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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My Pink Headboard

Dear Future Husband,

Yesterday I painted my queen-sized headboard pink. It’s my first headboard and it’s a hand-me-down. So it needed some work. I went to the store for chalkpaint fully planning on getting a nice neutral color (neutral colors are hard for me), but once I saw all my options, well…I couldn’t help myself. Scandinavian Pink it was. 

I’m writing this because, well, I honestly was thinking about you. Would my future husband be ok with a pink headboard? Shouldn’t I get a neutral color? The ladies helping me pick the color thought so. But I’m at a point right now that I’m tired of holding back because I want to get married one day. 

I’m going to do all the things I want to do, even though I’m single. I know I’m not going off getting artificially inseminated because “I don’t need no man”….  And maybe I’m late. And having a pink headboard isn’t a big deal. But for me it is. 

It’s a choice I made for me. Not for my family. Not for people’s expectations. Not for you. 

And I figured you’re a feminist enough that you’ll be ok with pink.