"How do you expect to get married if you don't like to cook?"
It was my little cousins birthday party. I was probably 11 or 12 and us kids were running around outside while the ladies of the family moved between the kitchen and living room sharing in conversation. I can't remember what exactly was asked of me. I may have been told to go start the rice or perhaps I was instructed to prepare the salad. The boys had also came in but were not asked to help and because this felt unfair I began to sulk. "I only came inside to use the restroom!" I said. "None of the other kids are being asked to cook!" Unfortunately, in my demonstration of injustice I became the specimen of four women's attention. "What? You don't like to cook?" they asked. "How do you expect to get married if you don't like to cook?" I learned that day that cleaning, cooking, looking pretty, and taking care of babies were the major tasks associated with womanhood in my family and as the eldest girl I was expected to comply without question or complaint.
Very early on I discovered that I didn't find these tasks very enjoyable. "How do you expect to get married" became the anthem of my preteen years and my visible annoyance with traditional values prompted the constant conversation of who I was as a female. I was taunted for not putting enough focus on my appearance, especially because my hair was unruly and I hated nail polish. This deepened further into debate over my sexuality. I can even remember a particular moment when a female family member told me that I needed lessons in how to be lady because I walked "too much like a man." I found ways to combat this ideology with backtalk. For a time every time I was asked "How do you expect to get married if you don't want to cook?" I would reply " I will to go to school, work extremely hard, become rich and then hire a personal chef."
I don't think I ever really had a problem with what I was 'meant to do' as a girl in my culture. What bothered me most were the restrictions and suggestions womanhood imposed on my being. For example, when I was fourteen I had moved to Honduras. One day I decided to climb up a mango tree and when my family found out where I was I was scolded, not for the danger of climbing but because "girls should not climb trees." I could remember being angry for days after that thinking to myself what does being a girl have to do with trees? It doesn't make sense. As I got older I found that I was constantly trying to convince my family that who I was not entirely associated with being a girl. I just wanted to be me.
For years to come I was really angry at my culture and I held many misguided feelings towards traditional gender roles. From about age 16 to 18 I thought that women who stayed at home were small minded and had no aspirations. In fact, when I started college I refused to cook for myself because I thought I was limiting myself to my family's ideas of a female. At some point though, I started to realize that I was seeing things from a closed point of view. I realized that for some women serving others, caring for children, and cleaning up really was fulfilling and for me to say that doing those things were restricting to a person was a restricting statement in itself.
I started to explore my identity and in the end I found that just like when I was young, all I wanted was to be myself. Cleaning, cooking, looking pretty, and taking care of babies was great and all but I wanted more and to say I want more didn't necessarily mean I was against being a mother or cleaning a home.
I am grateful for the lessons my culture has taught me. In fact, I can say with pride that once I dropped my misconceptions I found that I had mad cooking skills and actually it's kind-of sweet to serve someone you love from time to time. However, who I am inside desires more than dishes, meals, and children. I want to travel, and read books, and have conversations with strangers. I want to understand the world I'm living in and use that knowledge to work towards creating a better world. My culture may have taught me to be a homemaker and I am forever grateful but there's so much more to life that I want to experience and enjoy. So to my culture all I can say is thank you, but I want more!