I had my first “real” boyfriend in high school. Even calling him my boyfriend is a stretch seeing as the only places we saw each other were at school, my house with parental supervision (of course) and the very few times I was allowed to go over his house for family functions.
Without fail, my mom would use some age-old dicho to caution me from moving too fast. “Mira Jazmine, why would he buy the cow, if he can get the milk for free?” This saying keeps on coming around now with my current boyfriend of eight years. You’d think that since eight years is a great deal of time that she’d stop, but you’d be wrong. The saying has taken on a new life of its own. First, Latino parents discourage you from moving too quickly, but once you pass the one to two year mark they start rushing you into marriage. “Y la boda cuando es?” The idea of ensuring your place in a man’s life before offering too much of yourself is engrained in our culture. Getting too comfortable is looked down upon because you risk being stuck in that place forever. Or at least that’s what our Latina mothers seem to think.
Whether it’s moving in together as a non-married couple, traveling together, or having sleepovers. It will most certainly guarantee you some side eye. These are just some things that shouldn’t be done until you’ve got a ring on your finger or have walked down the aisle.
This past summer, my boyfriend’s sister (my cuñis as we call each other) was invited to Guatemala with her boyfriend’s family. Her parents, however, were not one bit enthused by the idea. It became the topic of conversation amongst the family. My boyfriend took the stance that it was fine for her to go since he had travelled with my family at 18. He didn’t want to be a hypocrite and say ‘no’ just because she was a girl. You know those double standards girls and boys have within our family? They were beginning to show.
His oldest sister chimed in, “Well, what’s the rush if they love each other and see a future with one another?” Maybe she had a point. If they were meant to be together, then they would have plenty of time in their relationship to travel to Guatemala or wherever else they wanted to. When she met her husband, her parents were much stricter and she wasn’t allowed to travel or spend the night with him. So, she got married. “Wait, so THAT’S the reason you got married?” we all wanted to know. Of course they were in love, she explained, they just wanted to begin their lives together without the judgment of their parents, and with their much-needed stamp of approval.
But how are we supposed to know our partner is Mr. or Mrs. Right if we don’t experience life with them? Outside of going to dinner on the weekends and talking every day, how do we know our person is OUR person? Every relationship is different and our cultural backgrounds certainly dictate how we approach them. Should we really be expected to buy the cow if we don’t know if we actually like the milk? Life experiences shape us and it’s those very experiences that allow relationships to grow and change. Without them, we may find out a little too late that we’re lactose intolerant. It’s better to know what you’re getting yourself into before it’s too late to turn back.
Finding a happy balance between allowing your relationship to bloom and managing your parents’ expectations is a huge part of our relationships as Latinas. If opportunities arise that allow for growth, take advantage of them. Life is a learning process. Don’t be afraid to take chances.