Saturday was a big deal birthday for my mother. I’m not sure whether she wants me to reveal her age or not, so I’ll err on the side of caution (against all of my instincts).
The Rumpus published a piece by Judy Bolton-Fasman last week called “A Jubana Mother Gives Advice to her Tragically Gringa Daughter.” A Jubana is a woman of Jewish and Cuban descent. Given that I am not Cuban and only sort of a little bit sometimes Jewish, I can’t comment on the relevance of this advice for women who fit this specific profile. What I can comment on is the style of the advice, which is offered in pat, pearls of wisdom like:
- Never talk to a man who has a tattoo.
- Do not scream in labor. Be a lady.
- Do not marry again when you’re old. You do not want to get stuck taking care of some old man you hardly know.
- Do not wear sleeveless shirts. Chusmas wear sleeveless shirts.
I recognize that this is a piece of creative writing, and the whole of it is indeed lyrical and lovely. What I’m also struck by, however, is how little wiggle room these pieces of advice leave for grey area, going with your gut, trusting your instincts, and rolling with the punches. The kind of parenting I received (and now admire from the far side of childhood) had very few pieces of concrete advice. I’m hard pressed to come up with any, now that I put my mind to it, and I don’t think that’s a failure.
Do you remember the scene in Freaky Friday when Jamie Lee Curtis yells out the car window, “Make good choices!”? That was my parents’ model, more time spent learning how to ask questions, weigh options, and make decisions in the grey area, less time on rules.