Stories From the Pueblo: The Unmarried Women
I watched this Emmy winning episode of “Master of None” on Netflix recently and – wow, it really hit home. It was the Thanksgiving episode. If you’ve not watched it, I won’t spoil it, but it is a well written episode. It had my queer heart pouring tears of fuzzy feelings that only come from the joys of television representation that make relatable fears feel like tokens of resiliency. Make time to watch it soon.
“I don’t want life to be hard for you. It is hard enough being a Black woman in this world. Now you want to add something else to that?”
“It’s not like this was my choice.”
The conversation above between Denisse and her mom really resonates with me. Though I am not a Black woman, I can understand what Denisse’s mom meant when she said those words. It is what my mom means when she tells me stories of the unmarried women from her pueblo. Our mothers know what it’s like to be a woman of color and don’t want life to disillusion us. They don’t want us to be exhausted before we’ve even left the nest. They may say hurtful things or do hurtful things, but they mean well. My mom meant well after I first came out to her. My mom wanted to understand me, but wished that I could relieve her confusion by being heteronormative. She did not want to understand the me that I am. But she meant well. My mom doesn’t want a hard life for me. A hard life encompasses a lot of things, and to my mom, a hard life also includes an unmarried one.
After I came out to her, my mom told me stories of women in her pueblo who never married. The pueblo saw these women as "weird" and no one talked too much about them. The pueblo’s assumption was that these were the uptight women. They were the undesired women, and after a certain age, they were destined to die alone. Hearing these stories, my assumption was that these were the closeted gay women. I think my mom began to tell me these stories because she secretly knew that these women were closeted. But she also used the stories as examples for me. Almost like a “this is what will happen to you if you’re gay” lecture. My mom was afraid for me. She did not want me to live a hard life while society shares rumors about me behind my back, the same way that the pueblo did to the unmarried women.
My mom had good intentions. But she’s from a small pueblo in Mexico where everyone is Catholic. She did not have anything to offer me. My mom has always done everything she can to protect me, and this time, she was suddenly unable to offer the type of protection that I needed. She had fears for the way I’d live my life and the way society would treat me. I’d added another layer of complexity, but like Denisse says to her mother, it’s not like I had a choice. This time, my mom did not have any references to associate me with, or life lessons for guidance. All she knows is the heteronormative, patriarchal world that she comes from, so when she learned that I am gay, she thought of the women from her pueblo who never married and were deemed as uptight, undesirable women. My mom wanted me to be happy and desirable, not gay. She did not want me to be like the women from her pueblo. She did not want society to see me as uptight and undesirable. But what she doesn’t understand is that I feel the most happy and desirable in my queer body.
These stories are not what I needed to hear from my mom. They took me down a detour in my own attempts to understand myself. I am still understanding myself now, but it definitely took a long time for me to even begin to give myself permission to understand myself. Upon hearing these stories of the unmarried women, I began to compensate for myself to make up for being gay, as if my existence was a large burden I’d just dumped in front of my family. I started changing the way I dressed. I started rethinking my career goals. I thought I needed to compensate as though I needed to apologize for something bad that I'd done.
Obviously I know that this is not the case, and this is no longer my reality. But I think about the limited resources that my family comes from because of our cultural background. It is beyond our control, and it is unfortunate. I wished that my family could have more to offer me. I wished that they at least spoke English so that I did not have to translate queer terms. But they meant well. Parents always mean well. And I'll always remind myself of this. Yes, my mom meant well. It was not enough. But considering how limited her exposure to anything LGBTQ+ related was (and still is), I need to excuse her. I feel like as a Brown womxn*, as a muxer*, I need to remember how difficult it was for me to discover things about myself. It was scary and I did not dare to explore for fear of finding something wonderful that I could not live with because these stories of the women from the pueblo echoed in the back of my head. They haunted me.
At some point, we muxeres* need to draw a line. While I excuse my mom's pueblo stories, I also need to remind myself to make limits. I can choose what I want to carry with me. My mom still tells me stories of weird, unmarried women that easily make me feel like I've done something terrible. But I need to mentally choose when to disengage and not allow these stories to hit my core. I can't allow these stories to affect or influence me and my life choices. It is so difficult because I was taught to always listen to my parents and take their life lessons to heart. My mom speaks many truths. But I've come to her with something that she is no expert on, and this is when I need to remember that these stories from the pueblo are not truths. We muxeres need to recognize when to make these types of distinctions, for our sake. Our mothers don't want us to live a hard life. And part of not living a hard life is making these distinctions.
*womxn = women, muxer(es) = mujer(es) (spanish for woman) from a feminst perspective the use of x's are in place to reject the patriarchal base of the word. Click here for more info