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To The Women Who Survive Their Mothers

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“I finally figured out how to fold my boxes, so now I can buy more next time”,  I shared with pride about having figured out how to finally fold boxes from flats. 

I review and sell sex toys for a living. It’s manageable work that allows me the freedom to be Disabled and economically active. It’s been a life saver with the pandemic and my inability to find a job in a flooded job market in South Africa, but I must also mention that I dream of owning my own sex toy line one day. Hopefully, with a manufacturing plant where I can produce and supply sex toys to Women all over Africa – with Disabled women at the centre of it all. So working with boxes is going to be my life for the next couple of years. And while I establish myself, knowing how to fold boxes is important to the operation 

“I’m so relieved I actually figured it out. I was worried that my brain couldn’t figure out something as simple as folding a box. I get anxiety about things going wrong before I even do them” … 

I do that a lot. I sit in doubt before starting anything while I chastise myself about all the things I imagine will go wrong with whatever I want to attempt. I used to think I didn’t know where it came from until I started successfully folding boxes in my kitchen after following the video instructions I had asked for from the box supply store. 

I spend a lot of my time on various social media sites for entertainment and business and words of affirmation are thrown around all the time on the internet. My life is on the internet a lot and it is the first place that I was affirmed firstly as a Dark Skinned Woman, and then as a Disabled Woman. I never thought that a space filled with strangers would be the one place where I go to find my voice, my family and my sense of belonging. 

It is on the internet that my curiosity about the sexual experiences of other women was first affirmed because in my 20s I was living out my sexual dreams. It was on the internet that I was first affirmed as a writer when I used to blog and started talking about reviewing sex toys for Disabled women. I tweeted about the idea even  before I understood the magnitude of what I wanted for myself. However, it shouldn’t have started there. It should have started at home where I had parents and an expectation of love and support. 

It has taken me a long time and a lot of conversations to understand that I had a hateful mother who probably spent all her time regretting getting pregnant. She raised me with endless rage. I was her first born and my birth tied her to a man she hated for more than 30 years. When I was in my twenties, he decided to walk out. 

It takes a lot to understand and accept that a woman that carried and birthed you can also spend her lifetime wishing you nothing but destruction and bad luck. If she couldn’t physically express her contempt, she used her words and those are what I remember more. I don’t remember my mother ever giving me a hiding but I can tell you about every comment she made about me. No wonder I blossom so much when I’m away from her.

“You really should laugh like a girl, you need to sound like a shebeen queen when you laugh” 

I was 12 years old and my voice was breaking. I have a deep husky voice so when my voice was expected to be getting a higher pitch like a girl my age would have, I started sounding like a 12 year old boy and it drove my mother up the wall. She hated my laugh. She would shush me when I reached what she would claim was a decibel too loud for a girl. So I had to learn not to laugh out loud, especially around her. She hated my laugh and it was my fault.

“You will never get married, nobody likes a stubborn, lazy girl like you” 

When I talk to other women my age, a lot of them will tell me they dreamt of a wedding and having kids because when they were kids they were told about growing up and getting married. I never had the chance to dream about a wedding. My mother would stand behind me in the kitchen and berate me about how fast or slow I was washing the dishes and how my inability to move swiftly would leave me a spinster. My lack of desire to do chores meant I was ineligible for marriage, so it became something I never even thought of having in my life until I started meeting people who loved me and kept proposing to me. I would turn every single one down because the woman that brought me into this world told me that it was not possible, so how could they be asking me to let them love me forever?  My mother said it was not possible.

“I heard the funniest story today. Our neighbour said she saw you looking colourfully beautiful in orange. I told her she must have made a mistake because she couldn’t have been talking about you” 

I was 21 and dressed in an outfit of my mother’s for heritage day, which also happens to be my birthday. I had received compliments from strangers on the bus to work, compliments that I wasn’t used to, so it caught me by surprise. It was a pleasant surprise because save for sharing a bus ride to work with the people who were complimenting me, we were unfamiliar acquaintances. I appreciated their genuine comments. I was walking on sunshine the whole day until my mother got home. I think that was the year I started wearing black, grey and navy so I could blend into the background. My  mother told me that bright colours draw attention to me and she was very sure nobody wanted me to be the centre of attention. 

