“It just wasn’t proper for an unmarried couple to kiss back then. If you wanted a good man, you had to act a certain way,” My grandmother says around kilometer 118 on our road trip to Manzanillo, Mexico. I’m visiting my family for a few weeks in Mexico and while I’m down here, I’ve decided to get some of their thoughts on love, marriage and all things related to relationships.
I’m fascinated with how different dating was when my grandmother was single… 70 years ago. As a young woman from the city of Aguascalientes, six hours north of Mexico City, she was quite the dating genius in her time. I would guess she definitely knew how to keep them wanting more… “Tell her about the time you told dad, while you were still dating, that you were leaving him to become a nun,” my aunt says to my grandma laughing. “You did what?!” I reply shocked.
We all listen intently as my grandmother tells us that she hid from my grandfather for a few days, and had her sister tell him she had left town to join a convent. We all crack up at how ballsy and frankly, evil, that was of her. Apparently, a person could keep a very low profile and make people believe all kinds of crazy things in the days before Google and social media.
“I wanted to see if he truly loved me,” my grandma adds nonchalantly. Naturally my grandfather was very upset at the news of his beloved abandoning him, but even more upset when he found out it was a hoax. He forgave her though, I mean she was a catch! A beautiful virgin who’d never been kissed, with a sense of humor that could cook… He’d been crazy to let her go!
Secretly I wonder how a hoax like that would go over in the present dating scene. I don’t think any sane woman, this day and age, would even think of saying something like that to a man, because it’s outrageous! But let’s pretend it’s not completely crazy and say I have my sister tell the guy I’m dating that I’ve left town to become a nun, then what? First, I’d have to really commit since I would need to quit my job so I could hide at home and wait for him to… Call? Text? Stalk me? Let’s not forget that someone would probably give me away on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at work. And second, no one who knows me would actually believe I was joining a convent, not even me…
After a few moments of pondering the possibilities, I snap back into reality and decide that unlike chivalry, testing your boyfriend’s love is a part of dating history that should NEVER make a come back. Times have really changed society’s view on what is now considered appropriate behavior when it comes to love.
We make a pit stop two hours outside of Manzanillo because I start to get nauseous. I have a weak stomach and get motion sickness easily. As soon as the car door opens I make a beeline for the bathroom. I definitely don’t want to throw up in public… not again! Last time I was here my cousin had to make two stops along the highway for me, and I really don’t want to be known as the sissy who always gets sick when she visits. I stare at my yellow face in the mirror as I wash my hands, ironically this only happens to me when I’m in Mexico…
My cousin buys me some ginger ale and I sip slowly sitting on the sidewalk as I ponder how I wound up being so different from him. I’m definitely the weird one in my family. Sometimes I feel like an outsider or like I’m speaking Spanglish to them, because they sort of get me, but they don’t. That’s how different our views are.
In the city of Aguascalientes, for young people after 30 it’s nearly impossible to find a partner who hasn’t already been married once. “27 is not that young,” my cousin tells me, of course he’s only 23, so what the hell does he know about being 27? “I’m 30! Does that make me an old hag?” I turn around almost ready to slap him. We laugh… but it’s true, I’m kind of an old hag here, I’m almost 31 and have absolutely no prospect of marriage.
To be honest I don’t even care. I’m so heartbroken over the death of my brother (in-law) that I cant even begin to think of what I could possibly have to offer a man right now. Maybe that’s selfish, or irrational, but I don’t care. “Does that mean you don’t want to have kids?” My aunt asks, “Some days I think yes, and some days I think no,” I reply… but mostly I don’t know.
Including my siblings, there are 33 cousins in my family, 17 of them are married and having kids. Several of them are younger than me and already WITH children. This makes me the odd ball because I’m 30 going on 31 and not married. I’m also the only one of the cousins who’s been single after 30 so far! So it’s only natural that every time I visit, I hear the same questions:
“When are you gonna get married?”
“Don’t you want to get married?”
“You’re getting old, don’t you want to have kids?”
And my responses are always the same:
“When I’m ready.”
“Yes, to someone I’m in love with.”
“If it’s meant to be.”
We get back in the car and pass rows and rows of coconut plantation trees. Suddenly we come upon the great Volcano of Colima, or “El Volcán de Fuego.” The view is amazing. We can see the smoke as it slowly rises above the tip. (It happened to erupt 6 days later).
A little while later we see the pacific ocean. One of my favorite parts about going to the beach is the first time I see the open sea… it’s so humbling and beautiful. It takes my breath away every time. The gold sand twinkles like someone sprinkled glitter dust all over it, mixed with black streaks from the volcanic rock that washes up, it’s truly majestic.
I no longer care about marriage or kids or whatever because I’m enchanted and finally feel like I can relax. At dinner my aunt asks me: “So you don’t mind living alone? You don’t feel lonely?” I guess I should explain that in my family people don’t leave home until they either 1. Get married or 2. Get a job out of state and have to move out of their parent’s home. Otherwise, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to live at home with your parents past the age of 22. No one will shun you or think you’re a loser, like they do in the U.S. “No, I don’t get lonely,” I reply with a smile and a nudge, “it’s very liberating and empowering.” I add.
But to my family here, my choices when it comes to life and love will probably continue to be foreign. Which makes sense since I don’t live here anymore. I literally have become a foreigner to them. All my life choices are a mixture of cultures, my story is written in Spanglish.