I follow Humans of New York and the other day one of his photos really got me thinking…most of his posts do but this one, really had me thinking about how some parts of the Somali culture (and other cultures) can be really effed up: it isn’t okay to express feelings of love and affection between spouses and even between parents and children.
Growing up, and even to this very day, I never saw my parents express their love to each other – at least not in front of me. Forgot kissing, I never saw them hold hands nor hug nor call each other names of affection such as macaanto or anything like that. Other Somali parents are the same with each other. Even with my siblings and I, my parents never hugged us…at least I don’t recall it. I also don’t recall my parents ever saying “I love you”. I never noticed it as a kid, but now that I’m older, I’m really bothered by it…and I think it’s because I’ve realized it has affected me.
It bothers me because it has had an impact on how I am with my parents. Giving my parents a hug or telling them I love them makes me feel strange and comfortable. What should be normal is foreign to me. It shouldn’t be like that! The only time I ever hug my parents is if they or myself is going away on holiday. And even then hugging feels strange (yet hugging others doesn’t). The only way I know how to show them my affection is giving them pats on the back. Is that not effed up? Sigh.
I brought this up with my parents…and their response was interesting. They said it was the way they were raised and it is very hard to change it. I think the only way change can occur is with the next generation. It is up to us young Somalis to express our feelings and show our emotions to our spouses and children. That way, our children will carry it forward.