Mothers know best they say. 

Often the decisions we make, even the conditions we develop like self doubt, are not ours. They are things that have been spoken into our lives in the same way people believe that speaking grace and goodness over somebody will bring grace and goodness to them. As a mother, I watch the words I speak to my daughter – breaking the hurt cycle that I grew up in, healing my many wounds with my mothering and my growth. I can recall every feeling I felt in the pit in my stomach when I heard my mother say unkind things about me. I have younger siblings who were fortunate enough to be wanted and loved by her and the funniest thing about it is that I suspect the treatment I received from my mother was also fueled by how much I look like my father. That was not my choice really, but the consequences have been mine to live with and live through.

I spent my teenage years swearing up and down that I didn’t want to be a mother, until a friend of mine had a baby and I wanted to experience this endless love that she felt for this tiny person she was raising. It was a decision that I know I made well. Deciding to be the mother I didn’t have has been my rebirth and journey to self. And I decided to be a single mother before my sperm donor decided that I definitely should be a single mother –  a decision I am grateful for because I get to raise my daughter with a village that carries her with love and grace everywhere she goes. I love mothering because it’s a healing experience to be the one that says to my daughter “You are smart, you are beautiful, you are healthy and everything you want in your life will be yours. If not from me, from the universe because it knows I want the world for you” 

Do I grieve for the relationship I could have had with my mother? Absolutely. And it pains me when I hear about how others have mothers who would move mountains for them. She moves mountains for my siblings, so I know that she is capable of performing miracles and magic. However, I’m at an age where I’m able to perform my own miracles and magic. It’s funny how the one thing that she hated about me, which is my voice, gets to be the one thing I use so frequently to speak out. When I speak, people listen and they tell me I have something worth hearing. When I wear colourful clothes, they touch against my skin and we create magic together. I’ve started singing as well. I’ve taken up painting and I’m a writer who has dreams of publishing books about the many lifetimes I’ve lived through and the freedom I found in making peace with having a hateful mother who doesn’t wish me well. 

***

So I fold my boxes for my toys and I look forward to buying many more boxes and folding them by myself, letting myself make mistakes and remembering to self soothe myself through my mistakes with love and grace. I can fold boxes.  I can do anything I set my mind to.

I use my voice to advocate for women like me. I get to talk to other women about how pleasure heals as I continue to see it in my life. I am a mother who hears her child tell her she is loved at least 10 times a day. My girl sits on my lap and I give her joy rides with my wheelchair and she folds into me when she sleeps at night, trusting me with her deepest secrets and I get to write and tell the world how my dreams matter. I can only imagine how far I would be if I didn’t have to do all the work myself. 

To the women who survive their mothers.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is such an incredible, heartfelt piece. I also know the struggle (and triumph) of surviving a mother. I never want my kids to live a life spent healing from their childhood. Thank you for putting into words what so many having found the language to convey!

  2. Makgosi–I am very sorry to hear about how your mother treated you. The good thing to come from that is that you will know how to mother.

    On your business, do you have a catalog of your sex toys? They are so hard to find in Kenya. When I visit the US, I routinely buy intimate jewelry for my African Queen and I in a sex shop.

  3. Makgosi–The African mother of my 3 children sounds like your mother. I ended up raising all 3. Our son has “disowned his mother”. My oldest daughter wants little to do with her mom. My youngest daughter has not seen her mother in 3 years. Mom is having a good time in the US. I am mom and dad. I so understand where you are coming from.

  4. Makgosi, I am so sorry that you had to experience such vileness. You are love, peace, strength and glory. I love you. ??

  5. […] The thing about having a mother who dislikes you is that you learn to find your identity in other wa…. I have lost count of the times I’ve gone home and broke the news that I was in yet another relationship and my mother always asked, “How?” But then she asked that about my many friends that would show up. When she wasn’t warning them about how terribly lazy I was, she was asking them why they liked me. I would hear them telling my mother about the traits they liked about me, so that is who I became: who my friends told my mother I was. Shapes of me came together from strangers who thought more of me because they were willing and able to include me in their lives.  […]

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