As a multicultural community, Latinxs often exist in an in-between. We are "ni de aquí, ni de allá." In many ways, this identity has shaped us into mediators of culture and interpreters of language, but so much gets lost in translation. Relaciones is a monthly series that helps Latinxs navigate interpersonal relationships by unpacking the tough but necessary conversations that come up in our communities.
I was 13 years old and in love with Francisco and Ulise, twin brothers that lived on my block. I wrote them love letters and followed them around like a clumsy puppy. My parents had made it clear that boyfriends would not be allowed until I was out of high school and far, far away at some college. They never said that, but it definitely was implied when Papi would come to grab me by the ear in front of all the neighborhood kids and drag me home. I wasn’t deterred.
Since I could remember, love has always been this fantasy, something I knew about from fairytales and had yearned for myself. Papi loved taking us to the library but never monitored our reading. I checked out a book on the art of making out. I studied it like the Bible. When I was alone, I'd practice kissing boys by turning my left hand into a fist and planting my lips on its side. At family parties, relatives began asking me if I had a boyfriend. A distant uncle said that if I had sex, my body would give it away because my hips would widen. I was mortified. Everyone had a say in my love life except me. I had grown to see romantic love as a fist that holds, takes, and often hurts. I had to earn its softening by obeying its rules. I resented its constraints, but I still yearned for a boy to love me and choose me the way that I saw other girls be chosen.
I spent my teens and 20s secretly nursing my heartaches. I didn't confide in my family, except for my younger sister Jennifer. As far as I can remember, Jenny has always been the keeper of my secrets. It was my turn to keep hers when she came into my bedroom one night and quoted my favorite movie, Dirty Dancing, while announcing her pregnancy with my niece Saya. I was also the first to know about my nephew Henry five years later. My sister is a phenomenal mother. I might be biased, but Saya and Henry are perfect. Her husband is an astounding father. She works at a coffee shop and spends days off with her kids and pet Corgi. I, on the other hand, am a full-time writer and speaker. I often travel, constantly juggling projects and social events. My life is big, loud, and ambitious. I boast about its freedom and pride myself in no longer wanting romance to validate my existence.
One afternoon, Jenny was over for lunch. Mami and our youngest sister played with the kids in the yard. Jennifer mentioned something about her job, and with every pretentious, self-important bone in my body, I asked her, "So, what's your goal? Do you plan to own a coffee shop one day?" Jenny laughed and said, "No way," and I was confused. Didn't she want more? Didn't she have dreams? This couldn't be it. My sweet sister looked up from her phone and said, "Today, I am perfectly happy with what I have. Ask me again in a few years," and went back to scrolling through her social media. I sat there confused. How could she not want more? We are daughters of immigrants. Isn’t it a rule to want more? Isn’t wanting more part of loving ourselves?
My arrogance fooled me into thinking love can only exist in one way. I used to believe that If I wanted a partner, I would not get the privilege of dreaming. If I wanted to dream, I would not get to experience love. Fortunately, the women in my life have corrected me time and again. I have homegirls who have launched businesses and travel at leisure without a partner on the horizon; they are in love. Another friend refuses to marry her long-term boyfriend because she will not let him ruin her hard-earned credit score; she is in love. I know mothers that bring their children to poetry nights and get on stage with a baby on their hip and another between their skirts; that is absolutely love. Then, there are my girls that love being in love, and I love that for them. I recently promised a friend that I'd accompany her to Catholic Speed Dating event in support of finding her a spouse. I have finally understood that all relationships are valid. All hunger for connection is sacred and should be fed. Who am I to tell someone they do not want the right things?
Through my sister and her children I have been able to feed a love I’ve hungered for many years: motherhood. My body has not been able to grant me that gift, and although I have been pregnant a few times in my life, none has gone past the first trimester. I think this is the first time I have articulated my desire for my own children. I've accepted that it's not for me. Even if it isn't mine anymore, I can still love that dream. I have learned to surrender to love, in all of its versions. I love my homegirls with every fiber of my being, and watching them pursue their own loves is beautiful. My niece and nephew are the loves of my life. They did not come from my womb. I will never know what it is to carry a baby to full term, push them out of my body, and then hold them, but I do know what it is to help raise a child. I watched them take their first steps, heard their first words, and introduced them to my favorite songs and cartoons. I know what it is to have them fall asleep on me or have had to sit in time out with them. I know this love. I was foolish to ever question my sister. This love is palpable, and it is mine.
I am content with the life I have built. This small world where I no longer want folks to want what I want. Instead, I admire their own creations. The careers, the marriages, the divorces, the fur babies, the human babies, the small businesses, the promotions, the commitment to their families, and the determination to live their own lives. Love in all its incarnations always returns to one truth: It wants to be with the beloved.
Today, I am perfectly happy with what I have. Come ask me again in a few years.