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five things I wish my mother let me do before I turned 15

My mother, who for the sake of privacy I’ll refer to as “Mama B”, is, and always has been, an amazing mother. She’s hilarious, smart, and strong, and like most mothers, rather protective of her youngens. However, there were certain things Mama B felt were necessary (or unnecessary) while I was growing up.  Having come from a South Asian background, my mother grew up in a completely different world to me with different sets of rules and expectations. While my brother and I were growing up, my mother always made sure we were aware and proud of where we came from, and often worried about us disassociating from our South Asian background. She feared that being so far away from the familiarity of certain traditions and customs, her children may not grow up with the same sets of values and beliefs.  So at times, to ensure we didn’t go too far astray, she felt it was necessary to put some rules in place – just in case! So, without further ado, here is a list of five things I wish my mother allowed me to do before I turned 15:

1. Have sleepovers
No matter how much I begged, cried, grovelled, screamed and slammed doors, a sleepover was never something my mother allowed me to partake in during my ever-so-innocent early teen years.  I remember sitting in the canteen with my friends, spider milkshakes and Tamagotchis in hand, deciding on what I would say, step by step, to persuade my mother to allow me to the stay the night at a friend’s house.  Sometimes, I would time my request so she didn’t have a reason to say no. Such as after receiving my report card, where she’d be pleasantly surprised with all my As in Maths, English and Science, and be relieved that I didn’t actually fail my Physical Education class.  She’d have no reason to say no, surely. But, Mama B didn’t need reasons.  Her answer was always no. No explanation given. To this day, I still don’t know why she wouldn’t allow me to attend (or have) sleepovers, where I imagine we would have prank called our crushes, had pillow fights, painted our nails, braided our hair, drank Fanta spiders and giggled over the ridiculousness of Dolly Doctor.  It’s not too late to start doing all that at the age of 26 is it?!

2. Wear real bras rather than plain ol’ sports bras
My mother hated taking me bra shopping. She hated it so much that when I hit puberty, she bought me couple of sport bras from Target and assumed they were the right size for me. Needless to say, they weren’t. For the next few years, that’s all I wore. Ugly, bulky, cheap sport bras. Mama B didn’t think it was appropriate for me to wear pretty, frilly, “real” bras, because, well, I was “still too young.”  She did, however, allow me to buy g-strings, because I had once made a convincing plea about how g-strings didn’t show the shape of my underwear. Eh, you win some, you lose some!

3. Date boys
I wasn’t allowed to go to boys’ houses, nor was I allowed to have them over at mine. I wasn’t allowed to talk to them on the phone, or walk home with them after school. And, I certainly wasn’t allowed to ride in cars with boys (thanks, Drew Barrymore!). When you can’t do all those, needless to say, you can’t date boys.

4. Dye my hair
In a way, I’m glad Mama B put her foot down and said no to colouring my hair.  As a result, I now have thick, healthy, lustrous locks that would give Rupunzel a run for her money. My hairdresser always tells me how amazing my natural hair colour is, and now, in my mid-20s, I actually appreciate it.

5. Watch popular ’90s TV shows
Party of Five
? More like party of one! Sex and the City? Don’t be ridiculous, the show is all about sex. 90210? Is that a show about numbers? Charmed? Sure, if you’re into witchcraft. Dawson’sCreek? Felicity? Ally McBeal? No, just no. The shows I was allowed to watch didn’t have a rating higher than PG (Parental Guidance). I’m your girl if you want to know anything about Xena, Hercules, Seinfeld, Mr Bean, 7th Heaven, and Gilmore Girls. But if you want to discuss any popular shows the general teenage population actually watched, then give me some warning so I can refer to Wikipedia first.

At the time, it felt like I was missing out on all the important things in life. Why sleepovers, pubescent boys, the ridiculousness of pop culture and frilly bras were a big deal to my mother made no sense to me. Fast forward to 11 years, a few relationships, a couple of hair dye disasters, and endless amount of ’90s TV shows later, I can now see that I didn’t actually miss out on all that much. Bringing up a child in a culture completely foreign to you wouldn’t have been an easy task. It made me realise that Mama B, as strict as she was back in her day, had her reasons and the best intentions at heart. And now, at least we have some funny stories to laugh about over endless cups of chai.

By Shamima Afroz

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