In all my years in the United States and there are a few cultural tendencies I still have not been able to get used to: bagels, children talking back or ‘sassing’ their parents, and public acts of defaming a parent or sibling
While in college, I attempted to act out the American part; I attempted the popular social practices that constituted an all-American look. I went to bagel shops, ordered cinnamon-raisin bagels; the sweetness of the cinnamon and raisin abetted the assimilation with my taste bud, and the intensely rich cream cheese topping felt like a heavy mold as it made its way to the stomach. I felt American. I felt like the roll-with-a-whole design, with very little nutritional value, offered me a sense of American-ism.
That effort and performance, for me, was short-lived. There is something about the make and mold of the bagel that does not meld with my constitution. Perhaps it’s the texture. The hard crusty surface on top that does not allow for a simple bite, and even when you bite, the dense dough that meets the teeth makes chewing and the whole process of eating a bit too laborious for me.
In the same way I have distaste for the hard and crusty bagel, children talking back to their parents amaze me and at the same time force the interrogation of the design of a culture that hallows out the whole. Now, this is not to say children in other parts of the world do not talk back to parents. It exists, but when it happens, the lid is quickly put on to stop the unacceptable behavior. Yet, in the United States, I find the rate of occurrence seems uncommonly high. And during, I find parents pleading (with) and attempting to negotiate with the child rather than enforcing discipline. Here, we can agree, the blame goes to the parent(s).
Same time, public defaming of your own, especially a mother or father displays a function of its vacuity. Alice Walker’s daughter, Rebecca Walker, and her view of her mother in her article ‘How my mother’s fanatical views tore us up’ is my case in point:
“My mother's feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn't even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her.
I love my mother very much, but I haven't seen her or spoken to her since I became pregnant. She has never seen my son - her only grandchild. My crime? Daring to question her ideology.
Well, so be it. My mother may be revered by women around the world - goodness knows, many even have shrines to her. But I honestly believe it's time to puncture the myth and to reveal what life was really like to grow up as a child of the feminist revolution.”
I sympathize with Rebecca’s pain endured through such insensitive mothering. I believe, regarding feminism, the question she raises and the dysfunctions she points out are valid, as described in the telling of her experience. There is also validity, based on what she recounts, in opening a public discourse on the principles of feminism. Again, as I make clear that I am not dispassionate towards the failed mother-daughter relationship; however, as she makes clear about her positively insensate dislike for her mother’s qualities in being a ‘mother’, I trust the personal issue here belongs to the personal, to be sorted out in the family. A suffering that is not of the body alone, and does not belong to be aired out in public. The personal profound truth is wholly sad, and perhaps, sometimes, though it may not be a popular trait in today’s all-out social media culture, its sadness needs to be addressed and belongs only where it stem from.
In matters of culture and family, I end, holding close to heart the African proverb: "The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people".
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