Societal norms and culture can negatively impact people from different ethnicities. Certain cultural traditions families hold on to can cause pain to the ones they love. In my paper, I write about the unspoken rule of my family and culture. Readers from different ethnicities can relate to my work as we all experience similar situations no matter where we come from. This in-depth invitation into my daily struggles will allow my readers to cope with their emotions and to be aware of how they impact the people around them. I hope to raise awareness about these cultural traditions and to create a more open-minded society.
My Old Life
Sitting down next to my grandpa on a couch full of brown flowers while watching television. He was watching the news with an interest. I, on the other hand, want to do anything else but watch the news. I start asking him countless of questions. He turns his red face with curves on his forehead towards me and tries to answer my endless tide of questions. I was used to asking questions but not answering them. After talking with my grandpa, I decided to go play outside. I run down the countless stairs form the second floor to the bottom. I found all my friends from my apartment playing games and running around in the gated yard full of dead grass. I soon ran to join them while they played. On my way back to going up the stairs to my house, a voice stops me. An old woman with many wrinkles across her face called out to me. She wore a long white dress with black polka dots. She was my neighbor who always sat on this small bench in front of my building with her other friends. She asked me a question I was used to always hearing. She yelled out, “Where is your dad?” and I responded by saying, “I don’t have one.”
When this incident took place, I was about six years old and I lived in Armenia. I was three years old when my dad came to the United States. I had little to no memory of him. I only knew that his name was Tigran and that he is my dad. I knew this from the stories my mother would tell me about him. One day, I was sitting on the living room rug in front of this small glass table. My Barbie doll was on the glass table and I was making it jump from the table. My mom was cleaning the bookcases in the living room. Suddenly, I heard my mom yell out, “Come over here and see this.” Reluctant, I turn my face while still staying at the table. Slowly, I get up and with a lot of force made my feet go in front of the other. After a while, I reach my mom and I ask, “What is it?” My mom picks up a wooden picture frame and hands it to me. I turn back to look at my Barbie, but then I turn my face and look at the picture in front of me. I saw a young man who had short black hair holding a child, which is me. My mom said, “This is your dad.” I broke my gaze from the picture and look at my mom with wide eyes and my mouth in a straight line. I had seen this same exact picture many times. I would see this man, but it never really registered in my mind that he was my dad. I guess I found it easier to claim that I did not have one. I never knew that moving to the United States and meeting this man from the wooden frame would change my life drastically.
My New Life
Meeting my dad for the first time was a strange experience for me. At first, I talked with him in a formal way. The way one would talk to a stranger. Transitioning to living in what is to be my new home in the United States came along with many obstacles. I soon realized that life as I knew it was about to change. I was laying down on the living room black, leather couch and texting my friend when I heard a loud masculine and harsh scream. My face rose up from the phone’s screen and my eyes followed the loud voice that was coming from the kitchen. I saw my dad sitting at the center of the circular glass table, where he always sat. My dad angrily screamed, “Where is the food. Why isn’t it ready? What have you been doing for this whole time?” His voice echoed throughout the house and made it shake. You could hear his voice shaking. His face was all red while his hands were in fists. My mom could not find the answers to his countless, interrogating questions. My mom was standing near the stove and she timidly answered, “It would be ready soon. I’m just heating it up.” Her voice was low and barely audible. She could not stand in one place while her body was involuntarily moving. My gaze was fixated to the kitchen. I felt my body get warm and I could not even move a pinkie. The food was ready, and my mom served it to my dad. His face was still red and each time he ate there was a loud noise coming from the glass table. He glanced towards me. Right at that moment my eyes, once again, involuntarily shifted to my phone. But I was still looking at him with this sense of energy wanting to explode inside me. Wanting to open my mouth and say whatever was on my mind. However, another energy pushed me back into the couch and buried me there. After this, I soon realized that there was a huge difference between my dad and my mom. My dad is dominant while my mom was forced to be subjected to do what was expected of a female.
