As a teen, I had quite a lot of walls up – especially around my family. It was difficult to show my true emotions – especially when it came to sadness. Figuring out the reasons behind one’s actions isn’t all that easy, but now that I’m 25, I’ve had quite some time to reflect on my teenage years.
It all began when I was 11, when my 18-year-old cousin, Harry, touched me in ways that should have landed him in jail. It was summer break, and my mom had flown my sister, brother, and I to Seattle to visit her side of the family. I had yet to begin sixth grade, but I lost my childhood innocence that summer. It never occurred to me to tell my mom what was happening right under her nose. I think I was too shocked by it all to say anything.
Some time when I had turned 12, I managed to tell my older sister about my sleaze bag of a cousin, and one year after that, she convinced me to tell my mom. I may not be able to conjure up vivid details of my cousin (probably due to some self-protective, post-trauma assistance thing going on in my head), but I will always remember my mom’s initial reaction.
“How could you have let that happen,” she asked. “How many times have I told you to not let guys get close to you?”
She then uttered the words that would distance me from my dad indefinitely.
“We can never tell your dad,” she said. “He would get so angry at me if he ever found out what my nephew did.”
From that point on, my walls (and trust issues) shot up, and I told myself to never turn to my mom for support again. I grew distant from my parents and haven’t been able to communicate with them freely ever since. It took me a long time to realize that what my cousin did was not my fault – despite my mom’s implication that I had “let it happen.”
Try as I might, I haven’t been able to forgive my mom for the shame she instilled in me because of her words that day. Although I am no longer ashamed of the incident, it still baffles me that she didn’t march over to my dad, tell him exactly what kind of douche bag of a cousin we were dealing with, and then pick up the phone to call my cousin and say, “You’re going down for what you did to my daughter.”
Unfortunately, that may be an American family’s reaction, but a Chinese family’s? Forget about it. We keep things behind closed doors and swept under the rug. Her unwillingness to speak out not only protected my cousin from answering to the law, but also severed all genuine ties of communication between her, my dad, and me. We’ve never really addressed this incident again – and I don’t think we ever will.