Lets be real, most of us lived with our parents for more than 18 years but we probably took for granted how much they helped us strengthen our resume. Yep! More than you could imagine…
If there’s one job you’ve developed years of experience in after living with your parents, it’s in Information Technology (IT).
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You nourished these skills every time you helped your dad fix the television or set up the wifi. You also got a ton of experience showing your mom how to upload a picture onto her Facebook account. You are, and always will be, their personal IT department.
And your set of skills only expanded after taking on the full-time position as translator.
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If your parents weren’t 100% fluent in English, then you were the one handling all important paper work and phone calls for them.
When it came to urgent mandados, you became your parents’ personal GPS.
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There was no need for Google Maps or even Apple Maps, because they had you.
But if your mom or dad didn’t feel like driving at all, then you would take on the position as her chauffeur.
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And this was the most stressful job ever, because you had to listen to them yell and complain about your driving skills.
After so many hours, you would even hit overtime with your weekend job as janitor.
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Mom doesn’t care if you already work as a full-time student. Your clock is her extra loud music and you’re getting up at 7 a.m. on the dot.
And just when you thought you had a few vacation days to relax, you then had to head to your part-time job as babysitter to your younger siblings or primos.
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Your days off of school were spent with crying babies, dirty diapers and hundreds of baby wipes.
In addition to babysitting, you were also responsible for being the intel informant every time you were left in charge of your siblings.
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As the intel informant AKA the chismosa, you were responsible for notifying your parents every time your siblings misbehaved.
But once you grew tired of being indoors and making phone calls all day, you then moved on to different outdoor, volunteer opportunities.
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As a mechanical engineer intern, you learned the names of every tool and became proficient at holding your dad’s beer whenever needed.
Even though it was hard work, all of the labor really helped you get in great shape.
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Business trips to la tienda with your mom were probably the most exhausting.
But no matter how many tasks your parents assigned you, it would be enough to pay them back for what they do for you.
Growing up, I remember placing my hand against my dad’s much darker skin. Our skin tones were always very different. People would say I looked more like my mother but I think they were just seeing the same white complexion. I didn’t have my dad’s deep brown skin or his jet black hair but I had his eyes and his way of looking at the world.
More than once while growing up, I had friends point out the difference between the two of us. While my mom had a mix of white European backgrounds, my dad had Mexican, Indigenous, and Spanish blood flowing through his veins. Her light skinned, slender form contrasted his dark and rotund one. However, I’ve never met two people who were more complimentary of each other than my parents.
In the 1980’s interracial marriage was still against societal norms in South Texas.
My parents married in a small church in Highlands, Texas during Holy Week. They were joined in celebration by my dad’s large Latinx family. On the other hand, my mom’s family wasn’t so eager to be there. The only reason they attended was that my dad provided their wedding clothes and personally drove them to the church. They didn’t support my mom’s decision to marry someone brown.
My dad’s family was happy to welcome my mom. Still, their welcome came with some trepidation. When they announced their engagement, my grandmother solemnly asked my father if this is what he really wanted. This was not a rejection of my mom but my grandmother’s concern about the ugliness that they would face as an interracial couple.
Officially, interracial marriage was legalized across the United States in 1967.
The decision to legalize came after the landmark Loving vs Virginia case. The Supreme Court found that the laws banning interracial marriage violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Though it was now legal, it wasn’t exactly popular at the time. South Texas was slow to adopt any kind of sweeping social change, especially if it was mandated by Washington DC. To put this into perspective, look at how desegregation was approached in the area.
Brown Vs the Board of Education reached its historic mandate in 1957. When my dad and his siblings were going to school in the late ’60s and early 70’s their school district had only just begun the process of desegregation. My father would tell me stories of being bussed to the “white schools” to fulfill the 1957 mandate. When he and my mother married in 1985, the city was still very segregated.
Though it was legalized 10 years after desegregation, interracial marriage had just as much trouble being accepted by conservative Texans.
Though Texas has a diverse population, outside of its major metropolitan areas, it’s still socially conservative. Texas is also part of the Evangelical Protestant Bible Belt and is home to close to ten million Catholics, Protestants, Methodists and Baptists.
