As a single 28 year old Latina, it comes as no surprise that “¿y tu novio?” comes up as a constant question around my family and friends. Not having a partner or significant other by my age begins to make people whisper and wonder what’s wrong with me. As a Latina scholar pursuing a PhD, I am often challenged with the idea of “don’t you want a family?, don’t forget about “the clock”, you’re running out of time, you don’t want to be too old,” and so on. It’s as if people really believe that I do not understand what my decision to pursue a terminal degree means or that I somehow have forgotten that my reproductive system has an invisible clock that society threatens us with. No, I haven’t forgotten and no, I am not devastated by being single or even potentially never having children. In an effort to give power to those of us who have to “deal” with others questioning our decision to become more educated and those who don’t understand my position or decision, I present the narrative of my dating life and how my experiences have shaped me into a WOKE woman.
Now I know what you may be thinking, “oh no here comes another angry Latina with all her sass, gold hoops, and Frida buttons.” In some sense you aren’t totally wrong, I do own gold hoops, Frida pictures hang in my office, and some would say I am sassy as hell, but that in no way discounts my experiences or how I perceive the world. If nothing more it allows me to, as Calderón et al. (2012) describes, “have a foot in both worlds: in both dominant privileged institutions and in [my] marginalized communities” (p.518). With that being said, let us begin:
1. White cisgender male: Tyler*
Tyler was my first serious relationship in college . He was from out of state and came from a very privileged background. Because of him I was able to travel and experience a world that was completely foreign to me and that I wouldn’t have had access to without him. As he pulled me ‘up’ into his world, he worked very hard to become an “honorary Mexican” (his words not mine) to gain access into my world. As the relationship progressed I was introduced to his family and had many different experiences that reminded me I was not one of them. I recognized their intent was never to be rude or make inappropriate comments, but the impact was real and the effects were lasting. This relationship ended because we were growing up in different directions and the cultural and lifestyle differences were just too drastic.
2. Machismo Latino male: Brandon*
Brandon was my longest relationship. He was in and out of my life for around 5 years. Brandon was everything I wanted in a man (or so I thought). He and I came from the same cultural background, were raised in the same religion, and wanted the same things out of life. Unfortunately, Brandon was the typical machismo Latino male. He often tried to control me and all aspects of my life. He was threatened by any and all outside relationships I had and would shame me for being confident and independent. I will say Brandon was the first person to introduce me to systems of oppression and the language surrounding what people of color experience daily, when he took me to see Cornel West speak. That day something sparked inside of me that has been burning bright ever since. This relationship ended because I was unwilling to be submissive and forego my independence or confidence as I became more WOKE, and he was too lost to know who he was or what he wanted.
3. “Other” male of color: Justin*
Justin is my most recent and ongoing relationship. The term relationship is used loosely here, as even as adults we struggle to navigate what it means. Justin was of a mixed background and lived a life of privilege, as his parents worked extremely hard to give their children more than they had growing up. With this lifestyle, Justin was raised to “fit” into the white system and avoid causing waves. Alemán (2009) calls this internalized oppression, which cause Latina/os to turn to “‘survival instincts’ that trigger an ‘unquestioned acceptance of liberal ideology’ that encourages Latina/os to ‘claim a White identity’” (p. 186). Although Justin does not identify as Latino, he still struggles to understand why I get so frustrated or upset at experiences where he will avoid calling out the white supremacist systems at play. Him and I continue to try to find a middle ground as I navigate my WOKENESS.
In writing this, and explaining my past and present relationships, I hope that more people will begin to understand why I don’t need to be constantly questioned or reminded that I am getting older. My ability to obtain a higher education and pursue a PhD is an opportunity I am not willing to give up. I recognize there are sacrifices and challenges that come along with this choice and rest assured I have struggled my way through them. I again rely on the scholars and activists that have come before me and help continue to fuel my fire that was sparked many years ago. To quote the inspirational Rosa Parks, “you must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
*To the men who have traveled in and out of my life, thank you for helping WOKE me and allowing me to pursue a life of passion in destroying white supremacy and don’t worry your names have been changed for the protection.
Alemán, E. (2009). Latcrit educational leadership and advocacy: Struggling over whiteness as property in texas school finance. Equity & Excellence in Education, 42(2), 183-201.doi:10.1080/10665680902744246
Calderón, D., Bernal, D. D., Huber, L. P., Malagón, M. C., & Vélez, V. N. (2012). A chicana feminist epistemology revisited: Cultivating ideas a generation later. Harvard Educational Review, 82(4), 513