Ay pobrecito!

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Many parents today continue to raise their kids to fit into ’50s stereotypes: boys as hard-working men who will bring home the paycheck, and girls who will take on the homemaking, supportive role. 

When these stereotypes are interwoven into a culture, they can be hard for a society to let go of. Mexican culture has a long-unspoken expectation of how mothers should raise their sons, and this plays directly into how they expect their own family to be run when they grow up.

Maybe this is a reason why, in 2014, we still have to have regular discussions on breaking gender stereotypes. They say old habits die hard, but sometimes we call these “traditions,” or the “way of the Old World” and they never seem to go away.

When I was in college, I had a close friend, Gaby, who was also from Mexico City. She was dating a local guy named Victor, whose family had migrated from Monterrey. We would often go to her boyfriend’s house for dinner because his mom was a wonderful cook and as college students, we knew better than to pass on a free meal. After we had already eaten, we were all sitting in the living room talking when Gaby stood up to get some water from the kitchen, I heard Victor’s mom yell out, “Oh, mi’jo (my son) wants a plate of food.”

A Mexican mother feels that it’s her No. 1 priority to ensure her son is taken care of — not just fed to the basic need that the human body requires, but fed well, with extreme portions and extra helpings. This is part of an unclassified condition that is called “Mi Pobre Hijo!” or “My Poor Son!” syndrome.

I can’t stand the Mi Pobre Hijo routine. Victor was sitting right next to me with a smirk on his face; I’m sure he was well aware that sparks were going to start flying soon. This was his mother trying to pass on the tradition of waiting on, and spoiling, a grown man, to my friend.

I had to speak up. “We just ate. I’m sure he doesn’t want anything,” I said.

She replied with a deep sigh and said, “Brenda, I know my son. I know he needs a plate of food.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“If he’s hungry he can make a plate for himself,” I replied. Gaby came out of the kitchen wide-eyed and probably a bit embarrassed, but I didn’t care. If she wasn’t going to say anything to her boyfriend’s mom, I sure was.

Victor’s mother turned to Gaby and said, “Oh, mi pobre hijo! Gaby, you don’t care if he starves to death?” (I was in between laughter and tears at this point.)

“With all due respect,” I answered for Gaby, “your pobre hijo isn’t going to starve to death, and he’s 20 years old, so if he wants something to eat, he can get it.”

She knew we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on this matter, and she knew me enough to know I wouldn’t back down. It was my last visit.

But this has happened over and over again with women in my own family. I’ve seen it even among friends with all sorts of ethnic and family backgrounds. Far too many women treat far too many young boys and men as if they are invalids and young children. We women can talk about how we feel discriminated against and the injustices we face daily, but we neglect to talk about how we raise our children and how we treat men.

I’ve heard too many conversations between women about how a grown husband is like “having another child.” Where’s the line between nurturing husbands and sons, and coddling them? Are we really surprised that we struggle to close the gap between genders when women still treat young boys as if they’re invalids or “golden children”? 

It’s not that we don’t want to show love and consideration for our significant others and grown children, but long-term effects have to be considered. We’re doing twice the work undoing bad habits, sometimes of our own creation.

And just for the record, it’s not that I am opposed to giving my boyfriend a plate of food, I’m just opposed to treating a grown-ass man as if he is a young, spoiled child. 

Brenda Figueroa-Gonzalez returned to Colorado Springs after graduating from Adams State University with her Bachelor's in mass communications and is usually roaming the Internet, and often found downtown. Follow on twitter @loveliestladyyy, chronicling random thoughts on TV shows or cute animals and her crossing into the deep underbelly of food, fashion and craft beer.

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