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Asian American East Asian Sad

Once there was a daughter of a mother and a mother of a daughter. 

As the daughter I was taught the same as she was. To live for my parents as my actions bear bigger consequences for them. To listen to her advice to become a proper woman, and to perform for the world to see and praise my mother for it.

One day my mother came home to my self-bleached hair. She hollered and yelled at me with the fury of desperation. By bleaching my hair I had just washed away all of her teachings and her worth. I did not understand at the time. I started crying for I was a child with no other goal than to impress and be loved by my mother.

Now I realize. Now I know what she meant exactly.

A stain on my grades, my achievements, and my appearance is a stain on her worth and value as a woman, a wife, and a mother. My body and self were an extension of hers and not fully mine. 

But she too was a daughter once. She too was a child who had ambitions and goals

All of her goals her ambitions were stunted for an unlabeled amount of time. Stuck in a purgatory of waiting. When will her life return?

What does my mother have after years of no work history, no personal life, or social life? She sacrificed her life to give to me. To live through me. All she does is for me and therefore all I do should be for her. She did the same to her mother and the same for generations past. She too had her own life. 

A life she had thrown away for me.

A symbiotic merge of the past generations of mothers and daughters form to create me. Her life fades as mine is formed and she lives through me. 

I am more than just a daughter of a mother. I am more than her accomplishment in life. I am more than just a trophy to her self-worth. I have my own thoughts and ambitions that counter what she wanted. 

And to that, she is also more than just a mother of a daughter. She too has her own life and can continue them in her own way. She should be able to live and continue the life that she had as a daughter.

She doesn’t get to achieve them though and neither do I. The shackles of womanhood and the invisible boot that constricts our necks, ready to crush our life if we were to budge even a little bit do not let us. So I budge I twist and kick and bite. I thrash wildly attempting to free myself and the next generations. I fight for the justice of previous generations. My mother can not help as she has more than just a boot to her neck. She has cuffs of marriages tying her hands down and the apathy of age. She is shackled down with the same resentment of all the million mothers who had thrown their life away unwillingly, being forced to live through their daughters. 

Once there was a mother of a daughter and a daughter of a mother.

As the mother I taught her what my mother taught me, for that is all I know. I teach her how to be a proper woman like I have become. I see through her eyes and soak in pride when she succeeds in her goals for I never got to and will never get to. 

One day I came home to see my daughter with splotchy self-bleached hair. I think of what her classmates would say. What her teacher would say, her friend’s mothers, fathers, and her father. 

What would my mother say? If she saw my daughter grow up into this. To disrespect her hair, her body, and me. She disrespected me. I saw red. The same red I saw when my mother gave birth to me and when I gave birth to her. The same red as the blood that flows in her and me. 

A stain on her grades, her achievements, and her appearance is a stain on me. A stain on the sacrifice I made, my womanhood, and my sense of being a mother. My entire career and life that I threw away to give to her. What do I have? Now that I’ve sacrificed my career, personal life, social life, and my name, what do I have to me other than her? I have my name erased from the family line through marriage. I am forced to suffer through the ridicule and rudeness of men. Even then I am pulled out of my career to care for her. Pregnancy has ruined my body in more ways than just beauty. My bowel muscles have collapsed and I am no longer even seen as a woman now that menopause greets me. I am no longer a woman of my own, but a woman of a man. I no longer have the name of my family that raised me. I am no longer even seen as a woman, but I am seen as a mother. A mother of a daughter.

I am done sitting in a purgatory of waiting for something that will never return. To live through her is my life now. 

But deep down, even through all of my regrets and sorrow, I too know what it is like to be a daughter. To have my own dreams and ambitions, to have a goal in life other than to care and nurture. I too know she is more than just a daughter of a mother and that I can be more than just a mother of a daughter. I was once a daughter. I was once my own being. I try to have my own goals and ambitions just like then, but it is now of no use for the invisible force of man pushes women down to submit and follow. 

I too wish to thrash wildly and fight alongside my daughter. But I am forced down with my resentment and apathy of age. I can do nothing to help her for I have nothing to me other than her. I sit still to watch my daughter fight just like I have before as a daughter. I too have fought before and know that it is time to pass the baton. I sit to watch my daughter fight for the generations to come and for the justice of generations before. 

July 28, 2023 16:04

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21:07 Sep 05, 2023

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Ayesha Ahmed
07:01 Aug 03, 2023

Hi Graham. I was assigned your piece as part of the Critique circle. Very interesting portrayal of generational trauma and societal pressure. As a South Asian, this all hit very close to home. It's definitely a topic that should be spoken out on more.

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03:20 Aug 03, 2023

Interesting read. Two stories, two points of view. The simple way out is to embrace the choices we make. We may feel resentful but mothers don't have to marry, don't have to have children, and in this day and age, do hold down jobs. Even choices made while young and silly are still our choices. (Like the one to not study hard at school, not stay long enough to learn something that leads to employment, and marry straight out of school.) Resentment is a choice. Men don't get away with oppressing women so much these days either. It's a sad cycl...

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