by Yaddy Valerio
You can’t have it all.
You have to choose a lane.
Drinking a Corona and sitting in front of the building stoop, they declare: “Las mujeres tienen que saber cocinar y muy bien. Una mujer que no cocina es basura.”
A woman's life is in the kitchen cocinando Sancocho.
If women don’t follow the rules, they are a malcriada y nunca va a tener un marido—
Pero y si no Quiero marido?
Sancocho reminds me of those tired days when mami would give more to others than herself. Feet aching, body pains, sleepy eyes pero que el arroz salga bueno con el pollo y la habichuela—I observed as my mother arrived depleted following a 12-hour workday to then slave in the kitchen for a man, sleep at 10 pm, only to do it all over again.
Have you ever had a Dominican sancocho on a rainy November day? When the temperature drops below 50 degrees, Dominican women get busy in the kitchen.
My family brought their traditions and recipes with them to the States. This included old-school Dominicans saying, “learn how to cook sancocho to keep a man.” I don’t cook sancocho—I could never get the sancocho right like mami, leading me to suppose I’d never satisfy a Dominican man.
And what if I don’t want to keep a man? What if I don’t want that type of man that wants me to slave in the kitchen and treat him like I’m his mother?
When a Dominican man viene y me dice que dique I need to learn how to cook para que me quiera. My response will always be, “Are you looking for a woman or a maid? I love cooking and creating, but when forced or expected, simply because of my gender, I refuse.
My mother immigrated to this country at 34, hoping to create her own family. She met a man with all the social qualities required for a successful partnership; however, with one kid and another on the way, she settled for this man ideally because, being in a foreign country with two little girls, she conceded to her circumstances. Mami withstood the falsity of her marriage because, at that time, women had no choice but to be submissive to their spouses.
While she slaved for us, working as a home attendant six days a week, papi couldn't even pelar un plátano. Rather, he’d travel to DR, engaging in adultery with countless women.
Mami’s experience altered my outlook on men and the woman’s role in the household—my parents molded my perspective on relationships and individuality and ultimately made me into who I am. Like most women today, I have different standards of what a relationship should be. I believe in options, opting out of bearing children, choosing to devote time to my career, and the possibility of thriving in both.
Yaddy Valerio is a Dominican-American writer, storyteller, and host of the "Cafecito Time Con Yaddy" podcast. As a first-generation American and a child of Immigrants, Yaddy is devoted to dismantling intergenerational trauma and breaking the stigma on mental health in the Dominican community. Yaddy’s writing has been published in the Manhattan Times, Galleria Magazine, and Dominican Writers Association. Currently, Yaddy facilitates a monthly writing workshop, “Sip, Write & Share.” You can find more of Yaddy’s work at www.inyaddyswords.com