I don’t have a boyfriend. I often say I don’t want one. I can’t remember the last time I had an official partner. I have been single for so long that I can’t imagine sharing a schedule with someone else. I come and go as I please. I stay out late, and I post half-nude pictures of myself on Instagram without having to warn my darling. My plus ones to most events are other chronically single friends. My family stopped asking about el novio years ago. I announce that I am free, and most days, it is as delicious as it sounds.
A few weeks ago, my girls and I gathered together to say farewell to one of our dearest friends heading off to grad school. As the night slowed down and folks began to leave, I was left behind with two of my friends and their boyfriends. We sat around a table drinking and chatting. Observing two sets of folks in love was as equally sweet as it was annoying. One friend kept checking in on her partner, worried that he wasn’t enjoying himself. The other couple murmured amongst themselves in intervals. I talked and talked, as the single friend, I know it’s my job to keep folks entertained with my dating stories, the weirdos, the crushes, the ex that is lurking in the shadows of my social media radius. Eventually, the conversation shifted back to our friend, who is leaving us for New York City. Her boyfriend is packing up his life and leaving our warm and familiar Los Angeles for her.
I sighed. That is amor del bueno.
Not too far beneath my single-woman-that-needs-no-man armor lives the hopeless romantic Latina that was raised on impossible love stories: novelas.
I felt a sharp pinch somewhere deep inside of me. Not too far beneath my single-woman-that-needs-no-man armor lives the hopeless romantic Latina that was raised on impossible love stories: novelas. María Mercedes was a boss woman supporting her entire family until she met her galan, Jorge Luis del Olmo. She surrendered all her strength just to kiss his soft-boiled egg face. Maria la del Barrio was a spunky young woman willing to kick anyone’s ass until she met her misogynist sweetheart Luis Fernando de la Vega Montenegro, for whom she tamed her fists. I am still traumatized by all the Rebelde love triangles, where Mía and Roberta sobbed over boys for hours and then fought each other for many more.
I know love and have seen its teeth and claws, waited for it with held breath, surrendered to its impossible mood swings, loved men gluttonously. I’ve been in a situationship with a man for six years and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I tell folks that this kind of relationship is easy; it requires no responsibility, no maintenance. I don’t talk about our hypothetical secret conversations: The imagined house I will buy one day and the room we will turn into his man cave; how we argue about our unborn children and what he won’t be allowed to name them. We carve ourselves into each other’s lives, knowing we don’t mean to fully step into our places. I say that I am free, and this time, the taste of it stings my jaws.
I often wonder if there is a middle ground for women who date men. Can we enter monogamous and fully committed relationships without having to compromise some part of ourselves? Is it our responsibility to juggle our lives and theirs? Is the companionship worth clipping our wings? Can I live with someone and still remain my own home? What can a long term relationship give me that my best friends aren’t already giving me?
My mother gave my father her whole life, and then he died. Sometimes, I want to ask her if it was worth all the sacrifice. I want to know if his love was worth the grief. My grandmother gave birth to eight children with my grandfather, and he also passed away. She lived decades alone raising their children and then, her grandchildren. She never remarried. She filled her house with mangos and visiting grandkids. What if I discovered the shortcut? If I stay single, I will never widow. I can be 57 years old, still coming home whenever my body decides we need our bed. I can be 60 with my own schedule. No husband. Perhaps a lover in his own home, located on a private street in a city far away enough to keep me free.
I don’t have a boyfriend. I often say I don’t want one. I watch my friend and her boyfriend pack their life and love into their car and head east. My fingers ache at the sight of that beauty. Amor del bueno. I believe in it, but I believe in me more. I am my greatest love, after all. I fought through years of depression and self hate to be happy with my solitude. I am a fat woman that is finally calling herself home. I earned my alone. I am happy here.
Sometimes I pray that somewhere in the universe, there is a man that will ride in like high tide willing to give me everything I could ever want. I might give in; I might not. I might make it to 57 and remain single. I will be sitting at a bar, my salt-and-pepper hair loose around my shoulders when some mysterious man asks about my spouse. I will laugh a smoldering laugh and ask “Husband? Y eso con que se come?”