Being Single (and Undocumented) is Hard

Did you guys see that article “Being Single is Hard” by Emma Lindsay? It was great. I read it out loud twice. I shared it with friends and coworkers. It was empathetic and real.

And it got me thinking about marriage and being single and undocumented. You see, it’s all of what that article said. And more.

The reality is: If I got married to an American citizen, I would no longer be undocumented.

This leads to people falsifying marriages so they can get papers. It leads to selective dating of only American citizens. And, for me, it also adds a lot of pressure. Because suddenly dating isn’t just about dating, it’s about the possibility of everything changing. Or it’s a waste of time—time that could’ve been used to be with someone else with whom it’d work out.

There’s also the obvious. How will this guy react to knowing I’m undocumented?

I like taking pictures of trees from underneath them. This one was in New Orleans (one of my favorite cities).

But even more than that, I hate the thought that I would owe this man so much. His marrying me would make me a citizen of this country I’ve been living in since I was 7 years old. What could I bring to the table that could ever even it out? How can I ever compete with that? I fear he’d hold it against me. Or worse: that I’d feel indebted to him and act like I were indebted to him for the rest of my life, despite his reassurances.

Add to that the fact that I’m Christian and I’ve followed all the rules I was expected to follow. That means I haven’t really dated. So my not dating has not only made it so I’m 27 and unmarried, but I’m also 27 and still undocumented.

I wish I could turn it off. I wish I could not think about all of this when it comes to dating. That I could just go for it carefree and hopeful. But I carry it with me. When do you tell a guy you’re undocumented? (Maybe referring him to this blog post is the answer.) What will he think of me? Will he think I’m with him just because of documents? Would he hold it against me? Is he ready to go through all the immigration processes marrying me would require? I carry these questions with me.

So yes to the article about how being single is hard. All that she said is so true. The expectation that we’re supposed to make ourselves “better” so we can get married. The fact that it’s harder to be healthy when you’re single. The lack of physical touch (especially when you’re Christian and restricted). Yes. All of these are a thing.

But, gosh, being single and undocumented is really really hard.

Restraint & Deprivation

If my life were to have a theme, it’d be of restraint. Deprivation. The things I didn’t do.

That time when I didn’t say anything when the 9th grade health teacher assumed I’d plagiarized a research paper.

The time when the coworker said she didn’t see me as a person of color.

When my voice teacher said she didn’t see race and didn’t think my being Latina was important.

When my dental hygienist said she wasn’t OK with immigrants who just sat around and did nothing.

I’ve held my tongue many times. I guess it usually happens when the ground is uneven—it’s a teacher, a superior, or someone with metal tools inside my mouth. But holding my tongue isn’t the only way I’ve practiced restraint.

One of the biggest ways is my decision to not date when I was younger. A decision that lasted into adulthood.

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I was raised very Christian and the way it was presented to me—filled with rules and requirements—worked. I love rules. I followed them to a T. After all, when we do certain things for God, He replies with good things back, right?

I was taught that if I served in church for long enough and avoided guys and “set myself apart” and “dated Jesus” and bettered myself enough, I would get married at like the latest 24. Hence my only ever having one boyfriend.

I said no to dates. I avoided romance. I admit I even went so far as using my weight-gain as a way to avoid attraction from any guy. I did it because I thought it was what God wanted, you know?

And I’m at a point now where I’m realizing that the purity culture I was brought up in was all a sham. (I’m embarrassed it took me so long to see it.) It was the way the Church knew to control us and keep us from admitting our sexuality. The worst part? Though guys like Josh Harris have admitted their mistake, the Church has yet to admit to it.

But what do I expect? A collective apology?

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Well, yeah. That’d be great. But these are people who don’t even admit to their involvement in the oppression of black people. So I won’t hold my breath.

Meanwhile, I’m only responsible for myself. And I’m a rigid, awkward, scared-of-men, self-aware, overthinking woman with father abandonment issues. Who barely knows how to talk to single men. Who wonders if I’ll ever be able to find someone who shares my same core values and is also Christian. (I admit I feel more at home with people who share my political beliefs than my faith. I’d rather be in a room of people who wouldn’t call me “an illegal.”)

And I’m someone who is tired of having my life themes be restraint and deprivation. I want to be known for things I have done, not things I haven’t.

But what does that even look like? Where do I start?

I don’t know. And this is where I end this. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Pizza Meetings

We used to meet every month or so over affordable Fellini’s pizza, the four of us. Then Tai moved away and we stopped meeting. But today we reunited for dinner. Same place. 

Tai is part Latinx and part black. Frances is black and from Mississippi. Quiana is part Japanese, part Latinx and part black. I’m Brazilian. It’s a fun mix. 

We spend a few moments in the beginning catching up and eating our slices, but once that’s over we dive into why we’re really here: for conversation about politics and the state of our society. 

Things the people sitting around us probably overheard:

“God sure loves telling women to give up their education and careers! Way to stick to the status quo, God!”

“He never seems to ask that from men, though.”

