It is 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I am rushing home before Mami wakes up to start her weekend cleaning. Although I am a grown woman, I know if she catches me sneaking back into the house, she will ask me where I have been and with whom. I don’t want to explain that I’ve been cuddling with my “situationship” for the last few hours. I’ll end up making up a story about a homegirl who had novio problems and needed my shoulder to cry on. Mami will laugh and ask “Segura that it is isn’t YOUR novio?” as I duck into my room.
My once-boyfriend-who-now-resembles-something-of-a-boyfriend-but-not-quite called me in the middle of the night. I threw on some sweats and flip flops and jumped in an Uber from LA to Anaheim – a routine we’ve mastered for the last five years. I forget how long it’s been since we broke up for good. We blamed our trust issues and lack of communication. I swore I was done with him and stuck by it, for a while. Until I couldn’t take how much I missed him. It is the age-old story: I love him; he loves me; he hurts me; I hurt him; I say I can’t stand him; he says the same; we argue until one of us asks the question that makes it all come to screeching halt, “What are we doing?” It’s easier to not give us a name or expectations. I am a woman with a hectic career and social life, and he is juggling work and school. Why complicate our romance with labels?
During a work trip to San Jose, I met Aurora. She is smart, funny, ambitious, and beautiful. We spoke for hours about a business she is developing for other Latinas. After we moved our conversation from a coffee shop to a sushi restaurant, I leaned over the table and asked: “So, what about your love life? Is there anyone?” She laughed, nodded, and told me about a man she’s been seeing for a couple of years. They often spend nights together and talk daily, but they have no labels and no intention of setting them. It made perfect sense. She seems like a woman who has complete control over her life. She’s figured relationships out. Why not choose what feels like freedom?
Whenever I feel like I have this sexually liberated woman thing down, here comes my mami and all her consejos about men she’s ingrained into my soul. I can hear her loud and clear: “If you let a man sleep with you outside of a traditional relationship, you are giving him everything for free.”
It’s like the minute I hear her, this little hurricane in my chest starts rattling all the windows and asking for things I have told myself I don’t want. I call my situationship and demand we talk. We end up in one of our marathon arguments where I find myself yelling, “OF COURSE, I LOVE YOU. IF I DIDN’T LOVE YOU, I WOULDN’T UBER TO ORANGE COUNTY!!!” This is followed by my lover asking what it is that I want. The answer is always the same, “I do not know.”
The truth is this: I am accustomed to my single life. I dedicate my days to my family, friends, and work. I eat wherever I want to eat. I only ever check one calendar, my own. I can leave Los Angeles for weeks without worrying about a partner and his wandering eye. I tried on the girlfriend role before. I really liked it, but it always hurt to take it off. I’ve been cheated on, led on, manipulated, and disappointed by different boyfriends in the past. I have caused harm to men I’ve dated, too. A full-blown relationship with all its responsibility feels too heavy to wear. There has to be a middle ground.
I wonder if Mami ever intended to marry Papi. Maybe they were also meant to be something casual, like occasional beach picnics and Sunday carne asadas. When my parents met, Mami was a live-in nanny to a family in Pacific Palisades. Her only goal was to work hard and send money to her mother in El Salvador. Papi was not part of the plan. He was a pleasant distraction she went home to on the weekends. When I was born, my mother was the age I am now. I smile at the idea of her making out with her lover on the sand and my abuela’s voice coming loud and clear through her body as if on loudspeakers: “If you give him everything for free, he won’t want to marry you!” Mami let Papi have it all for free. I know this because I showed up and turned their uncomplicated love into a messy marriage.
I have learned that we all want to love for the sake of loving. Sometimes circumstance complicates things. We meet someone, and we want it all, only to find out they don’t. Perhaps, the only middle ground we share is the desire to have a warm body next to ours regularly. Other times we run into a person that gets us to stop trying to make sense of anything. That is the situation I am willing to give up all relationships for, the one that tells me “give me everything and tomorrow we will figure out the rest.” For that, I’ll sneak into my home at 7 a.m. every Saturday sin vergüenza.