Back in her California days, Rosa loved taking walks through their neighborhood. Although they lived in a huge city, their neighborhood was cozy, friendly. Everyone sat on the front steps of their apartment buildings on warm evenings (and they were all, mostly, warm in California). Gossip was shared, along with goodies made in each household. Tamales and churros, and also hot dogs and potato salad. A real melting pot.
After her father and mother told her about sending her younger brother to college instead of her, Rosa paced those same streets, seeing them differently. She saw the mothers, sisters, daughters working hard to make happy and healthy households. She saw the fathers, brothers, sons relaxing, certainly after days of hard work, often hard physical labor. But that evening, Rosa did not see the tell tale signs of men whose bodies are being punished every day.
Rosa saw the tell tale signs of male privilege.
And she brought within her anger and disappointment in her parents a small, hard knot of shame, of disappointment in herself.
Rosa’s parents had never asked her why she didn’t date. They took it for granted that she was focused on her work, her schooling, on taking care of them, living up to the expectations of Catholic daughters. All that – dating, falling in love, starting a family – would come in time. Rosa’s parents were grateful for their serious, thoughtful, responsible daughter.
Their vision of her, marrying a man who could provide what she wanted – school, a career, a family – was so far out of her reality, Rosa rarely wondered about it herself.
When she did, Rosa knew marriage to a man was not in her future. She’d been in love exactly once, with a girl one year older than her, a senior when Rosa was a junior in high school. The girl had laughed when she finally confessed her crush, called her a sick freak, and turned her back.
Rosa walked for an hour that evening, making two promises to herself: one, she would, somehow, someday, make it to medical school.
And two, she would move out of her parents house.
She fulfilled both within the following year.