That One Boyfriend I Had

I dated a Brazilian. My one boyfriend. So I guess that’s my disclaimer: I’ve only had one boyfriend. And he was 6 years older than me, which usually shocks Americans. But, trust me, it’s a cultural thing. We went out for 3 years. That said, you’d think dating a Brazilian immigrant would be the way to go, right? We were even from the same state, Goiás. But Max was older when he moved from Brazil.

He would refuse to speak English around me because I was better at it than him. So I ordered the food. He’d give me the money and I’d buy the movie tickets. We only spoke in Portuguese with one another.

There’s a division in Brazilian immigrants: those who are Americanized and those who aren’t. Mara and I are part of the ones who are. But how could we help ourselves? When you live here since 2nd grade and never go back, you start to adapt. But the other group thinks we’re snobs for speaking English. Posers. Traitors? I don’t know. They’re usually part of the group who come here older—in high school or after.

I first experienced the difference in 9th grade when I was excluded from the Brazilian group because I was no longer in ESL and spoke English so well.

Max was a part of the non-Americanized. But we didn’t mind.

Then the Shrek movies started coming out. We’d go to the movies to watch them. But he wouldn’t laugh when everyone else did. And he’d ask me to explain what was funny. I then realized the jokes in Shrek were culturally exclusive. That was when I started noticing the biggest difference between us.

Whenever I tried to talk to him about it, he just didn’t understand my struggle with two cultures and two identities. Max is a Brazilian who lives in the United States. It’s not a back and forth with him. I think it’s one of the reasons I broke up with him.

I think I was jealous of how easy being Brazilian came to him. He didn’t question it, didn’t try to be anything else. He didn’t even try to be Brazilian. He just was. I’m not saying he fit stereotypes, either. Trust me, if he had, we would not have been together. (He didn’t only wear brand names and he didn’t spend hours on his hair and he didn’t demand I cook for him or that I wear makeup or that I lose weight.)

But there wasn’t one part of Max that rejected being Brazilian. I envy that.

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