At 18 years old, I fell in love with a bad boy. I fell head over heals for a man who was not my boyfriend and who rubbed it in my face every chance he could. Oh, how my heart broke when he kissed other women in front of me. When he asked for my friend’s sister’s number at a party, it felt as if he had stomped on my already bleeding heart. I thought: Who would I turn to for comfort? My friends had grown tired of my whining and sobbing. My pillowcases could no longer bear my salty tears.
“Talk to your mother,” my friend Lucy suggested. She told her mother everything.
I shook my head violently, tears blurring my vision. “I can’t tell her how much I’m hurting!” I blubbered. “I have to keep this from her.” I vowed.
The thing is I have always kept secrets from Mami. Some silly, like recently when I spilled wax over the bathroom sink, and some much more damaging to my image and reputation. Mami doesn’t know that my cousin and I chugged a bottle of E&J whiskey at the tender age of 16. In midday, we roamed the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts, stumbling and giggling, calling, “Charlie!” Who was Charlie? Some guy my cousin met who she wanted to connect with. Mami doesn’t know about Charlie either.
Then there was the time I went clubbing in Lawrence. While a junior at Phillips Academy Andover, I befriended the employees that worked in the dining commons. They were all from Lawrence and were also high school students, working on the Andover campus after school. One weekend, my friend Celeste and I wanted to go dancing. At only 17, we would need fake ID’s, and I needed a cover. Luckily, I was a cheerleader and often went to away games. What Mami didn’t know was that we always returned to campus the very same night of the game. I used her ignorance to my advantage. The night before our clubbing getaway, I called Mami, and in the most innocent of voices, said, “Mami, I have to go away to another school and sleep over. I’m cheerleading!” She agreed to let me go. Instead of going to Exeter, New Hampshire, I ventured to Lawrence and shook my teenage bom bom in a discotheque.
I’m taking that secret to the grave.
FEAR OF FAILING IN MOM’S EYES
Larissa Vasquez, 28, has also kept secrets from her Dominican mother to protect her image, though her secret has less to do with sneaking out and more to do with academics. “When I first went to college, the first semester was really hard for me,” Larissa recalls. Always a straight A student, Larissa was now getting C’s for the first time, and she didn’t know how to break it to her mother. “She would call every day and ask how I was doing,” Larissa said. Larissa, however, kept her academic struggles hidden. “She was so proud of me. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I always wanted her to see me in a certain way,” she says.
So, a fear of failing our parents is one of the reasons we don’t spill the beans. Like Larissa, I don’t want my mother to disapprove. But I also keep secrets to keep her from worrying. Till this day, Mami doesn’t know how much I cried because of Kurt. She didn’t even know he existed.
Alexandra Morbitzer, 23, also keeps secrets from her mother to shield her matriarch from stress. Her parents, who reside in Ohio, have no idea that her maternal grandfather’s health has declined. “He is a retired FDNY firefighter who helped out in the aftermath of 9/11,” Alexandra explains. Whenever Alexandra goes to Long Island to visit, she notices subtle differences in his health. “I don’t tell my mother,” Alexandra admits. “She has a lot on her own plate, and I know that it would cause her additional worry. so instead, I take him to his appointments, make sure his prescriptions are filled and only tell her the need-to-know information.”
Is keeping this from her mother a smart idea? Alexandra believes that at this time, there is no need to share. “It’s not that I wish to hide anything from her,” she says. “I would just rather give her some peace. This is something she can’t fix.”
That’s the thing with mothers—they always want to fix our problems. I feel Mami has been through enough in her lifetime. Why worry or disappoint her with my heartache and mistakes? Still, I sometimes wish Mami could be my rock. Maybe she can, and I have never given her the chance. I will never know. I would rather keep my secrets from her, so my image remains untainted and she is worry free. Mami is older now. She’s a mother who has lived for her children. A wife who hasn’t had it easy. The last thing I want to do is bring her stress due to my bad past judgments. Maybe things will change when I have a husband and a daughter of my own. For now, I will continue to keep secrets from Mami. It is the only way to protect her from my sporadic foolishness and my bouts of sadness and pain.