Bloodlines – A Short Biography of a Young Woman
Her heart derives from two cultures, her soul just embraces one. She made this choice a long time ago, when she felt misunderstood and cramped, not entitled to become the person she wants to grow up to…
Waking up she remembered: She was about to meet him, her dad. Another six months have passed in which she managed to reduce their conversations and contact to a minimum of twenty minutes each week. She would like it to be less but he insists on these weekly talks. But now he’s coming to visit her in a café she’s never been to, that she picked because it meant she won’t have to meet at her favourite place and have all these memories and flashbacks at a later point when she goes there to get her beloved cinnamon tea. He’s coming to meet her. Have an actual face to face conversation in which she has to suppress her inner drive to roll her eyes at him and snort at his remarks. She has to be a good girl. After a long hot shower leaving her skin red, she made her way into the kitchen. Sitting at the breakfast table, sipping on her green tea, she wonders what today’s conversations are going to look like. She never knows what to talk about with her dad, so she just mentions random things that happened during the period of time she and her dad haven’t seen each other, trying to pass the time. Her mum walks into the kitchen.
‘Hanna, are you going to be alright?’
Her mum always stresses out whenever she meets up with her dad. Sometimes she’s more nervous than Hanna. Or she senses her daughter’s nervousness that Hanna a always tries to hide because she doesn’t want her mum to get anxious. And then all these emotions are transmitted onto her mother. A lose-lose-situation. The problem with her dad was that he never really perceives their conversations as awkward. Or he does and hides it as well – just like she hides away her real feelings and conceals her mood and eventually her true self. For him she plays the girl he always wanted her to be. But once she heads home, she takes off her mask, stops acting like somebody she’s not. Sometimes she wonders if she should be herself for a change? Would he perceive the differences? And then he’ll maybe finally ask her why they are not best friends, why she acts so distant, why she reduces their conversations to twenty minutes. And she tries to come up with the story she would tell him:
First things first, “by (not) adding the one thing”, she was a failure for her one bloodline right from the beginning. Her father comes from a family dominated by male successors, making sure the name would forever be passed on to the next generations. That kind of did not work out in her case. Unless they expected her to keep her last name in case she got married, which would somehow contradict their earlier disappointment in her not being a son continuing the blood line by passing on the name. Consequently, she spent her childhood trying to do all the things a boy would do in order to impress her father. This involved playing football and basketball instead of drawing and painting. Later, when all the girls in her kindergarten group started dreaming about horses and braided each other’s long wavy hair, her pet dreams were kept under wraps and her hair was trimmed, resulting in having something like the Beatles cut throughout her childhood. She never said “no” and expressed her discomfort, but always kept her feelings and sorrows to herself and her imaginary friend. (She still talks to herself, she realised that this other person does not exist, though. At least most of the time.) Whereas all her friends wore pink and red, she had to stick to blue and black colours. In the end, she got so accustomed to these tones she is still avoiding to wear the brighter shades. There were a few times when she could not hold in any longer, though. Then she spent hours on her bed facing the wall with pictures of happier times, crying. He was always saying how he is not going to let anyone hurt her, but little did he know he was the one who hurt her the most.
Every year they visited the grandparents, one couple living in Germany, the other one in the south of Europe. The drive to both of them took nine hours, she never minded the one to her German relatives, but she got sick every time they drove to her southern European ones. She has never been able to exactly pin down why she was only terrified to visit her father’s parents, perhaps because she disappointed them right from the moment the gynecologist said “Congratulations, you are expecting a girl”. Perhaps because her grandparents were always so caught up in their old-fashioned conservative (and sometimes religiously rooted) mind set that she feared upsetting them by saying a wrong word and making a wrong move. Just like them her father was still following the rules of another epoch, of a time that didn’t give enough value and credits to the female sex. Only a fool would claim children are not able to feel a certain distance and discontent. Yet, subconsciously, this lead to her not ever wanting to learn the language, no matter how many language courses she would go to or should we say, her father sent her to. She was equally uninterested in the country’s culture, all resulting in her grandparents only being even more unsatisfied with her. This, she did not mind, though.
In primary school she did well, her teachers liked her, she found dear friends, and most importantly, she never got herself into trouble. Unquestioningly, this is what all the parents want, do they not? However, when it came to her father, she could have cared less for school. Her one bloodline has never really been interested in her pursuing higher education, having a good job, and potentially making it on her own. No, for them it was not important at all to see her aspire and thrive, for them she was supposed to make as little out of her as necessary, find a suitable husband, and produce and take care of her children for the rest of her life. But she did well and thrived and wanted to continue thriving. Her curiosity about life turned school into her second home. And there boys and girls were allowed to be who they wanted to be and not play a certain role.
This was when her parents started to fight almost every day. She was one of the reasons, of course, as the other half of her bloodline, her mother and her family, were very much indeed interested in her making the most out of her intelligence. Her first academic pinnacle in life, that is fourth grade, became more and more the reason for their relationship’s nadir. In the end, her mother and her teachers alike had to convince her father that a good education is not going to be a waste of money and time, even if to him she was but only a girl.
In the beginning, when she had just started grammar school, it seemed like things improved: her father finally supported her and praised her when she got a good grade. Moreover, it looked like he finally accepted her for who she was: a young, bright woman. Then, all of a sudden, he started to stop her from going to the library. He was suddenly keeping her away from the one place she could always come to when she felt anxious and misunderstood, where the stories of strong females, romantic heroines and intelligent women embraced everything she ever dreamt of, where she could hide behind the book shelves and read about all the things people of her sex achieved, all the courageous things they said and did. Then she felt strong, like she could do and say all these things as well. And no one would stop her, not her father and not her grandparents. That’s when she started wondering what life would be like without these nagging voices.
Meanwhile, her parents relationship hit rock bottom again, this time for good, though.
And, to some it may come as a surprise, for others as no surprise at all, but she felt free. Once her mother and she moved out of the place she never called home, the heavy weight of suppression and inhibition was lifted off of her shoulders. She could finally breathe again. From now on, the only moments she felt anxious and misunderstood were the ones, when she had to report her week to her father who had shared custody of her. Whenever they talked now, he faked a certain interest in her academic achievements just to prolong the conversation. However, at this point she was old enough and she knew him better to see him through.
That’s what she would say to him if she was brave enough to be herself and stop complying to his wishes. But deep inside she still feels inclined to please him, to behave, to be a good girl. And yet he will never see her true self but only the facade she learned to keep up, the role she takes on, whenever he’s next to her. But it was essentially her mother that shaped her moral beliefs and taught her to go her own path in life, books taught her to have her own ideas and dreams to never give up upon. Even if she is but only a girl.
‘Hanna, it’s 10.’ The quiet and sweet voice of her mum brings her back to reality.
Hanna wakes up from her daydream. It’s time to leave, it’s time to put on the mask. She walks over to her mum, gives her a hug, and walks out of the door, looking forward to the moment she returns home.
…Yet the two bloodlines in her heart are always going to be intact, even if she chose to listen to only one of them.
Maria was listening to ‘Deep Water’ by The Middle East while writing this short story.