Social Commentary

Her past is a foreign country : she does things differently there.*

This was published in in April 2015.

* Adapting a quote from The Go-Between, a novel by L.P Hartley “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

Being a feminist to me means standing up to my mother. (And it is OK)

Many of us Indonesian over a certain ripe age have faced these lingering question of when will you marry and raising concerns about biological limitation of a woman, be it from your distant relative whom you met once a year or from your own parents. All these times I manage to brush it off, joke about it, find clever one line answer and seek support from fellow alike. Until on my 31st birthday, before I even finish my cake, my mother asks the same question. I thought to try having an intellectual discussion about this matter with her for once. I need to be able to have a decent conversation about this, she is my mother after all.

“Sure you may think that, but in the end that is not the norm.” was the answer I got when I voice out my thoughts on whether or not marriage is still relevant and my uncertainty about whether or not I want to have children. I have to withheld myself from flipping out and tries to carry on the conversation, until, she said that I am her daughter and has the right to tell me what to think about sex, marriage and children. In short, I find this very offensive and needless to say the conversation turns into this drama.  I stood up for myself and said all these three has been my right of choice as an adult and it will stay so. After that I try to assure her that things are OK and that she has raised me well for me to take good care of myself. The rest is for her to solve her own insecurity. And we hugged.

I know she loves me, very much. I love her, too.  But, at that moment, I only just realise in full extent how wide and deep the difference of experience and knowledge between us and this had made us express our love very differently. While it is difficult for me to reach out to my mother like this, it must have been quite a shock to her and perhaps to many mother alike learning about ways of women in younger generation. Many women today goes far and wide in search of experience and knowledge. Many women went through unfamiliar struggle in work and life in general which our mothers never had to face. Many women made minute to minute decisions independently. It is relatively normal for our generation to think that merit to sex, marriage and bearing children is our own to consider and decide. But, clearly, not for my mother.

My mother is your regular housewife, born in the 50s, brought up in a loving family, had a pretty straightforward life living in a religious suburban area. She did a great job in taking care of three children with much love and at the same time also my worst critic growing up. Just like many mothers. She turned 60 last March and somehow it hits her that she is really growing old. She is struggling with this fact and it does not help that the society has a construct of being 60 is old, vulnerable, less capable and it is time to be close to God because the end is near. I, her daughter, is also guilty of this. I sometimes think that my mother is old, she comes from a different generation with a different norm, she would never understand todays. Let her live in peace and the naivety of old ways. And it is an easy way out to do this. Why rock the boat?

However, I also think while avoiding to present myself as I really am, am I not then, by doing so, alienating her? At the end of the day, I am glad I stand true to myself and in this case especially to my mother.


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