Once, a neighbor caught my novio and I making out by my lemon trees. The neighbor told Mami that I was “una muchachita suelta.” We never spoke about it at home.

Love works a little differently than how my family knows it. I am forever translating modern romance to my 68-year-old Salvadoran mami. She shakes her head at my dating apps and endless texting. I know by heart the stories of men who visited my grandmother just to ask permission to TALK to Mami. I don’t bring my lovers home. I don’t know how to explain that there are different stages to dating: First we chill; then, we become a situationship, and if we make it, finally, the relationship – followed by the anticipated couple selfie for your Instagram story.

As a young girl, I used to watch TV shows with women taking over cities and dating unapologetically. I considered it a form of witchcraft a brown girl like me would never know. I didn’t know women of color could be just as bold. My first heartbreak happened at 16 years old when my boyfriend dumped me to date someone else. I came home and sat next to my mother on the couch. She was watching a novela about an ugly girl who fell in love with her boss, who had hurt her. I needed to cry so badly. I wanted to reach over and hold my mami’s hand, but that is not the relationship we had. Instead, I blinked back tears and swallowed the knot in my throat.

From dating apps to situationships to deciding when is it okay to bring the new boo home, we are all navigating new worlds together.

Romantic love and sex weren’t things we discussed at home. I saved those stories for my homegirls at school. Through them, I learned about orgasms and condoms. We shared and compared romances and flings. We confided in each other during bathroom visits, in the back seats of classrooms, during bus rides where I’d cry into my friends’ arms and dry my face before my stop.

Mami taught my sisters and me that men only want one thing and it was our job not to give it to them. We weren’t supposed to look for boys either. We had to wait to be chosen, for the right one to come along and make decent women out of us. Diosito wanted it that way, and we were supposed to be good Catholic girls. Mami didn’t know I was sneaking my boyfriend into the house and my bed every night.

Fast forward to my adulthood and the nights where I leave the house as my mother heads to bed: “Where are you going?” she’d say. “Por alli,” I’d respond.

New loves and heartbreaks made their way into shared Uber rides to and from the club with my girls. Weekdays are punctuated with loud conversations on the phone about sexual encounters, frustrated situationships, the wound that won’t heal, the sudden crush, the date that forgot to mention his wife. Sunday Brunch with homegirls is spent deciding to dump all our partners for a year or talking a reluctant amiga into giving that one promising crush a chance. Nowadays, I am a full-blown loose woman.

I like to think of this column as my Sex and the City – except I’m brown, bilingual, and not as wealthy.

I am a Salvadoran poet from Los Angeles, a hopeless romantic, and absolutely proud to be una mujer Suelta. I love writing about dating in this big city, about how our culture colors the way we give our hearts away, the battles we have had to win to become sexually empowered and how we’ve had to translate our lives for our parents. From dating apps to situationships to deciding when is it okay to bring the new boo home, we are all navigating new worlds together. I like to think of this column as my Sex and the City – except I’m brown, bilingual, and not as wealthy, and instead of Manolos, I can’t stop purchasing Fenty.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I am on a writing retreat somewhere in the woods of New York state. It’s snowing, and Los Angeles along with all my past lovers are thousands of miles away. I think of the young woman I once was. I remember the confusions of romance, dating, and sex. I am still out here figuring it out; the difference is that instead of a bathroom or backseat of a bus, I have Suelta, and now, I have you.

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