ON BEING WOMAN
(IN TEN PARTS)
The day I lost my accent, my voice was called sexy,
And I couldn’t help but think of my mother
Still repeating words for emphasis
As if the more she speaks, the faster
She’ll gain approval,
While I’ve become
An exotic dish
expected to fill
I used to want to be more like my mother
Now she wants to be more like me.
The females in my family are plagued with unsatisfactory lives
Doomed by inaction
Sometimes I think of the sacrifices my tribal ancestors have made
Both Physically and ritually
Always throwing out
Haven’t we already given too much?
The kitchen is where one learns womanhood.
My Papa says I should know my place.
He said, that way,
I will find a man,
But what about my chosen place?
Like with her,
I learned womanhood the day
I learned her.
I am an angry woman
Because I love my culture
But hate its
Its unforgiving reverence to religion,
Because I can be strong without a him.
Because I have been taught to be quiet
Because there is nothing beautiful about this silence
Bcause I no longer want to be like my mother,
Full of everything she’s ever had to swallow
Because that’s what good women do.
I am still learning
How to be a woman
There are days I don’t want to be a woman
My mother pleads with me to find my spirituality
She says that is all I will inherit
But I often question the value of her God
question if her prayers hold any worth
When she still goes to sleep wondering
When my father will tell her he loves her for the first time after 23 years
When she will stop feeling used on nights when all she wants is a conversation
When she will begin to feel like a woman and not another piece of unfinished furniture.
How many times must you share your body before you begin to feel the confirmation of your own existence?
My sister wants to die.
She is only 13.
She doesn’t feel smart enough.
She doesn’t feel enough.
She thinks she takes up too much space
I’m beginning to sense a pattern.
I stopped wanting to be like my mother
Like my aunt
like my grandmother
And I started wanting to be more like me.
Some days I still wonder
If I am woman enough.
Author's Note: Living in the Midwest, in a traditional Catholic Mexican household, has brought with it many hurdles. "On Being Woman (in ten parts)" not only highlights what it's like to be a queer woman in a situation like this, but a woman in general. At times, machismo and traditional expectations become too difficult to ignore when they stem from a culture that has gone too long supporting these ideals. How do you survive it? You write about it. You educate the public about the issues, and you empower others to rise up and fight a flawed and damaging system of oppression that not only affects women culturally, but socially. As a Latina woman in the United States, you have two options, to either live in the shadows, or learn to stand up for yourself as a woman, a Latina, and as a human being, all while absorbing the and celebrating the beautiful parts of your authentic self.
Angelica A. Mercado is an artist and poet currently residing in Sioux Falls, SD. She is a Mexican-born, America-raised "Nepantlera" who writes and creates art about the experience of the 'in-between." She has had works published in the Briar Cliff Review, Cream City Review, and Acentos Review.