My Science Fair presentation is coming up on Thursday. I was trying on clothes in front of my mom, as she decides what I’m allowed to wear and what I’m not allowed to wear. It was getting late, and I suggested a pair of black pants I wore to a friend’s wedding over the summer. She wasn’t happy with this, as she wanted me to wear another pair of looser pants, but she angrily asked me to try the black pants on anyway.
I put on the black pants, my heart pulsing.
I turned to face her. Her face was a thunderstorm of emotions, precipitating the rage that was sure to come.
“Do you think they’re too tight?” she asked, and from her tone of voice, I knew she expected me to say yes. “I think they’re too tight.”
I knew that what I said then would decide everything. Whether I would give up and be obedient, or whether I would dare try to say something against my mom’s wishes.
“I think they’re fine,” I said, as I felt my heart beat, hope and fear combining in my chest.
“What!?” she said, outraged.
I had expected this, but her outburst of indignation still took be my surprise.
“Always disagreeing with me! Always bringing trouble to the family!” she screamed. She glared at me, and I hoped then that she wouldn’t hurt me.
This is usually when I would give up. She would keep screaming and throwing insults at me like knives, and I would give up and break down and cry. But this time was different. This time, I wasn’t backing down.
I stood there.
“Do you see how stupid you look? How ugly? You look like you’re the ugliest person on the planet! Your older brother never did anything like this, you stupid boy!” she continued to scream.
I stood there.
“You are the ugliest and most stupid person I have ever met! Always so rude and disagreeing with me! Always being a brat! Do you think you have anything to show off? You look like a stupid idiot!”
The thing is, these things hurt me. I’m not going to lie. I self-deprecate a lot, but the words really hurt when they come from someone who actually meant them. My mom has yelled at me more times than I can count on my fingers and toes, and yet each time it hurt anew, like a wound bursting open, fresh blood spilling everywhere.
“Do you think you have anything to show off? You’re so ugly and stupid! You don’t know anything! Always mumbling like a stupid idiot!”
But then it dawned on me. Here was my mom, yelling at me for saying that I thought my pants looked fine, cursing me for being born because the clothes I wanted to wear didn’t match her preferences. It struck me as a little disturbing how I felt so emotionally affected by this when in fact, there were people out there who had it much worse.
I understand where my mom is coming from. I think she’s scared that if I wear clothes that are tight (trust me, the pants weren’t even tight) that I’ll get raped or assaulted or something. And the only way she can express that is by yelling at me, insulting me, and knocking me down. She simply cannot communicate in any other way. I understand.
But she won’t listen. She doesn’t understand how hard I try in school, how much effort I put into my assignments. She won’t listen to me when I talk or try to reason. She just shuts me down and tells me I’m worthless and pathetic. People see what they want to see, and honestly, I’m not the son she wants to see.
She sure tries to make me that son though. She always has. If I wanted to take a regular math course instead of an honors one? Nope, don’t disgrace your family by wasting your potential. If I wanted to wear a v-neck shirt? Nope, you’re too ugly and people might think you’re girly or gay by wearing that. If I wanted to go out with friends? Nope, your friends are bad influences and you need more time to study.
I always knew on the inside that if I tried to be myself around my mom – the guy that sings Lady Gaga randomly or enjoys reading trashy romance novels on occasion – that she would force me to change or kick me out. It isn’t until now, though, that I’m finally realizing that no matter how much I want to be me, she’ll never see me. She’ll only see the son that was supposed to bring her happiness, the son who was supposed to respect her and obey her no matter what.
I’m not that son. I never will be. All I can do now, I suppose, is to fake the facade she would rather see. It’s all I can do, because if I tried anything else, it would only lead to more conflict and confrontation.
My hope is that when I go to college or strike out on my own, I’ll be able to be who I want to be. That promise of freedom, really, is what keeps me going every day – it’s a major factor in why I apply myself so assiduously, why I study for the SAT like my life depends on it, why I read and read and read – because of that hope that there is a world out there that will accept me as I am, and that I will be able to be a part of it.
And the pants? I started writing this at 11:45 PM, and it’s 12:05 AM now. I tried on clothing for her from 10:30 PM to 11:30 PM. By 11:30, she had actually given up for once. She had told me to go downstairs with whatever clothes I wanted, because she was too tired to deal with such a waste of her time.
I should feel victorious – ha, timid Thomas actually gets away with disrespecting his Asian mom – but the feeling is shallow. Come morning, I don’t know whether her mood will be worse or if it will mellow out. I don’t know what I will get from publishing this post either, though writing it has certainly helped me achieve catharsis. Once again, it comes down to same thing, that flicker in the night sky of my angst-filled familial sorrow.
*edit: so it’s a little ironic how I posted this right after I posted about being careful about what you post… but honestly, I want people to read this. To see why I care so much about doing well in school and issues like child abuse. If I could be so hurt by her words, then it is horrible how much pain others must have to suffer who have it worse than me. Truly, truly horrible.
*edit 2: here’s the second part of the “story” if you want to check it out.