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A Letter From Your Weird, Second Daughter

"Hi, Ma. It's me."

By Ruby AstariPublished 2 years ago 5 min read

Dear Ma,

I know we don’t really talk much. You might probably deny that as usual, but we don’t really communicate. Everytime we meet, we only speak of our daily, mundane stuff. I understand that you’re tired. You now have to spend the rest of your twilight years without Dad, because he passed away in 2014.

I suppose our relationship has changed since then – or perhaps it already had way before that. I don’t know if I would ever send you this letter. If I had the guts to, here’s what I’d like you to know:

1. I love you – and I’m sorry I’ve mostly been a disappointment to you.

You don’t even have to say this to my face. I know you think that I am. I sometimes catch you looking at me when I’m at home. I know I’ve turned out to be what you would never expect of me: 40, still single, and still ... fat. That’s always been a painful topic you keep bringing up everytime I come home for a visit.

I know you’ve dreamed about my wedding too – and that I became a mother to a son named Bryan. (By the way, I do have a good friend named Bryan. He’s in Bali with his wife at this moment.) I know you sometimes still wonder why I’m nothing like my older sister – your other, first daughter – married with four kids and tall and slim.

I know there are a lot of other things about me that have made you feel proud too. Like, for example: how you told me that I was your very brave, very independent daughter. You told me that when you were in your 30s, you hadn’t had the guts to travel overseas all by yourself. That was the night after I’d returned from Sydney to visit my best friends.

Believe me, I wish I could switch bodies with my sister or my other friend(s) who are slim or thin. Life seems to feel so much better and easier with that, eh? Who knows? Only people with the same problem who can understand what I’ve been through since I was a child.

If you cared to ask me, I’d tell you that I’ve hated those people who thought they knew what I was going through. Some of them even had the audacity to tell me to lose weight quickly, which had amazed me, since I know they’ve never really been overweight all their lives and had to struggle with this. Believe me, I sometimes come up with scary imagination like, how would you all feel if I started slashing all my fat out and bleeding myself to death before you – in order to be skinny really quick? Would you all be happy and stop commenting, just leaving me be?

I know you’ve never wanted me to leave home to live on my own. It was just something I had to do, though. The sick thing about being Indonesian is that people will always consider you your family’s economical burden – only because you’re still a single woman. It doesn’t matter that you’ve already got a good job to support yourself – and sometimes help your family financially too.

2. I love you – but I’m also sorry that I don’t always feel safe opening up to you.

I know this sounds awful, but I’ve already resigned to the fact that this will always be the nature of our relationship. Once again, I understand that you’re tired. You once told me that after Dad passed away, you wouldn’t want to think about difficult stuff. You just wanted to take it easy.

So I’ve stopped sharing too many things with you about me. I’ve decided to seek emotional support elsewhere. So far, I’m lucky to have found great friends along the way. You’ve met some of them. You’ve trusted some of them too, especially when you let me go off with them – as if I were still a high-schooler on a field trip somewhere.

Why did I stop? I could see that raising three kids – with not much of an age gap between each other – has been quite a task for you. I suppose I just want to cut you some slack. It didn’t matter that you’d often grown impatient in the past when I wanted to tell you something.

It didn’t matter that you once teased me after some stalker had given me a hard time by terrorising me on the phone, demanding that I give him a chance to be my boyfriend. Ma, I didn’t even know the guy and he was just some strange creep who’d snuck a glance at my screen while I was at that cybercafe! He copied my phone number. Did you have any idea just how scary and dangerous that had been?

“I thought you wanted to have a boyfriend too.” God, not like that, Ma! Back then, it sounded as if you’d felt sorry for me for being single all the time while your other daughter was always dating or had boyfriends. It sounded as if I was supposed to be grateful that – at least – some strange guy out there was interested in me.

I know I can never win. Even if I tell you about a guy I might be seeing, you might still warn me to be careful – as if there’s no guy out there with good intentions with me. I know the F-factor is still the reason behind your doubts over them.

I’ve gotten used to editing my life stories before you. I’ve let some scattered online, read by concerned friends and curious strangers. Even if I go through some problems, I make sure I’ll only tell you about them once they’re resolved. I make sure I tell you how I solve them and how much help I get out there. That way, you won’t have to worry too much about me. I’m still levelheaded enough, even though I don’t always do everything right.

Remember Tiger, my distant best friend, Ma? He once joked that since we’re both Asians, every day is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day every day to you, Ma. Please, even though I sound disappointed in this letter, that doesn’t mean I love you any less.

I’m just not that openly expressive – and you know why.




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