Different Ideas and Issues
My dad was sitting at the center of our kitchen’s glass table. The rest of us just gathered around him. I was looking down at my reflection in the glass table, but I could not see myself. I was sitting at the corner edge of the table near the wall. Something seemed to be surrounding me from all sides. I did not know who to look at. My next-door neighbors were also sitting around the table. The whole table was full and there was no empty seat. I had nowhere else to look but at my almost empty plate. I did not have much food on my plate because I was not feeling hungry. My dad, in a confident and loud voice said, “Gay people are so bad. Something is wrong with them and the way they are is wrong. No one should accept that type of behavior.” Everyone around the table did not seem to disagree with him. They continued to have a conversation about gay people. I felt something warm boiling up inside me. I slowly felt it escalate higher and higher. I could not find my place at the table. I gripped the edges of my chair and pushed my feet against the floor. I held the metal fork in my hand so hard that I thought I felt it bend. I kept staring at my empty plate because that was the most pleasant sight at that moment. I was trying to stop myself from running away from this table and going away to my room. My eyes moved to the glass reflection and I hoped that I did not have to be there. That I could escape. I soon realized that there are many differences between my parents and me. Our minds are universes apart. Living much of their life in Armenia, resulted in my parents thinking and behaving different from me. They are traditional and are not open to new ideas and changes. They believe that their way of thinking and is the only right way. On the other hand, I am open to new ideas and not as traditional as they are due to living in the United States. These differences lead to my parents and I having different views and not seeing eye to eye.
My mom started smiling. She did not take me seriously and thought that I was joking. Suddenly, her face changed. The smile on her face was gone instead her eyebrows came closer together and her mouth became straight.
In Armenian culture, one is required to marry someone who is also Armenian. There is no exception to this rule. In the article, “I didn’t have to procreate to carry on my Armenian-American family legacy,” the author who is an Armenian man says, “I grew up in an Armenian-American family. My whole life, my father beseeched me to marry a woman of Armenian descent and have children to carry on our bloodline.” I have also my whole life grown up hearing that I need to marry an Armenian man. This was an unspoken rule. I knew this without even having to be told about it. My mom, sister, and I were sitting down in the living room couch and were watching television. My mom and my sister were sitting across from me on a brown cloth couch. I was sitting by myself on the black leather couch. We were watching an old Armenian film. I kept looking down at the couch and stealing glances at my phone while my mom was not looking at me. During the film, my mom for some reason said, “You guys know that you have to marry someone who is Armenian, right?” I stopped watching the film and looked at my mom. I answered, “I’m not going to marry someone who is Armenian.” My mom started smiling. She did not take me seriously and thought that I was joking. Suddenly, her face changed. The smile on her face was gone instead her eyebrows came closer together and her mouth became straight. There was no curve on her face. She moved in her seat and she raised her arms under her chest. Her eyes were directed right at me as if they could see right through me. I swallowed the saliva that had formed in my mouth. Something seemed to be blocking my airways. I felt myself sink into the couch more and more as every second that went by. I started laughing and I said, “I was only joking, I know what I need to do.” My mom stayed in the same position for what seemed like an eternity. Later, her eyebrows moved back to their position, her hands fell back to her side, and her face began to curve once more. I was not joking.
The Unimaginable Happened
I was in tenth grade when I met a boy who was from Mexico. My friend and I were in our Algebra One class when this tall boy walked in. He asked me, “Why doesn’t your friend talk to me?” This was the first time I saw him, and these were the first words I heard him say. I laughed and answered, “I don’t know.” Suddenly, I felt my cheeks getting red and hot. My heart started beating fast and I could feel it move. I could not stay in one place instead I started moving my hands randomly. It was is if I could not control myself and I was not there at that moment. After meeting him, I had classes with him in eleventh grade. We started talking to each other more and he began to have feelings for me. He told me that he liked me. I also had feelings for him, but I could not tell him because I could not break my parents’ unspoken rule. I feared to tell him how I felt. In the article, “I Didn't Have to Procreate to Carry on My Armenian-American Family Legacy” Haig Chahinian states, “I didn’t have to procreate to carry on my Armenian-American family legacy,” the author who is an Armenian man says, “But after three months I told him we couldn’t be together. Instead of giving him the real reason: ‘You’re not Armenian …’ all I offered him was: ‘We’re too different. It’ll never work,’”. I feared that the same thing would happened to me. That I would start dating him but later would have to tell him that I could not be with him because he is not Armenian. I kept my feelings for him hidden for almost a whole year. I finally could not keep my emotions hidden any longer. I told him how I truly felt. Afterward, we started dating and we are now boyfriend and girlfriend. I had officially broken my parents’ unspoken rule.
