by Veronica Polanco
“Que tu dijiste?!” mami asked bewilderedly.
“I’m not going to wait until marriage to have sex,” I declared, looking her right in the eyes.
I sat across mami at our dining table, calm but slightly amused, as she looked at me with pure disappointment and shock.
“Que? Y porque tú dices eso?”
With no intention of having sex, I couldn’t articulate why I staked that claim—perhaps it was the liquid courage I felt from my friend’s licorice-tasting vodka we stole from her parents that night.
At fifteen, whenever I imagined boys’ tongues wiggling around, trying to find their place in my mouth, I would ask myself, why in the hell are people obsessed with making out? I thought kissing boys was nonsensical and nasty. No, thank you.
Walking home from school freshman year, Leo, a sophomore, caught up to me and sternly pressed, “I heard you don’t like to kiss. Boys aren’t going to like you if you don’t like to kiss.”
“Uhm... ok. I don’t care.” Not only was Leo not cute, but kissing was wack.
The exchange with Leo ensued two years after I had broken up with my first boyfriend, Tyler. We were in 7th grade, and Tyler wanted to make out, pero I wasn’t into the idea. After our breakup, he chased after me on the ice skating rink yelling behind me, “I changed my mind! We don’t need to make out until you’re ready!” My friends formed a protective circle around me. Holding my friend’s hands, I dramatically yelled to Tyler, “It’s just. too. late!” as if the heartbreak had caused me years of suffering.
Despite this repulsion of physical interactions beyond hugging, my religious, conservative Dominican mother had waited until marriage. There I was, her little niña, sitting across from her, disclosing my interest in getting laid, presumably before walking down the aisle.
Why? I knew, at my core, waiting was not for me.
Sex is a personal decision. Working in sales, we have to set expectations with our clients. Perhaps I was attempting to establish expectations with mami not to disappoint her.
Or, in truth, it was likely that my malcriada brain didn’t like being told what to do. Este cerebro malcriado was the same brain that got me kicked out of Sunday school. The brain that urged me to get a tattoo at 14 years old because mami said tattoos were appalling.
Vamos a decir que I wasn’t an easy Dominican daughter.
At the dining table that night, we debated endlessly as I tried to find loopholes in her logic. Calm and prideful, she explained, “It’s important to know this person is someone you love, who you will be with forever.”
“What if I love someone, think we’re going to get married, and then we don’t because life happens?” I asked her.
Mami sighed in frustration and surrendered.
The rape talk was given prior to the sex talk. As a child, I knew why mom didn’t let me have sleepovers, and the fear of men violating me was instilled before my first crush.
The sex talk itself was nonexistent. Papi steered far from the topic. Mami delivered it into two parts: please don’t get pregnant, and you must wait until marriage.
Gratefully, mami never followed up with the ways in which the universe would punish me if I were to disobey. She bypassed warnings of how my worth would be forever diminished, my life ruined, the heat I would endure in hell, or the men who would never respect me. She counseled: wait. wait. wait.
After the long premature debate, mami and I never again spoke of my sexual agenda.
Still, she didn’t refrain from questioning if my boyfriend and I were up to “no good” a few years later. “He didn’t touch you, verdad? “Right.” I would say back.
Because the sex talk with mami left out the details behind actual sex, when I finally decided I was ready, I relied on my experienced friends and their progressive American parents, who taught them about birth control.
While in college, mami found my birth control packet. She teared up, “I thought you would wait a bit longer.” And that’s it; she didn’t shame me or ask further questions. My dad, of course, no dijo nada.
I forced my family to drive to my college campus to watch Los monólogos de la Vagina, what I told them was “una obra que habla sobre todo que tiene que ver con la vagina - deseo sexual, el orgasmo, el embarazo, violación y mucho mas.” My family was seated in the front row, watching women acting out orgasms on stage. With mami not understanding the English words, I voiced the word vagina over 20 times.
After the play, they congratulated me, expressing great pride seeing their daughter on stage.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for my parents’ failure to implement severe constraints on the matter of intercourse. Papi chose silence, and mami chose her few words carefully. This scarcity of words led to the semi-acceptance of my sexuality. I never carried religious guilt around sex. I never felt God would punish me or men would view me differently for being a sexual person.
As far as Dominican daughters go, yo se que no fui fácil. I became sex-positive early on in life, aware that my sexuality was a part of being human. These unspoken exchanges with my parents, backed by love and support, created a foundation of subtle confidence.
Veronica Polanco is a proud daughter of Dominican immigrants. She works in the Technology industry developing strategy. As a creative, Veronica enjoys fostering moments of connection and reflection through writing. Her writing allows for the exploration of truth, as well as a playful tool for observing human behavior.