When My Mother Finally Asked Our Culture's Most Dreaded Words
Let me start by saying this, I love my mother. I really do. She’s a tough one. She’s never one to show much affection, but her love is unconditional and she’s as real as they come. It’s not my mother’s fault. It really isn’t.
When you grow up in a culture where you’re constantly told, “Los trapitos sucios se lavan en casa,” which literally translates into “dirty laundry gets washed at home,” (or how I’ve always seen it as, “Don’t you dare ask for help or you will bring disgrace upon all of us,”) you tend to learn to be tough. You learn to fight around things in silence so no one has to know.
Maybe I’m soft. When I was 6 years old, baby teeth falling out (parts of me I thought I needed), I learned my first lesson in stubbornness and growing up. My upper right central tooth began to grow behind my baby tooth. Pushing its way, it was pressed to show the world how grown up I was, while in my head my innocence and childhood were just not ready.
I told my mom about the tooth, running my tongue along side the back of my now three front teeth. I wondered what supermom would do next in order to save me from this medical anomaly. She did nothing.
Three months passed before she took me to the dentist. He was bewildered as to why she waited so long. I should have fought harder to have that tooth fall out on its own. It was an expensive and unnecessary trip to the dentist. We should have handled it at home. After all, “Los trapitos sucios se lavan en casa.”
This is why, fast forward 15 years later, when at a party during spring break where I lost all innocence after having god knows what poured into the only drink I had that evening, I told no one. I wouldn’t dare air my dirty laundry out for anyone to see.
This is why when I was dumped by the guy who I used to try to forget from that sad spring night and glue my life together into the normal collage of clean laundry that it should be, I told no one.
This is why when I cried for nights on end because I finally had to face the fact that I had more dirty laundry than my hamper could handle, I told no one.
This is why when I had waste baskets filled to the brim with crumpled up suicide notes and a heart filled with cowardice or courage (I still haven’t figured that out yet) to not go through with the thoughts running through my head, I told no one.
While there were whispers and side glances around my home, acknowledging the fact that I was different, no one said anything.
When the only guy I have ever loved fixed me piece by piece, shining beacons of light on to the caves that had formed in my heart, only to drop me from the 10th floor, I told no one.
I surrounded myself by those who let me indulge in my misery, growing darker and smaller like a raisin in the sun. Speaking less and less, losing more parts of me than my baby teeth this time. When my mother gulped at her new found daughter, no longer the little girl with three front teeth but the woman who only had half a heart, a smaller voice and no laughter, she asked me our culture’s most dreaded words, “Mi hija. Do you need help?”
I cried. I said yes. And I told someone.
This is why my heart is now a 24-hour laundry mat for anyone who has ever been told they should be ashamed for asking for help, speaking their mind or saying what they’re not comfortable with. I refuse to be confined to the back room of my home in order to cleanse my soul where no one can hear me cry or scream.
So please, come over. Let me help you. Sometimes our hands get tired and the load is just too heavy.
Image via Thinkstock.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you or a loved one are affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-0656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.