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.

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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.

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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22 Questions My Friends Would Ask You If You Tried to Date Me

I value what my friends think about any relationship I’m in. (AAAALLLLL the relationships. Because there so many, right? None. There are none. But let us imagine together.) Any crush I have is thoroughly investigated. I want them to like him! My ex boyfriend was like a separate thing from my friends and that was horrible.

So here are 22 questions they’d ask him if he were over for a dinner party or something:

1) Do black lives matter? (Correct answer: Yes. Yes, they do.)

2) Are you a feminist? Like, if you had a bra, would you feel an urge to burn it?

3) Would you go to a gay wedding? (Correct answer: Yes. Yes I would.)

4) Are you pro-refugees?

5) What are your thoughts on immigration?

6) Team Taylor Swift? Or Kimye?

7) Do you like this food? [serves him weird Brazilian food we never eat]

8) Tell me about your relationship with Jesus.

9) Which Harry Potter book is your favorite?

10) Which Hogwarts house did you get officially get sorted into by Pottermore?

11) What’s your MBTI?

12) Do you participate in local elections? If not, how long have you been anti-democracy?

13) Do you jump over obstacles when you trying to walk from point A to point B? Or do you walk around them?

14) What would you wear to a Harry Potter party?

15) Who would you cheer for in the World Cup?

16) What is the Line of Demarcation?

17) What language does Brazil speak?

18) What are your thoughts on Ronald Reagan? Are you pro- CIA coups in other countries?

19) Would a yearly trip to New Orleans for the rest of your life be the best thing ever?

20) Do you like big butts? And can you lie?

21) What is more important: being kind or being funny?

22) When was the last time you spoke with your mom?

These would all be brought up extremely casually in normal conversation, of course.

Also: I started an argument with my stepdad the moment I met him. Was it about religion? Politics? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I just wanted to know how he would behave in an argument. So all arguments are on the table.

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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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