The state’s religious breakdown is very relevant when we talk about interracial marriage. Historically, many religions practiced in the U.S. disavow mixed marriages. For example, the Christian Bible is often cited as a reason against the mixing of the races. However, there’s no actual text that prohibits interracial marriage. Both Deuteronomy 7:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 urge the Israelites not to intermarry with the Canaanites.
That passage in Deuteronomy reads:
“Neither shalt thou make marriages with them [Canaanites]; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.”
On the surface, this might look like a case against interracial marriages. Nevertheless, it isn’t as the Israelites and Canaanites were of the same ethnic group. The argument here refers to the difference in tribe and religious observations as reasons not to intermarry. Still, though there is no text to back this up, many continue to use religion to argue against mixed marriages.
Another reason why interracial marriage is opposed is something I have lots of experience with.
One of the social objections to interracial marriage has to do with the offspring of these marriages. Interracial children come from several different cultures. A common worry is that these children will never fully belong to any. Similarly, objectors claim that these children will be shunned by their respective cultures for being mixed.
This has been a major arguement as recently as 2009. Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell was exposed for refuseing to officiate interracial marriage. It was his opinion that these marriages do not last long. Additionally, he claimed he didn’t want the kids of mixed marriages to suffer unduly.
“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way. There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage. I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”
I can honestly say that Bardwell is absolutely wrong in his thinking.
A little over 35 years ago, my parents met, dated and fell in love. They had me — their oldest daughter — 13 months after they tied the knot. My little sister joined the family 18 months later. She and I have never felt unloved.
We were raised with my dad’s side of the family. As such, we grew up with quinceañeras, authentic Tex-Mex and my grandma’s telenovelas filling our childhoods. While we were lighter in complexion than my fully Latinx cousins, we were no different.
My mom didn’t have the same sort of family support my dad did. Long before their wedding, her relatives were family in name and name only. However, she loved my dad with all her heart. That included his culture.
My mom had no exposure to Latinx culture before my dad — she didn’t even have any Hispanic friends at the time. Still, she embraced my dad’s family and heritage; learning Spanish words, cooking Mexican food and teaching her children about our culture.
While my parents found acceptance from his Latinx family, not everyone was as accepting.
Unlike the questions I got from childhood friends, some microaggressions were meant to genuinely hurt my parents. In their neighborhood and, later, when they moved to Houston, my parents didn’t face discrimination or harassment. It was outside these safe places that they experienced bigotry.
My mom has told me stories of times when she and my dad were stared at; sneered at even. Traveling through the small towns of South Texas, my parents’ relationship was sometimes treated with hostility and, other times, like an oddity.
There is a particular story my mom has shared about this. When she and my dad were newlyweds, they went to eat at a cafeteria-type diner. Walking in, dad was immediately aware that he was the only person of color in the restaurant. My mom explained that all eyes were on them the entire time they ate. They were treated as some sort of sideshow while they were there. As my dad put it, they should have sold tickets.
This isn’t the first or the last time my parents would be made to feel abnormal because of their marriage. I remember once they had glamour shot-esque pictures taken of themselves. The photographer applied a filter that completely washed out my dad’s complexion. Totally infuriated, my dad pointed out to the photographer that they made him look like a white man instead of a Latino. It was fixed eventually but the damage was done.
There are other bolder attacks and countless microaggressions but my parents paid most of them little mind. After all, they were together and happy.
Additionally, they were welcomed by my dad’s community and that meant a lot. When my dad died 33 years after they joined in marriage, it’s my dad’s Latinx family and community who rallied to support my mom, my sister and me in our grief.
My parents’ love created that world; one where my sister and I can always find welcoming and love. All the glaring bigotry in the world can’t take that from us.
I suppose it’s not that uncommon, but my cuñada didn’t like
me much for many years.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, in clipped and heavily accented English the first time we met. She shook my hand taking it away quickly and barely made eye-contact, but I knew she didn’t approve of my short hair, my tattoos, or the fact that I was third-generation Mexican-American. If I had been someone else entirely, she probably would have found other things to hate about her too. My cuñada had left Mexico by herself. From what I know now, there were some dark reasons that she had to leave. It took her two tries to cross in Tijuana, but she made it all on her own, knowing that her brother would pick her up in Los Angeles, show her the way in the Bay Area, and support her financially for as long as was necessary.
