COURTESY OF NEHAL AGGARWAL
I sat on my mom’s bed in my sleep-shirt, sobbing uncontrollably. She asked me again and again what was wrong. I had only been home from school for two days, surely nothing could have happened in those two days to upset me so much.
I can’t explain where it came from. Maybe it was the inability to cope with my first broken heart. Maybe it was the sheer hope that she would look past it, hug me and comfort me because after all I was her daughter, and that should mean more than anything else. It didn’t though. The words just fell out and once they were there I couldn’t take them back.
I couldn’t hide them or make her forget I had said them. I couldn’t do anything except let them shape our relationship the way they would.
In a world where feminism is everyday and female empowerment is on the frontlines of journalism, it may seem unfathomable that having sex before marriage is still an issue in some cultures — but it is.
My mom is a fairly modern woman. She supports my education, aspires for me to be financially independent, and, although she is skeptical about my pursuing journalism as a career because I may not be able to achieve financial independence for a long time, she supports it.
Any time I joke that I can just get married off if I never get a job she hangs up the phone. She believes in my passions as much as I believe in them myself.
Despite all this, she cannot understand that her ideals and mine, when it comes to relationships, don’t add up. In her mind, a relationship should be what it was in the 1950s. You go out on dates; The boy drops you home at a reasonable hour and tries nothing more than a respectable peck on the cheek.
Our relationship, though it may seem the same to her, has changed dramatically for me over the course of the past three years. I have let go of the desire to make her proud because no matter what academic and career successes I may find, I will always have a giant, red A on my chest.
Instead of telling me that it was okay, that I would be okay, she reproached me for feeling like I was old enough to make such a big decision. This perplexed me to no end because the decision to have sex SHOULD be yours — and yours only.
Instead of accepting me, she asked me if I had used condoms and then proceeded to explain to me why sex leads to STDs. In her mind, even STIs count as STDs, because once you have had one, you have it for life — the rules of modern medicine be damned.
My fear of STIs has controlled me. Every time I have sex, I worry for hours that I may have contracted something. HelWell has my name and birthdate down pat because I get tested so frequently.
The point is that instead of supporting me, taking me to get birth control, buying me a box of condoms, she did the sheer opposite. She thwarted all my attempts to get the pill because I didn’t need it because I would not be having sex again.
She didn’t understand that being sexually active involves a gray scale, that having sex, in typical circumstances, is a decision one chooses to make. She didn’t understand that once that decision has been taken once, it would probably be taken again.
This shame, guilt and fear of pregnancy and STIs has stayed with me throughout college. Although my mom is not someone I can share any of my concerns with or talk about boys with, she did teach me a valuable lesson.
She taught me to be honest and cautious — probably a little too cautious. Her anxiety about sexual health has taught me to be careful about my own. I have learned to accept that her anxieties and lack of ability to accept stems for a cultural divide that I may never be able to understand.
Those who know me know that my feelings surrounding Indian culture are not positive ones. Growing up I always felt very caught between Indian and American culture, and I spent a good part of my life trying to figure out where I fit.
This experience with my mom has certainly helped me figure out where I land between the two. I now know myself well enough to know what I am willing to apologize for, and not being a virgin is not one of those things.