On Breaking Cycles

With more frequency than ever in my life (so far), I’ve been attracting quality women into my life: that’s a new thing for me.

Distrusting women was something that was ingrained into my psyche since I could remember. For one, I’ve never had a semblance of a relationship with my birth mother. She was crazy young when she left a comfortable life in Santo Domingo—in a ‘hood called Paraíso—to live with my dad, a womanizer mujeriego since before he could crawl, and had me. New York City was mean to my birth mother back then in the 1970s. Months after I was born, she shipped me off like cargo to live with her parents on the island for months at a time. My parents eventually divorced by the time I was two and it didn’t take long for my birth mother to become involved with somebody else. Then lots of things happened. Bad things. Real fucked up things, some of which are detailed in my book.

My mother’s mother and sister were excellent female role models. They were feminists and, at once, fashion plates: think Steinam and Mirabal.They loved me and to this day inform many of the personal choices I make in life. I didn’t live with them for long enough to cultivate real meaningful relationships and was mostly out of touch with them soon after moving back to New York City with my father and his wife in 1981. My stepmother was always working and probably too exhausted from dealing with my father’s philandering to really bond. Plus, she was from Finland and kind of, um, eccentric. You’ll meet her soon. She’s also one of the characters in my book.

I tried to connect with my Dad’s jump-offs, women who pretended to like me for as long as he pretended to love them…but that’s a whole other story.

It wasn’t until I started dating my first boyfriend and met his mother that I formed a meaningful relationship with a woman. It only took weeks for her to become more important to me than him. I loved her fiercely. She loved me, too. Maria taught me how to cook and walk in high-heels. She taught me the meaning of sacrifice and following my intuition. Maria made a place for me at the dinner table every single night regardless of whether or not I showed up. But truth be told, she kind of hated women. When her neighbor and friend—let’s call her Thunder Crotch, TC for short—ran off with her man, she placed one hundred percent of the blame on TC. Her man was seduced, manipulated into leaving. It didn’t matter that he fathered children with other women. In general, if men cheated, lied, or abused you, they were above the fray. And like most women around the way, Maria was backstabbed and hated on by her comadres friends. She also backstabbed and hated on those same comadres. And when her son cheated on me with one of my dearest friends when I was away at college, Maria tried to cover it up in order to protect her son sun. She was an old-fashioned Dominican mom, but that’s another story for another time.

Then there’s my own birth mother, who further ingrained those negative ideas about women into my dome. I barely saw or spoke to her when I came to live in New York City. And when she did drop by or call out of nowhere, it was to inform me she birthed a new child or to talk about her latest man. I began hating her. If my own mother could be so cold and disinterested, if Maria could blame women for everything that goes wrong in her world, if my close homegirls could sleep with my boyfriend, if…then I couldn’t trust anybody, much less a woman. I became a walking contradiction: I loved women politically and the idea of sisterhood, but on the other hand I’ve often felt personally let down by them, and by how easily I felt they could be divided and, well, conquered.

When I birthed my own daughter sixteen years ago, I was resolved not to repeat the cycle with her. We are very close, no doubt, and I encouraged her to befriend girls and establish relationships with them. Ands she has. The thing is, I didn’t really believe the shit I was trying to sell her. On the surface I did. I’ve always surrounded her with positive women and role models. But something wasn’t right. I had to learn something to truly cultivate my character and grow as a woman: forgiveness…for my birth mother. Only then, could I change from the inside out.

I hadn’t seen my mother in fifteen years when I went to interview her for Bird of Paradise. I won’t go into the details of our reunion but I will tell you I forgave her right there and then. I may never see her again but I forgive her. Although I am pro-choice, I am thankful that my birth mother had the courage to give me life. And with that, things started to change in my life, including how I approach my relationships with women.

It didn’t hit me until this week. While, yes, women—people, really—will continue to underwhelm me because of their actions (it’s inevitable), just as many will lift me up and fill the void left by friends past. Lately, many of these spirit-fillers, if you will, are women. I’ve reconnected with old colleagues and realized just how much I like them, and while I’m not into having too many cheesy moments (writing this joint was really hard for me for that reason), I have walked away quietly inspired. Women are rallying around me to support the release of my forthcoming projects: some by delving into their deep media contact lists, some by offering to create curriculums (stay tuned!) and reading guides for my book, some by sending me encouraging emails, others by helping me midwife my projects into the world, and some by offering me their ear and company.

I put in the work and can acknowledge that the law of attraction, with a few hiccups here and there, is working in my favor.


Raquel Cepeda


Comments 2

  1. Looking forward to reading and sharing your story with the Life is Precious Youth! I Have a feeling it will help some heal wounds.

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