“Why is it ok to make fun of rednecks? That’s something I need to check myself on.”

“Frances is ahead of everyone when it comes to Twitter. Or podcasts. Or tv shows.”

“What if I run for office and get stuck in California?”

“You won’t get stuck. You’re not Marco Rubio and Florida.”

“He’s woke. But he’s like a NyQuil sort of woke. He’s a little drowsy.”

“I don’t feel like it’s my job to inform oppressive people that they’re oppressive.”

Let’s just say we were trying to make sure we adjusted our volume according to who was sitting around us.  

There’s just something about meeting up with people who respect what you say, who listen, and who generally agree with you. I left feeling like these are people who genuinely enjoy being around me, who are happy to see me arrive and sad to see me go (but glad to watch me leave 😁😉). And I want to make sure I surround myself with people like that more often. 

Here’s a picture of the lipgloss Quiana keeps in her purse. Is it a problem? You decide. 

I’m in Chicago!

And leaving today. 

I came to visit my friend Laura. We got to spend some time in the city—she writing her preliminary review for grad school, and me wandering around Grant Park. But, let’s be honest, I’m a fast walker. I don’t “wander.”

First of all, can we talk about the murals??

Laura is convinced the middle woman is Niki Minaj. 


We had Chicago pizza at Giordano’s. 


It was delicious. But, to be honest, I may need a month break from cheese+bread now. It’s definitely just a cheese pie lol

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday. 


It was pretty great. Laura’s favorite part was the genetics area and the baby chicks. I liked anything I could interact with. 

Before wandering the city, we had breakfast with my friend from middle school who just happened to be in Chicago. 


It’s weird because we meet up randomly like every 5 years. 

Downtown Chicago is beautiful! And overwhelming. 


I feel like I can handle Atlanta’s skyline. I can position myself in relation to it. But Chicago’s?? 😳 no. 


This was fun to walk through:


And Lake Michigan is like….serious

As I made my way back to Stan’s to meet with Laura, I realized I hadn’t seen the bean yet 

After a lemon pistachio donut and an hor-chair-ta, I made my way out again toward the bean. 



It was a total of four hours walking around. Needless to say, I was pooped. But I didn’t have my Fitbit so it was all for naught. 

I ended the day with dinner with my hosts.  

Oh, and there’s Laura and Shey’s cat, Candy Cane. She secretly loves me. Here she is leaning on my shoes this morning. 


True love. It was a great trip. And I’m so thankful for Laura. 9 years of friendship, 5 pets, 4 universities, 2 states, 1 marriage, and countless phone conversations. ❤️

Next time I’ll come for Kanye’s fireworks on Lake Michigan. 

A Short Lesson in Bullying

I used to tell my elementary schoolers: If you make a joke about him and you’re both laughing, then it’s a joke. If you’re the only one laughing, then it’s bullying.

Simple.

I’d see one little boy crying and the other laughing at him. I’d go up to them and ask what was happening. The laughing boy, sensing peril, would jump to explain. He’d made a simple joke, it was supposed to be funny. He didn’t know why the other boy was crying. The other boy would admit to being hurt by the joke.

Upon further inspection, I’d find out the joke was at the crying boy’s expense. It was about some shortcoming found in his looks or the way he spoke or the shoes he was wearing. And after the boy expressed his hurt, the laughing boy would insist that the offense wasn’t warranted. Crying Boy shouldn’t be hurt. Laughing Boy might pile on to the joke to prove a point, or tell him to stop crying, or get angry that the boy was hurt, or all those things at once.

So, maybe LB never meant it to be offensive. Never meant to make CB cry. But it was, and he did. A better and dignifying response? “I’m sorry that it hurt you. I didn’t mean it that way. I’ll be more aware next time.”

Because any attempt at explaining why CB shouldn’t feel what he’s feeling sounds dismissive. That conversation should come at a later time.

I say all of this because of the olympics being held in Brazil. I’ve gotten so tired at jokes made about my country’s shortcomings by Americans. I’m not laughing.

Another lesson in bullying: If you’re joking down (looking at someone you’re “superior” to and calling out their shortcomings to be funny), then it’s no longer joking. It’s mocking. If you’re American making jokes about Rio being poor? Or about how we have a Zika epidemic affecting a generation of babies? How would you feel if I replied with: Our waters may be dirty, but I bet they’re better than Flint‘s? No, right? Just no.

I can make fun of Phelps’s ears all I want. It won’t matter. He’s basically the son of Poseidon.

So, you see, joking up is different.

As the Olympics continue in Rio, I’m not asking you to do research on the economic disparities of my country. I don’t want you to inform yourself on the tense political climate with a president facing impeachment and an interim president making too many big decisions. Don’t look up what favelas are. I don’t even want you to hold back celebration of USA’s remarkable performance this year.

Just, when I say a joke you made about my country’s shortcomings was hurtful, just say sorry and don’t try to tell me why I shouldn’t be upset.

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Rafaela Silva, from Cidade de Deus (City of God favela made famous by the movie), wins the first gold medal for Brazil in 2016 Olympics.

