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.
How many times do we women say they’re not in the mood and blame it on a headache or that time of the month? It’s a common enough occurrence that sure has frustrated some men for centuries. Men don’t necessarily have that excuse, and that changed in 1996 when Viagra was officially patented and then approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two years later.
Now 23 years later, women who are just not in the mood to get busy will be able to remedy that within 45 minutes.
The FDA just approved a new drug called Vyleesi that is the equivalent of Viagra but for women.
In 2015, researchers released a groundbreaking Viagra-type drug for women called Addyi. However, that drug had many issues. Women would have to take it every day and not consume any alcohol because a side effect could result in fainting. Vyleesi is different because women can take it 45 minutes before sexual intercourse, and experience minimal side effects.
According to The New York Times, 40 percent of the women that participated in the study for Vyleesi said they experienced nausea, and one percent of women said they had “darkening in their gums and parts of their skin, which did not go away in about half of the patients after they stopped treatment.”
They also suggest women who have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not take Vyleesi. About 18 percent of the women dropped out of the study because of nausea. The biggest drawback appears that Vyleesi doesn’t come in a pill, but rather an injection.
Some claim that this drug will only enforce the notion that women must have sex with their partners despite not wanting to, and it has nothing to do with not being in the mood.
Some medical professionals say that women “not being in the mood for sex” doesn’t necessarily have to do with having a low sex drive but rather dealing with another range of emotions from stress, depression, and a slew of other mental health issues. This new drug will just reinforce that women must comply with their duties as partners and give in to sex.
“[Women] oftentimes having mercy or duty sex because they want to maintain their relationship,” Dr. Julie Krop, of AMAG Pharmaceuticals said to The New York Times. “The problem is, they’re distressed about having that sex that they are having.”
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