Sunday, January 23, 2011

Untying the Pink Ribbons In My Hair

I grew up with Amazon women - that is, if Amazon women can be described as petite, ferocious, independent little Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn. My mom was the leader of the pack. The pack were her sisters.

These women always conveyed to me that marriage should be last. "Live your life first," because when you're married, "its all over." Their experience was that men were restrictive forces in their lives. They were only truly free to live the lives they wanted when the were divorced or widowed.

So I grew up believing that men will keep you down, especially if you are an independent and liberal woman. This mentality often became a self fulfilling prophecy with the men I would date. They would be possessive, controlling, with archaic perceptions of relationships. Yet, my own perception of relationships and a doom-filled marriage was archaic. (Holy hypocrite). Then those relationships would fail, and rightfully so.

But men had little to do with it. Despite all the liberal influences in my life, I still felt the influence of the traditional notions of what it meant to be a "good girl"...a good woman.

Is this the dichotomy within my culture talking? As a Latina, we are expected to be successful in career, education, marriage, families, following a rigid line without offending ones cultural norms in the process... thus being a "good girl." I think therein lies the problem.

I'm conflicted because deep inside I associate the notion of being a "good girl" with a lack of freedom and that just ain't true. Being FREE does not equate to being BAD. But why does it feel that way?

I realize that this binding force the Amazonian's in my family fought against had nothing to do with men. It had to do with traditional notions in our culture- combating them yet defending them at the same time. 

How do you reconcile the two? Or is one bound to suffer? 

I realize that these women in my family found outlets to express themselves, like flipping real estate, fixing cars, doing construction work... all the while, dating, and re-marrying. Bringing home the bacon and cooking it up too. These accomplishments let them know they could do it as good, if not better, than the boys, and still they were "good women."

Hell, I've been doing that all along (except for the cooking)! Does that mean I long ago untied this pink ribbon of tradition that held my unruly hair back?

Through my creativity (my acting, writing, drawing, painting, etc), I am able to be as free as I desire, without guilt, without social or cultural limitations. Most importantly, without internal limitations. And this does not make me "bad." So one day, when I marry I will not feel strangled with pink ribbons. I will not have brought those ribbons into my marriage in the first place. And I can be unruly as I wana be...all the while being true to myself, which makes me a very good woman.