On Giving Back

“When you work with undocumented students,” she said to the group, “You have to encourage them a lot. They’re used to giving up on themselves. Many of them finish the whole college application but then decide to not submit it.”

I sat at a table with two nerdy white guys and a Puerto Rican girl around my age, a few older white men, and a white girl. One man was retired and wanted something to do. Another, you could tell had been a hippy since his 20s. The girl was applying to grad school. One of the guys was originally from Chicago and was there to talk to us about the ACT. We were all there for orientation.

“They’re just like regular high schoolers. They care about what they look like, and wanna date, and have smart phones. But they’ve experienced more disappointment than the average American student. They’ve grown up hearing they don’t belong, being told No over and over again. A majority of our job is to make sure we’re encouraging them.”

I wanted to cry. Here I was, getting involved with Freedom University, preparing to train undocumented students on the SAT. And here was this woman who runs the program talking to me about how hard these kids have it. About what they need.

Where were they 10 years ago?

Imagine if they’d been around 15 years ago for my sister Mara.

15 years ago, we didn’t know what to do after high school. We were raised in the suburb with majority white Americans. The high school counselors weren’t ready to help us. When I had my review in 11th grade, after the counselor told me I was in good shape and should start looking into FAFSA, I told him I was undocumented. First, he didn’t really know what that meant. When I explained it to him, he said “Sorry, then. I don’t know how to help you.”

We didn’t know anything about the SAT. Was it not just a test they give you during the school year? We had to schedule it? We had to pay? There were ways to study? We found all this out late. Everyone was ahead of my sister.

Her counselor, early on in high school, removed her from the college prep track because she thought Mara should be a cook. When she graduated, she didn’t even know she hadn’t been on the right track that would allow her to go to college.

“So, do they speak English?” one of the older men asked.

“Yes! These kids have been here most their lives,” she seemed frustrated with the question, “A majority of them come to the US between the ages of 2 and 6. They were raised here. They speak English.”

And I’m happy I get to do this now. To give to these students what I never had. But there is a sadness inside me I can’t let go of. The what-ifs. The loss. The timing.

Now go read this article:

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NPR’s article on Larissa Martinez and Mayte Lara Ibarra. Chelsea Beck/NPR.

Intimidating or nah?

“You’re so smart,” my manager tells me, leaning back on his chair, rubbing his hand on his face.

“Oh?”

“Yeah…you’re witty. It’s more than just being smart. It’s smart and quick. How is he supposed to keep up with you?”

This about a guy he’d barely met. And about all guys, really. How can anyone ever keep up with me? And here’s the main “problem,” I’m not just “smart.” I speak. I just gather aaaaaalll that smartness together and I squeeze it from my brain and out of my big mouth.

This is not the first time my education or intelligence level is seen as a negative, usually relationally. And, you guys, I’m telling you, I’m pretty emotionally and socially intelligent! I swear I’m normal. So it’s not that I become awkward (my awkwardness is endearing and makes people like me better), or that I am unable to relate to others and they’re unable to relate to me. The main concern is that I become too intimidating to those around me.

Mainly men. Because I’m single.

In church, I became a leader. Then I became a leader of leaders. And suddenly my Christianity(?), my faith(?), my leadership skills(?) became too intimidating to the single guys in that same ministry.

“Am I too smart for guys?” I blurted during dinner later that day. My mom and stepdad were going to Brazil for an uncle’s wedding and my sister and I went to say goodbye over steak, rice and beans. I looked at my stepfather.

“You certainly are very intelligent. And that can be intimidating to some men,” he began, making eye contact. I’m sure he was remembering times when he’d felt intimidated in some discussion.

“But it’s not just that you’re intelligent. You have your opinions,” that drew chuckles, “and you say your opinions. And some men are definitely intimidated by that.”

I looked down at my food for a few minutes without saying anything.

“So what do I do?” I asked.

“About this? Be completely yourself. And someone won’t be intimidated. He’ll find it very appealing,” he smiled. And I wondered if he’d feel the same way for my mom if she were like me.

But it was the right answer. Because it’s a feminist answer. Because a man isn’t told to tone his well-informed opinions and intelligence down for women. Because I shouldn’t have to change myself in order to be with anybody, much less a man I’d plan on spending the rest of my life with.

Of course, delivery is a thing. And I’m constantly thinking about timing and tone and wording. Of course.

But it was also the right answer because how does one even do that? How does one change? Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been curious. I’ve read. I’ve asked questions and I’ve formed opinions. Sometimes too much. Sometimes I was the only one wondering. And nobody wants to be the odd one out. And if I knew how to change, to be honest…? Maybe I would change. Not for some man. But for my family. Because maybe it takes some kind of “leaving” in order to go beyond the limitations your family has set for themselves. But in the leaving of that small town or small-mindedness, what are you really leaving? What do you lose? But if I start unpacking that, this will be too long.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll do some investigative work with some of my guy friends to figure out what is actually going on with them.

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