After I was in a relationship with my boyfriend, I could not tell my parents about it. I feared how my parents would react if they found out. I was terrified knowing that they would most likely try to break us apart. I decided that the only option I have is to keep it a secret. My boyfriend introduced himself to my dad at my high school graduation. After this event, my dad became suspicious that I might be in a relationship with him. My mom already knew that I was in a relationship with my boyfriend. I was in my room laying down in my bed when I heard loud noises coming from the kitchen. My bedroom door was halfway open, and I was able to hear the conversion my mom and dad were having even though I was unable to see them. My dad was screaming, “Is it possible that she could be with that Mexican boy from her graduation. That would be the last thing that could happen.” My mom was surprisingly also very loud as she said, “Why are you being racist? That’s why she feels that way.” I held my breath and I held on very tightly onto my blanket. I could not imagine what could happen next. I no longer could feel my heartbeat. I slowly felt as if I was drifting away. Next, I heard a very loud bang. Like metal heating the kitchen floor. That noise brought me back to my bed. I once again could feel the bedsheets under me. My dad dropped his fork on the floor once he heard my mom say those words. I continued to hear my dad screaming loudly, but I could not make out what he was saying. The words were flying so fast that they became inaudible. Then followed silence. My body started involuntarily moving. I started shaking from head to toe. In my mind I thought if he reacts this way to just a suspicion what would he do if he were to find out the truth. He could never find out the truth. My mind started racing and I could not get back to reality.
Mental Health Problems
Dealing with my everyday struggles caused me to develop mental health problems. Due to this cultural law of marrying my own race, I started to develop anxiety, depression, and eating problems. Every single day of my life I live in fear of what will happen in the future. “How would I ever be able to tell my dad about my boyfriend?”, “How will I get married to my boyfriend?”, “What will my dad do when he finds out?”, “Will my family cast me aside and no longer accept me in their life if they know the truth?”, “Will I never be able to have a relationship with my family if I get married to my family?”. These questions haunt my mind daily. Questions that I have no answers to and questions that I do not want to know the answers to. My anxiety also correlates with loss of appetite. When I am anxious, I do not feel hunger and I do not eat almost anything. This causes me to lose weight and to become borderline underweight. My eating impacts how I feel and how I feel impacts my lack of eating. It is a cycle that keeps on repeating. I have developed an idea in my mind that I cannot be happy. Every time I try to be happy, I find my mind reminding myself of unhappy thoughts. I stop myself from trying to feel better.
Every single day I dread the idea that my mom will make a comment about my relationship that will cause me to get anxious and have a panic attack. I had just finished talking on the phone with my boyfriend when my mom entered my room. I was laying down on my bed as she came and sat down on the bed next to mine. I was looking down at my phone’s screen while I felt my mom gazing at me. From the side of my eyes, I could see that my mom’s face was uneasy. She was looking at me, but it seemed as if she was somewhere else or she was thinking about something else. Then, in a very fast tone she said, “You need to stop talking to him. Do you think about what your dad will do if he ever finds out? I don’t even want to know what he will do.” Hearing those words come out of her mouth made me freeze. I felt my heart beating faster than it ever did. My palms began sweating and I felt my body getting warmer. I could not stay in one place and my head started spinning. I could not see the things in front of me or around me. No words came out of my mouth. I do not remember the rest.
