Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nothing I can say will make a difference

A teenaged girl walking home from school with several friends was attacked by her “father” the man who has helped raised her since she was toddler. She was grabbed by her hair and her head rammed several times into a nearby car. Still being held by her hair she was thrown into his car and driven home. Pulled out by her hair she was thrown into her house where the father proceeded to beat the shit out of her. He beat her as if she were a grown man who had insulted his dying mother. Her eyes were blackened; she had more bumps and brusies than a stunt man. She was beaten for walking with a guy people. She was walking home from school with this guy AND several girls who lived around her way. They had to walk past her house to get to their homes anyway so they all decided to walk together. She was not groping, fondling, kissing, or giving him head. She was only walking with him....and a group of girls.

This happened right here in New York City not some far off country. The girl is my cousin. She straddles the line between two cultures, two religions. She is the child of a Hispanic father and an Arab mother; the result of a rebellious period of youth, a teen pregnancy. When the child was a toddler the mother was given the chance to come back into her family under the condition that she break it off with the baby’s Latino father. She also had to enter into an arranged marriage and convert to Islam. She gave in and no one faulted her. For her the approval of her father was like munchies to a pot head... necessary. Even though he was heart broken the Latino father accepted the break-up. What he didn't accept was the idea that he should forget he had a child he refused to be pushed out of his daughter's life.

The family seems blind to her pain, she hides it well. At home the latina side of her is suffocated, supressed, all that matters is her Arab half. To them her hispanic side is incidental, nothing of value, and nothing worth preserving. They do not realize that to deny that side of her is causing conflict. She is being raised as an Arab woman, as a Muslim. The problem is that the teenager does not feel she is these things. In her heart of hearts she identifies with the Latino side of her family more than the Arab. The only time she feels free to be herself is when she is with her biological father and his family. She hides this from her mother afraid to hurt her feelings, afraid of the devastation it would cause her mother. Her mother doesn’t know who her daughter is. She accepts the daily farce that the daughter presents to her as truth. Her identity at home is simply a costume she throws on and just as quickly casts off when she walks out into the world.

Ramadan is upon us and she breaks her fast as soon as she leaves her house for school ordering a bacon and egg on a roll. We talk about religion,our cultures, her love of my father's pernil (pork shoulder)eaten on the sly during Christmas. She makes fun of me for not eating meat. It's not a religious thing with me it's an allergy thing. Despite her mother and father's plans for her she tells me she does not intend to marry an Arab man or a Muslim. Growing up with her step-father’s ignorance and the ignorance in general of the Arab men in her family have turned her off to Arab men. She sees Islam as a religion of violence not peace and points to heart wrenching moments in recent history to back her view. I tell her those were fanatics. They do not understand or act in the name of true Islam only their twisted ideals. Me the daughter of a Catholic man and a Buddhist woman with no desire to form religious affiliations instead preferring to learn from all. Yeah me, I am actually defending Islam to her. I also tell her not all Arab men are ignorant, it’s impossible!

She cocks her eyebrow at me patting my head in a patronizing way. I get the point she’s making. I am a Latina and since the age of 15 i've had the freedoms my cousin has longed wished for. I love my Arab family and despite my uncle's attempts to "reign" me in I follow my own path. I come and go into his house at will my niche carved out for me. I follow my uncle's arcane rules while I am there because I love and respect him. I found my voice long ago and when he attempts to put his foot on my metaphorical neck I kiss him on the cheek and lift his foot off of me with a wink and go about my business. She's right I can’t possibly understand what she is living with on a daily basis. I’m not in her shoes. I realized nothing I can say will make a difference. She has to find her own voice, her own way.

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Posted by @ 12:29 PM
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