When I was 13, my grandmothers (“Abuelita” on Mami’s side and “Mamá” on Papi’s side) decided to tell me how my life would play out in 7 steps. Now these are two women who grew up in the mountains of rural Puerto Rico where life just seemed as simple as the milk you put in coffee to make, Café con Leche. Ready, here it goes: first and foremost,
1) Make sure you go to college;
2) Study hard;
3) Get good grades;
4) Find a good job;
5) Find yourself a nice man;
6) Get married;
7) Start your family:
And there you had it. There was never any mention of anything in-between, and as the dutiful and responsible child I was, I made sure to make note of this writing it in a journal to remind myself just in case I got off track. The countless Disney films I grew up watching also reinforced this idea. Dashing, chiseled face, bronzed skin, flowing hair, well mannered, on a horse and in shining armor; that is how I remember Prince Charming. From Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, and even Ariel who found Eric by making a deal that left her speechless, everyone at the end always found their Prince Charming and lived happily ever after.
However, unlike my grandmothers and parents, I was not raised in Puerto Rico. I grew up in the United States which to me is not a “melting pot”, but what I like to think of as a nice big tossed salad with the dressing joining everything. But, this did get me thinking as to who my Prince Charming could be.
My parents had large families on both sides. Latinos marrying Latinas was and still continues to be the norm and to a certain extent, expectation. It is an unwritten rule that is simply understood, much like the belief that women should get married and have children. I can see why one tends to seek romance within his or her same ethnic group or region. It makes sense as people would more or less share the same religious beliefs, music, food, language, cultural traditions and practices – “Once” in Chile, Tejo in Colombia, the symbolism of dominoes in the Caribbean and the delicacy that guinea pig is thought of in Ecuador and parts of Peru. However, despite the fact Latinos all fall under the same umbrella and share the same or similar beliefs and practices, ethnicity, is the one characteristic that will always be analyzed, dissected and judged and can play a detrimental role in finding Prince Charming.
Throughout my pre-teen, teen and college years, I had crushes on, liked and dated boys/men from many different walks of life and backgrounds. I was fortunate to have relatively lenient parents who instilled good values and trusted me to make good judgments. I was also fortunate that I did not have added pressure placed on me as to who I should or could see and date. Not until I had personally witnessed and discussed with some relatives and friends the subject at hand, did I realize how much of an effect race could have on individuals and families.
Societal conventions are a funny notion. Some people have made it their life’s mission to change them, some agree with them as they are, some don’t care either way and some will just adapt and go with the flow. I am confident to say that like all of you who will read this post, I have felt the butterflies, been smitten, fallen in love, had my heart broken and have broken hearts as well. And even with all of the emotions I’ve felt, trust given, leaps of faith taken, and trial and errors I’ve experienced, ethnicity never had anything to do with it.
Perhaps it was being exposed to different ethnicities at an early age and seeing Latinos dating non-Latinos, although not fully accepted, is tolerated more so now than before. Whatever the reason, I believe we should forget societal conventions and cultural ideologies and follow one’s true confidant in this twisted game of love and listen to the heart. Parents and parenting styles will differ, and I by no means am saying mine were the quintessential example of the ideal parenting model. But many of us will become parents and it is important to support and nurture the child’s journey, but to also keep a safe distance and let things fall into place as they should without taking into account ethnicity. Just like Princess Fiona, Belle and Esmeralda, having patience and being open minded is essential as we never know who will fill the shoes of Prince Charming.