I decided that I was going to go see a psychologist in order to improve my mental health. However, I did not tell my dad about this. In Dana Gionta’s article, “The Stigma of Therapy,” the author says, “Unfortunately, to this day, the realm of therapy or counseling still remains quite mysterious to most people, somewhat like a magic trick. What really happens in that room? What do they do?”. I did not tell my dad about going to therapy because I knew that he would not understand it instead he would try to convince me to stop going to it. He believes that going to therapy is useless and that I should be able to talk to him or my family about the issues that I am facing. More precisely, he believes that my sister and I should not have any problems at all. I remember walking into the room of my psychologist. I sat in a brown sofa chair across from him. The room was dimly lit and quiet. While sitting on the sofa chair, I started playing around with my pants. He realized that I was getting anxious. He asked me, “How could I help you with?” I raised my eyes from my pants and started looking around the room. I could not look at his face directly. Then I told him that my dad does not know about my relationship and that I know he would not accept it. Then I felt tears coming down my eyes. He offered me napkins, which I used to wipe my tears. Then I said, “I have a hatred towards my ethnicity and my culture.” I had felt this hatred for a while now. I blamed my culture for the struggles I was forced to deal with every single day. I thought if it was not for my culture and ethnicity than I would not have to live in fear every single day of my life. I would be able to live in peace.
An Argument with My Boyfriend
March 15, 2019, my boyfriend called me. While talking, he asked, “What do you think about us moving out together?” I answered, “My parents will not let me.” He responded by saying that he wants someone who is ready to make sacrifices for him. My heart started beating fast and there were tear falling from my eyes. I was running out of breath and I could not talk. He said, “I want to talk about the future. I love you but I can’t wait for you forever. If decide that you can’t move in with me then I might break up with you.” Hearing these words caused me to run out of breath once more. While he said this to me, I felt like something was rising in my mouth. I threw up twice while I listened to him. I felt like I was dying. I could not calm myself down. I wanted to call 911 because I felt like I could not go on anymore. I felt so weak. I tried to move my legs, but they refused to move. I was barely able to use my hands to drag my legs in order to walk to the other side of my bed. I asked him if this means that there is a chance that we might not be together in the future. He said that we would be together.
The next day, I woke up feeling depressed. I kept thinking about what my boyfriend had said. The phrase, “I can’t wait for you forever” and “I might break up with you” kept replying in my mind. I started sleeping excessively throughout the whole day. I wanted to lose consciousness in order to no longer hear those phrases. I no longer wanted to think about anything. I no longer feared my dad’s reaction, but I also feared that my boyfriend might leave me because of my parents. When I woke up, I went outside, and tears started to fall from my eyes. I started blaming my parents for what was happening to me. I blamed them for feeling anxious and having panic attacks. I blamed them for all the struggles I face every day. I blamed them in advance if I were to break up with my boyfriend because of them. I blamed them for everything. Shouldn’t my parents’ want me to be happy? Isn’t their goal for me to be happy? Why are they making me miserable?
What The Future Holds
This is the problem; I don’t know what will happen in the future. I live my life every single day not knowing the reaction of my father when he finds out about my boyfriend. I dread the day that I will have to tell him about my boyfriend. I do not know when this day will come. Writing about this unspoken rule was difficult for me. Writing about each memory brought tears to my eyes and I had to relive every single second of it. I do not know how many more memories or panic attacks I still face. However, I wrote about this Armenian cultural belief of marrying your own race in order to raise awareness of the pain it causes people. I want my readers to feel the pain that I went through and still will go through. I want them to know that they are not alone in their struggles. I want parents and people who hold on to certain traditional and cultural values to look and really see how it is affecting their loved ones. I want them to question and see if they are causing pain to the ones they love. I do not want people to blindly hold on to their beliefs without realizing how they affect people around them. I will continue to fight every sing day of my life. Happiness should be people’s goal not holding on to social norms.
Chahinian, Haig. “I Didn't Have to Procreate to Carry on My Armenian-American Family Legacy.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Apr. 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/24/i-didnt-have-to-procreate-to-carry-on-my-armenian-american-family-legacy/www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/24/i-didnt-have-to-procreate-to-carry-on-my-armenian-american-family-legacy/
Gionta, Dana. “The Stigma of Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 Jan. 2008, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/occupational-hazards/200806/the-stigma-therapy.