You smile and say, “Ok. I’ll have to ask my parents.” Your hands start sweating and a knot forms in your throat.
Your brain starts going mad, thinking of ways to convince your parents to say yes. Is your room clean? You should clean it. Did you do all of your chores this past week? I think so. Were there any fights with your siblings? No, we’ve been good. You think the battle is going to be easy, but is it?
“¿Pero por qué no?”
“Por que ya te dije que no,” says your father. You feel the anxiety building in your body.
“¿Y si le pregunto a mami?” you ask.
“Ok. Ya. Vete aver que dice tu mamá,” he says as he nods you away, slightly annoyed that you couldn’t be happy with the answer he gave you.
You walk up to your mother, sweetly, possibly hugging her before you say anything.
“¿Cómo estas, mami?”
“Bien. Y tú, ¿qué buscas?” she asks. When you explain what it is that you’re looking for from her she listens quietly.
“Pues, no. Creo que no.”
“Pero, ¿por qué nooooo?” There goes the whine. You couldn’t help it.
“Por que aquí tienes tu cama. Aquí tienes tu casa,” she tells you certainly. Here it comes again. Those kids must not have parents who love them if they’re willing to let them go sleep over at someone else’s house, she tells you. You belong at home, with your family, regardless of what all of your other friends are doing.
You turn blue in the face explaining that you have done all of your chores, have been good, have listened, haven’t fought with your siblings, won’t be doing anything bad and even offer for your parents to talk to your friend’s parents.
Nope. They aren’t budging.
Instead, they would say, “¿Y si te pasa algo?”
“Pero, ¡¿que me va pasar?!” and you knew it was because you were a girl. Oh yes, it was because you were a girl that they kept you from doing anything fun.
The Real Reasons
For many immigrant parents, or even first generation parents, the concept of sleepovers was something introduced in the United States. You didn’t have a need to sleep over any one’s homes in Mexico or Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
“You mean, you didn’t sleep over anyone’s houses in the Dominican Republic?”
“Why? What for?” mom would answer.
Usually, you had to watch over the house and the needs of those who lived with you at home.
Additionally, as a girl, there was always an underlying fear of having men present. Precautions such as child molestation brought fear and typically worried parents when thinking about letting their daughter spend at least 12 hours in someone else’s home where anything could happen. It is always safer to keep you at home.
Because You’re A Girl
Although, there was a double standard that existed. If you had a brother, they were most likely able to have sleepover with their friends. “It’s different with boys,” your parents would say.
The concept of machismo usually starts early on, letting boys be a little more independent than girls. That is not to say that parents did not have a right to worry about their children, but boys, even at a young age, are assumed to be able to take care of themselves and able to be alone more frequently than girls.
Having daughters also comes with the idea of protection. That included anything that could harm her or any man that would have his way with her. Although sleepovers usually start in grammar school, they went through high school as well bringing an even bigger fear of their daughter losing her virginity.
Passing It On?
This is something that many Latinas go through growing up and understanding the cultural insights might help to understand you parents now or even teach you to take different precautions with your own children. Because although you might not want to turn into your parents, you might still have the desire to keep some of these precautions for your kids.
However difficult it might have been as a younger woman to deal with strictness from parents, it was always in the best interest and typically subsided as the young woman aged. Talking to children more about the logic behind saying no will help them to understand that it is for their own protection and safety rather than an irrational decision just because you are the parent.
Editor’s Note: “Entre Nos” has been created to start conversations about issues that Latinos endure at home or in personal relationships. Many of these ideas will stem into more cultural issues that will be discussed further on LatinoDr.org.