t allow me to have men over, no matter how often I tell her that the times have changed. As a result of the no-man ban, I’ve become quite creative at juggling my “love” life with my home life. It’s either that or live the life of a monja that wears bright red tangas.
One night, when I was 27, I sneaked a boy into my bedroom that I was casually dating. I tried to contain my giggles as the floor creaked. It was also difficult to express my, um, gratitude with a capital G, for the sexual experience. I then snuck him back out undetected. Another time, when I was 28, I lied to Mami about my whereabouts. “I’m staying at my friends in Queens,” I said while lying next to my then boyfriend. “Yeah, the redhead,” I whined like a 12-year-old. She believed me, as she so often did. I was a good girl. She raised me, after all. I would have no reason to lie, besides the fact that she’s controlling and thinks she should approve of all my boyfriends. Imagine. Mami towering over me, mid-straddle. “Asi no es!” She’d yell. “Sujeiry es muy fragil! You’re going to break her!”
I don’t think so.
I soon grew tired of the sneaking around and fibbing. I was a sexual woman in my late 20s, now early 30s, who happens to live with her mother, not in a nunnery. And so, at 29, I took a stand.
I sat across from my then boyfriend while we were eating dinner and made the call. The phone rang once and Mami picked up, asking if I she should save me dinner. “No,” I responded firmly.
“And don’t expect me home. I’m staying at Johnny’s,” I finished, a bit meeker.
Silence on the other end.
“Hello?” I asked, afraid she had dropped the phone and run to the corner to sob.
“Yo no sabia que tu eras tan rapida!” she said in a disapproving whisper.
My mouth dropped. Mami had basically called me a slut.
So, where does that leave me now? Celibate and frustrated, which once led me to rush into a relationship just so I could have sex. If I introduce him to Mami, then he can sleep over eventually, I calculated. Besides, it’s better than spending money on hotels or getting frisky underneath stairwells. So not happening. Still, I don’t blame Mami for worrying or wanting her daughter to wait for a loving and committed relationship before becoming intimate. She didn’t enjoy her youth. She married a bad boy, and like any good mother, she wants only what’s best for her middle child. Being a good girl is all she knows, and she will never change.
Not even if I buy her a red tanga.