“How did your workshop go?” I asked.
“Fine.” My daughter stabbed at the silky rice rolls slathered in crispy chilli paste.
“Doesn’t sound like Fine to me.”
“Ma, what did you expect? I was in a room full of feminists. They discussed about destroying the shackles that taboos and rituals imposed on women. Then, they argued over the need for female archetypes. What’s an archetype anyway?”
“A representative character.. yunno like when you think of care-giving, Florence Nightingale pops to mind,” I answered.
“There you go. Stereotyping. That’s exactly what they were saying — Why aren’t there strong female role models like a female version of a Superman or Ironman? Why are women always classified as care-giving and nurturing?”
I smiled indulgently at my daughter.
“It is not funny, Ma.”
“But I am sure you had fun.”
I picked up a punched up lump of clay. It looked oddly like a man with a hollowed out eye at the forehead and a gaping mouth. “This is interesting.”
“This,” she grabbed the lump from me and balled it up, “was their idea of fun. You free yourself from the taboo shackles by forming them in clay and then punching them down.”
She forced-fed the balled clay into the ashtray, stabbing its surface with impatient imprints of her index finger.
“What should we do after lunch?” I looked dreamily across to the shoe shop.
“Ma, are you not going to apologize?”
“Whatever for? For signing me up for the workshop without my consent. For wasting my whole morning with a group of people I don’t like, discussing things I don’t understand. Need I go on? And don’t you dare laugh about it. It is not funny.”
“Calm down. Look, I honestly didn’t expect it to be a feminist thing. The brochure said.. wait–”
I fished a crumpled piece from my handbag and held it up triumphantly. I lifted up my spectacles and peered at the fine print.
“OK. here it is.. An interactive performance workshop on invoking and reclaiming your inner goddess through story-telling and ritual magic.”
I grinned sheepishly. “I thought that it would be fun, especially the ritual magic part.”
My daughter glared. “Do you know how much I hate that word – interactive?“
“Oh, c’mon. You know all those rituals and taboos, right? Like, don’t trim your fingernails at night, or whistle at dusk, or dry your clothes outside at night just in case you attract wandering female vampires.”
I laughed wickedly.
She scowled and said, “And does that also include – don’t leave any food on the plate otherwise you will marry a man with pockmarks on his face? Or don’t sing in the kitchen, otherwise you will marry an old man? Ma, this is 2017, not 1917.”
I nodded. “What those women at the workshop are saying is that these rituals and taboos are designed to keep women subservient: Do this and you will end up with an ugly husband. Do that and you will become an old spinster. These are all scare tactics.”
“See, you should have been the one attending it; not me. You always have an opinion about everything. I didn’t know what they were going on about. When my turn came to say something, my mind was blank. I have never felt so stupid in my life.”
“Anyway, I am sure you have learnt something from this workshop, right?”
She gave me a strange look and huffed angrily.
“Ma, are you saying that you have been feeding me with all these superstitious rubbish to keep me in check?”
“Hey, don’t judge me. Tell me about it when you have a daughter next time.” I grinned, recalling this same accusation I had hurled at my mother many years ago.