In a sea of olive skin and dark eyes, there’s a tuft of blonde hair with baby blues. That guy with blue eyes is my person. At every christening, wedding, or birthday party, where there’s me, there’s my boyfriend. We go together without thinking, and I feel fortunate that I’m at a point in my life where bringing my boyfriend to family events is a given.
Throughout my dating life I’ve been asked “What you don’t like Latinos?” and “Will you ever date someone who isn’t white?” by friends and family alike.
For those asking: I do, and I have, but not with the frequency that the people asking those questions would like.
My grandparents came to the mainland in the 1950s and my great-grandfather, though born in Puerto Rico, was still considered a citizen of Spain. In comparison, his family lineage in the U.S. goes so far back that you can trace it to the Mayflower.
Often, I get called an “Oreo,” too white-minded to be Latina, and too dark-skinned to be white. I’m conscious of our differences, but I don’t date my boyfriend to be a living educational exhibit. I refuse to be fetishized or exoticized. I am who I am.
Even so, I have a lot to learn in terms of how I project some old cultural customs, be they sexist or racist, onto people I love.
My boyfriend and I aren’t afraid to talk about it as a couple or as friends.
The upbringing I have had, as traditional as it is, has led me to be judgmental, private, and less open. Meanwhile, he is open to my family and my culture. Where he jumps head-first, I’m hesitant to do the same because I’m afraid to lose sight of who I am.
Comments on my being one half of an interracial couple have always made me feel like my romantic relationships aren’t my own, and that to be in one, it had to please the people around me.
Yes, I do believe that your friends and family ultimately want the best for you. And yes, Latino families are sometimes so on our cases we don’t know where we end and they begin. It’s the positive danger of coming from a culture that’s close-knit, regardless of whether or not you want it to be. But, you learn to work with and around it.
I’m sure that when my loved ones ask me these questions, they do so less out of malice, and more of concern. Maybe to them, by being with someone who doesn’t share my cultural upbringing, I’m missing out on the best parts of my heritage.
In this relationship, I do see color.
We are two completely different people. Racially, and in turn socioeconomically. These two things play a key role in our relationship. Our interactions consist in “we don’t do that” or “you can’t say that,” and “when you say that, you sound like,” fill in the blank.
I call him out when he says something culturally insensitive or racially charged. I tell him when his privilege is showing. He lets me know when my upbringing doesn’t allow me to express thoughts and ideas I have due to fear or being shut out by others in my Latino community.
My boyfriend was never a dance partner at a quinceanera, he has never seen a quenepa up-close, and bendiciones to the elders was a foreign concept that he’s continually being introduced to. But although he’s new to all of those things, he embraces them.
When I say that, I don’t mean that he works to be or act Latino.
I do mean that he works to see the value in these things that are foreign to him, but non-negotiable as part of my life, and in turn, our partnership.
He seeks out this understanding. He asks questions about what he can’t relate to through personal experience and admits that there’s more to the Latino community than he realizes.
Together, we are on a journey to unlearn the bad and embrace the good in both of us. It’s hard, it’s messy, and there are fights. But this is the future, one of color-conscious love that, as a result, allows the best of us to shine through.
As far as siblings go, the special bond between sisters is one that’s hard to explain. If you have a sister, then you know that there are certain things you can get away with doing to her that none of your other friends would ever let you live down, or forget. Some of us have messed with our hermanitas, done the unforgivable, and lived to tell the tale.
Here are some things you’ve probably done that, otherwise, would have ended some friendships.
1.Tell her you hate how she looks.
Credit: Saturday Night Live, NBC
Friends don’t let friends look like basura in public. To some, you’d be called a hater for noticing that they’re slacking in the fashion department. We love our sisters, and it’s because we love them that we want to make sure that they always feel—and look—their best. While others might hold a grudge, with your sis you know it’s all love.
2. Get into a physical fight.
Credit: Modern Family, ABC
If you catch these hands with anyone else, it’s usually the end of a relationship. But with a sister, that’s all just a part of life, even if Mamí hates it.
Money, clothes, shoes, food—what’s hers is mine, right? Although there are times that you can’t stand what she’s wearing, it only makes sense that somebody related to you has such great taste. (At least sometimes.)
4. Eat her food without being expected to pay her back.
You know how they say money is the root of all problems? Some friendships add up to nothing more than nickles and dimes, if you catch our drift. But when you grew up under the same roof, chances are your taste buds are pretty in sync. What good is having a sister if she doesn’t read your mind and order that one other thing you’ve been eyeing on the menu?
5. Encroach on her “me” time and personal space.
Credit: The Voice, NBC
Like climbing into her bed and sleep with the lights in after a scary movie. When you can’t stomach something so terrifying, but are a little too embarrassed to squeeze into a parent’s bed, snuggling up to your sister is the perfect protection. Plus, you can sacrifice her to the monsters in the closet or under the bed if anything goes south.
5. Get her in trouble with the law…almost.
If you haven’t done it yet, you’ll do it soon. It might not be right, but in the right situation, there’s only one person you could pull this off with—without getting in too much trouble. Whether you’re an older or younger sister, an old license or beat-up school I.D. can get your favorite plus one in on the action. It’s especially helpful for sisters who love doing just about anything together.
6. Play wingman and get it wrong.
Nobody knows you like your sister, supposedly. She’s seen you through your first infatuations, rebounds, and most devastating heartbreaks. Who better to introduce you to a new amiguito at the bar or curate the cutest dating app profile pictures for your new profile? At least until they ghost you…
7. Fight and act like you never fought.
Outside of familia, that’s considered fake AF. But with a sister, you can fight about anything from this list, and chances are that five minutes later you’ll be wandering into each other’s rooms to share nail polish and binge Netflix. Few things are worth fighting over with familia.
8. Spread lies.
Growing up and even now, a sister can be your closest confidant and biggest cover-up. When you’re not in class like you said you were when you spent the money on some pendejadas when you said you wouldn’t, and yes, even when you get back together with that person your mom hates, your sister will be the one to have your back. And when the time comes, you’ll do the same for her and make sure you’ve both got the story straight.
9. Challenge her with the truth.
We all hate to be told about ourselves. While tough love may end in heartache in other relationships, with sisters, being slapped back into reality with some truth is a blessing in disguise.
10. Expose her secrets.
In friendships of all kinds, we expect to be able to talk about the hard things and not be judged. A sister’s room especially should be an open door, a safe space. But, there are times when your sis shares something with you that could be dangerous to herself or others, and you have to break that seal of confidentiality to keep her safe. Some of us have said goodbye to old friends by putting their well-being first and having it be as interpreted as nosiness. Luckily, being lovingly nosy comes with the sister territory.
11. Ignore her.
Flaking, being left on red, or forgetting to show up to things would bother any person. When it comes to your sister, the fact that you know you’ll talk to her or see her soon puts less pressure on both of you to keep up appearances and expectations.
12. Gossip about her.
Credit: Jenny Lorenzo
Whether you are the oldest or the youngest, sometimes your sister just gets on your freaking nerves. At a certain point, you have to tell somebody! The good part about gossiping about your hermana is chances are, whatever you’re saying to somebody else is probably something you’ve already said to her face.
13. Act differently around her.
We all have an outside persona that we project to the rest of the world. Our coworkers, friends, and classmates know one side of us, while our sisters know another. Instead of being called two-faced, with our best friends since birth we get to be our true selves with no negative consequences.
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