She must have felt that my relationship with her brother was a threat.
When we first met, I was visiting the apartment that they shared then. We hadn’t been dating long, but things had gotten serious fast on account of our ages and his immigration status. I was 28 and he was 33.
“She’s just one of those women who doesn’t like other women very much,” my marido explained.
I hated those kinds of women. He squeezed my hand on our way down the stairs of his apartment on our way to eat. We always went out to eat those days. I could see the spring light shining through the large glass-front apartment door. Everything was shiny, new, and bright then, except for this one thing; this relationship with my cuñada.
I was pretty much the opposite of my cuñada. I was American-born, raised by women, had been in a band with women, and was about to start attending Mills College, a private women’s college in Oakland. I defaulted to hating or distrusting men and liking women, feeling a kinship through our shared inequality in a male-dominated world. But for months and months, maybe years, when I’d see her, my cuñada would attempt a smile and say, “Hola, Morena,” her lip sneering as it rolled over the ‘r’ in my family nickname, Morena.
Still, I had vowed to not default to hate her just because she was a woman who didn’t get along with women, or because she was my sister-in-law.
I wasn’t going to compete with her or play into the
catty-woman stereotype, and I was going to be kind and compassionate to her no
She made this very difficult.
When we first met, my cuñada had been living in the US for three years already, but she spoke very little English. I was surprised by how little English she spoke. She was surprised that I spoke very little Spanish.
“Hay muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”
She said it a few months after my marido and I were married. She said it not to me, but to a friend who was bilingual, perhaps thinking that I wouldn’t understand her. Then she said it again to another friend. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I promised not to participate in the catty-woman stuff or be passive-aggressive or hate a family member. I made myself another promise – to be kind and compassionate no matter what, but not to take her shit either.
I knew, though, that this one slight was so personal that it was going to be hard to forgive.
My marido got into bed first that night. I put on my
nightgown, and sat down on my side.
“Hey, you need to have a talk with her sister ‘cause if you
don’t do it. I’m going to have to do it.”
He looked up. “About what?”
“About what she said.”
“What did she say?”
I put my hand on my hip and did my best imitation, “Hay
muchos Mexicanos que no pueden hablar español.”
“Oh, that.” He made a face.
“You better talk to her because if I have to do it, by the
time I’m finished with her, she will be so embarrassed that she has been in the
US for three years and doesn’t speak English that she will never want to speak
it. That’s what’s going to happen.”
It wasn’t my finest moment.
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll talk to her.”
He never told me how the talk went, and I never asked because I didn’t need the argüende and because she never said it again. Within a year, she made us the padrinos of her first born, but I knew that I was only the madrina because I was la esposa de su hermano.
I still get a flash of anger when I think about her “hay muchos Mexicanos” comment, or the time she wouldn’t get out of the car to come and see our new house, or all the times I saw her roll her eyes and sneer at me, but I’m older than she is, and committed to supporting women, so I just waited her out. I took my ajihada on weekends to give my cuñados a break, made sure to remember my cuñadas birthday, participated in their extended family’s parties, even when I didn’t want to, and tried to forgive and not hold it against her when they had to miss our son’s birthday parties, prioritizing her marido’s large family’s numerous gatherings over ours.
Slowly but surely over the years, the ice began to thaw between us. My warmth, no matter how awkward and forced, combined with time and maturity, on all our parts, has allowed something new to develop, something real. And it’s good that I worked hard not to hold grudges and forgave what I perceived as slights because learning to forgive is good for our health. It can lower blood pressure, risk of heart attacks, cholesterol, and forgiveness can help improve sleep.
“Hi, Morena,” she smiles when she sees me now (which seems like all the time), and hugs me tight, and dumps a pile of food she brought, leftovers from the Philipino restaurant where she works, or un bote de frijoles that she made at her place and brought with her, a whole packet of corn tortillas, the family-size packet, and cans of soda in any flavor anyone in the house might drink. The other night she brought me a bottle of my favorite wine, and I shared it with her because that’s what cuñadas do. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
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