It’s Wednesday, and I am sitting at one of my favorite bars. I Ubered there and ordered myself a drink while waiting for my date. The room is dim, and the music is loud. My acrylic nails catch the light while circling the glass. Both my hands are adorned with gold rings, and large gold hoops hang from my ears. I am wearing a black lace cropped top and black leggings that are matched perfectly with my red lipstick. Before I left the house, my sister says that I look expensive and I say that is exactly what I was aiming for. My date walks in and spots me on the couch, I smile and can see he is nervous.
We had met a few months ago at another bar. A few of my friends were DJing, and my girls and I had gone to support. He says he follows me on Instagram and was a fan of my poetry. We exchanged information and had been trying to arrange this meeting for a while. Each time he reached out, I wasn’t in town. I had been on tour promoting my latest book, and my career had recently been a whirlwind of incredible opportunities. I hardly had time to catch up with anyone, but I knew I was interested, so I made the miracle of a date happen.
We spoke for a while, I asked him about his business, his hobbies, his family. He was charming, and I am a sucker for a man that can make me laugh. We decided to leave the bar and head somewhere less noisy; we wanted to hear each other talk. He drove us to a restaurant, and once we settled in, the conversation took a strange turn. He began mentioning my sizable online following, my success, my hectic schedule. He hid his reproaches in humor, and I could feel my interest slowly evaporating. The date ended when the restaurant closed, and I dismissed his remarks. It had been a while since I had been on a date, let alone met a new man. I chalked it all up to nerves.
The fool listed his recent romantic escapades.
Our second date wasn’t any better. The fool listed his recent romantic escapades. Announced he had sex with someone three days before our meeting. When I wasn’t responsive, he pointed out the nature of my work: Wasn’t I a sexually liberated woman that didn’t believe in double standards? I was turned off and disappointed.
The last nail in the coffin was a few weeks later. We were texting about my previous bit of travels. I mentioned that I had a flight canceled but luckily got fully refunded and had some perks added. He responded, “Well, you ARE Yesika Salgado. You are used to getting whatever you want.” I laughed, and he brought up my success again. The conversation ended.
At a family party, I mention my frustrations with dating to my uncle when he asks, “y el novio?” My Tío cackles and says, “What do you expect when you brag about your books online?” I could feel all my blood rush to my face, and my tongue beginning to swell with rage. For the sake of the party, I drop the conversation and find my cousin, Jackie.
Jackie and I are both women over 30. Let me correct myself: We are both SINGLE women over 30. We work hard and enjoy our money just as hard. Any given weekday, you can find us together at Olive Garden drinking mango martinis and devouring breadsticks after working up an appetite shopping for clothes and makeup. We travel together, arrange staycations, and spoil our nieces and nephews. We are living good lives – unless you ask our family. At any get-together, murmurs follow us. We are pobrecitas that will never have husbands or children. Never mind that Jackie is the first person in our family to receive a degree, an army veteran, and the most financially stable person I know. Never mind that I have made a career out of my poetry, have been on national television and publications, and get to travel the country. We don’t have husbands, and we have ruined our chances of finding one because we are too independent.
We are living good lives – unless you ask our family.
Growing up, both my parents worked. Papi paid the rent, his car insurance, and his personal expenses. Mami paid all utilities, groceries, any clothes and shoes her three daughters needed, sent money to her family in El Salvador, and saved for any emergencies. I was told that this was a fair arrangement. Papi would go to work all day and got to come home to dinner on the stove and a clean house. Mami juggled it all. This made her a good woman that loved her husband and children. Mami didn’t get to be anyone outside of that love. She lived for us and only us. Once I was old enough to realize that she had gotten the short end of the stick, I swore that would never be me.
A few nights ago, I was on the phone with my old situationship. After the lousy date with the other man, he and I are on again. My darling is currently in college, studying accounting, and willingly shares his knowledge with me. “When you win, I win,” he says. I smile on my end of the phone. We continue talking about my career, my future publishing plans, the cool interview I got emailed about. He listens. We talk about his new job, his excitement over finally working in his field. I wonder if this is a new kind of love that my family hasn’t heard about yet. One where we both get to be people with dreams and wants. The type of love where a woman gets to shoot for the stars and her partner stands beside her holding her hand, ready for flight or for ricochet. A love where I am allowed to win as big and loud as I can. This must be a part of the dream my family forgot about.