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Sex + Relationships

A Daughter’s Shame in her Mother’s Goodness

Edited by Maya M. Haidar


It was a sunny day. We were on the way back home. My mother was driving while I sat in the passenger seat, twiddling with the seatbelt as it pressed into my collarbone. We were talking of mundane things. We were still a long way from home when the conversation drifted into a heavier topic: menstruation. My mother, with barely any sign of discomfort, told me I’d bleed every month. She told me not to be afraid. I didn’t have a reason to be afraid, I told her, even as I battled with the horrifying thought of blood flowing through my vagina.

I was nine years old.

In the months that followed, I believed that what my mother had told me was common knowledge to everyone. Two years later, my classmates’ confusion as they hit puberty proved my belief to be wrong. I was puzzled by their ignorance. It took me weeks to finally understand that they were unaware because they had never been told. I could not fathom this. My mother had told me everything. I could not understand why their mothers had not done the same.

Over the next few years, I was witness to the complaints my friends made as they bemoaned their lackluster marks. The fear of harsh words that would be dealt out by their mothers paralyzed them. I could not relate. A friend once asked me how I could not be fearful even after having done terribly on a test. I replied that I would just have to do better next time. She asked me if I wasn’t afraid of my mother scolding me. I shook my head and she ended the conversation with a surprised oh. 

It was difficult for me to understand the fear and resentment that my peers felt. When they talked about their mothers, they represented them as strict, unforgiving beings. I wondered if I was the strange one with a strange mother. These thoughts led to embarrassment, the kind that would not allow me to talk about her in front of my friends, even my closest ones. My shame led me to fear their inevitable envy of a mother who did not scold me unnecessarily but instead provided a safe space for conversations around “taboo” topics. I believed that once they knew how different my mother was from theirs, they would isolate me. This conviction was not proven false.

I refrained from talking about my family. When we received our scores on tests, I would pretend to be afraid of my mother’s wrath—a wrath that did not exist—along with my peers. Wearing such a mask to conceal the truth seemed to help strengthen bonds more than anything else. But I could not hold back the consequential shame of having to lie to protect the feelings of insincere peers any longer. This pretense did not help me in the long-term; these friends came and went. I sat beside my mother and told her about my troubles. I cannot remember her reply now. I do, however, remember her warm embrace. She had been so soft then. She looked beautiful in the dim glow of the moonlight streaming in. I knew then what I still know now. I had shown injustice to her by hiding her behind obscurity. In doing so, I had unwittingly tried to subdue the warmth that radiated from her. My mother was incomparable.

She still is.

Rhea Thomson

Ashoka '21

That one person who just made the cut. Also an aspiring psychologist.
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