Last Friday night I was chatting with the security guard and some other people who lived in my building. I was stumbling through my Spanish and answering the routine questions that I get a lot lately (i.e., You don’t have kids? You don’t have a boyfriend? You’re not married? How old are you?).
I don’t mind the questions. They don’t bother me or aim an arrow filled with fear at my heart. Although, of course, I would love to find the right life partner (ummm…now), I am not ready in any way, shape, or form to be somebody’s Momma.
When I (attempt) to tell people this, I usually get nods of agreement, you’re still young, and enjoy your time. In other words, people in Venezuela say the same thing I would hear in the United States.
Case in point: at least three times in the three weeks I’ve been back I heard “You’re going to fall in love and get married here!”
I just smile and say maybe. Me even saying maybe to that statement is a huge step because for years I thought I did not want to have kids or get married. A life partner, yes. Marriage, no.
When I moved to a city with eight million people, friends and family were certain the same thing would happen to me while there. I was going to fall in love, get married, and stay in that city with the brutal climate and dazzling artistic scene. Five years later, I was leaving with a heart that was a lot more scarred and a clearer perception of what I did and did not want in a partner.
I don’t know. Life is complicated.
What I do know for sure is that I smiled when my neighbor said I was very nice. You’re not like other Americans, he offered. You’re not stand-offish. He then added, “I think it’s because of your color,” and went into a short summary about blacks’ treatment in the US while the other heads around me bobbed in agreement.
I loved that he said that. I strongly believe that my family’s experience with stereotyping (and, by default, my own experience) has made me a more sensitive and compassionate person. For another person of color to note that was very important to me because I do think there should be more solidarity across the color lines.
I don’t like painting broad strokes or even telling the negative, stereotypical story that has already been told. It’s what people expect (hence why I don’t usually address the very real, but very much reported violence here in Venezuela). So for this man to more or less say he can see that in me, and to think I was a warm person, was an honor.
The group then asked me how I liked Venezuela. It’s an awkward question. I am happier here than I was in the States but it’s because I have strong connections to the States that my happiness, in many ways, even exists.
When times get a little too real here I can always go back home. That’s not an option for the everyday person here.
When inflation increases I can still buy products because I have access to American currency. That’s not an option for the everyday person here.
And, as the same man told me, when danger arises “People will protect you more because you’re foreign.” All I could do was purse my lips and nod in agreement because I know it’s true. I can sense it.
So last Friday night I didn’t have a Katy Perry-esque party that I could not remember, but I still had a good time chatting and communing with some neighbors on the building steps while the balmy breeze brushed away my shyness.