It is 2012. My youth group in church does not invite me to a party because they think I am too weird, and that my preference to speak English over Hindi is just me trying to be cooler. There are posts about me on Facebook where my accent is made fun of, and my ideas are mocked. I am devastated. I tell my parents who only reply, “Speak Hindi”.
It is 2014. I have just had my heart broken. I found out that my first, major crush had been seeing this other girl, while he texted me day and night. I still remember lying on a white cotton sheet, tears streaming down my cheeks, trying to stifle my scream. Parents must not hear. Parents must not see. Good girls don’t cry over a crush. Good girls don’t have a crush.
It’s mother’s day, and I see posts put up by several actresses tagging their mother as their “best friend”. More than the picture, the tag makes me uneasy. Should I post a picture with mum? Should I call her a best friend? You always tell the truth to your best friend, don’t you? Well then, maybe not.
I think, I have given my parents less trouble than other kids. I don’t smoke or drink. I never had a boyfriend while growing up. I was an outstanding student. I never took nights out. I did all the right things. They were happy. “Your children are perfect”, was all that mattered.
Why couldn’t I tell my parents that I was bullied in school? That most of my nights were spent silently crying on bed. That I also wanted to take night outs like other school girls? I remember one evening when I was especially concerned about something someone said to me in school. I couldn’t be my usual, relaxed, fake self. That evening, my mother tagged me as “gloomy”. She never asked me what was wrong.
I have often felt lonely amidst all the comforts my parents gave me. How dare I? Parents do so much for us. They make sure we have opportunities they never had. They work hard. They buy us gifts. How dare I feel lonely then? They do the best they can. As a friend said, “They provide us with the love they think we need.” What more could I possibly need?
My dad reads an article about youngsters taking solo trips. He dismisses the need for it. My mother reads an article on how more young adults are prone to depression. She dismisses the existence of depression. “Making a mountain out of a molehill,” she mutters. I hold back tears, and smile.
In my recent conversations with a friend, it was revealed that a constant source of stress in her life has been her mother. Her mother loves her. But her love has limitations that refuse to acknowledge that her daughter is now an adult. I empathize. Why is it hard for parents to let go? Is a perfect family only where the children remain children? What could possibly happen if we make a few mistakes of our own? Oh wait. We do make mistakes. We break rules. And we lie. We lie so much that it becomes our second nature. Someone has to keep the family together.
I have a boyfriend now. I told my mother about him, and tagged him as a “friend I like”. Mistake. Good girls don’t have boyfriends. “Let him be just a friend for now. Don’t get too intimate.” I wanted to tell her how beautiful he makes me feel, and how kindly he treats me. She never asked.
I am 26. My mother recently shouted at me for looking “too sad”. “What could possibly be wrong with you? We give you everything.” I just need some space I mutter in my head. “Gloomy. Unappreciative.” Just ask me what’s wrong. She never does.
How can one remain angry at family? I realized the only reason my friends and I lie to our parents is because we want to keep the “familypattern” intact. So we let go. We learn to not expect them to ask us what’s wrong. We learn to never hear them apologize for an unjust, mean comment. We learn to lie. We pick up gifts for them. We call them to tell them we are safe and “happy”. We lie. You only get one family in a lifetime. So we hold them up close.
In all these years, I have had the fortune of making friends to whom I do not have to lie. A family outside a family. In this family, patterns change every day. Problems are acknowledged, hugs exchanged, and forgiveness is sought. Sanity prevails.
That our parents will change one day, and expand in their thinking is what I’d like to hope. Maybe one day, they’ll casually ask “What’s wrong?” and pave the way for a new beginning. Until then, I have learned to let go, and turn their crooked ways into wisdom.