I remember when I was 13 and a friend of mine had just returned from a holiday in Italy with her parents. Back then we would never go to the Italian seaside since the Croatian was just around the corner from Slovenia and companies had special deals on vacation houses on Croatian islands.
But my small and cute friend came back from exotic Italy with a romantic exotic love story. She was mooning about this handsome young man (in her story a young man, in reality a 15 year old boy) who couldn’t speak a word of English except for how beautiful her eyes were and how much he was in love with her. They were kissing under the moonlight and promising each other eternal love.
Even then I had to laugh. We all knew about the flowery speeches of Italian boys which meant nothing. And yet! No girl could help herself not to fall for it nevertheless. Yes, even this girl here, scoffing as she writes, and yet she was no better or stronger or wiser than any of her friends.
I won’t go into details of my own Latin stories which happened around my 40th birthday. You will be able to read them in my book when it comes out in September or October. But I will expend on what I have learned about the Latin culture, especially the Mexican.
In short on my side, I met a Mexican here in London and it ended more than just badly. It ended so badly, that for a moment I started resenting anything Spanish related, couldn’t even hear the language itself anymore. But then I shook myself. Would I really let a bad experience ruin my love for Latin America which I’ve always wanted to visit? And Spanish which I’ve been learning for so long? No, I decided! No, no, no, no, no! So I booked a ticket to Mexico (yes, I wanted to tell his parents what a terrible son they had) and stayed there for 3 months. Just beforehand I was also a month in Buenos Aires.
But by the time I arrived in Veracruz in Mexico, I already had an incredibly great experience in Buenos Aires and only wanted to keep on healing from the wounds and enjoy having my dream come true. I met so many wonderful people in Mexico, I actually wanted to move there. I felt welcome, accepted, loved even.
So I chatted with a lot of people, trying to understand their motivations when it came to love. I’ve found an interesting essay online about the dynamics between men and women in Latin America and I wanted to confirm if the essay was right.
The gist of all problems seems to be trust. A lovely young woman explained to me, no one really trusts each other. The wife not the husband, the husband not the wife…and that attitude carries over to their own children. They love each other dearly, but love does not exist without mistrust. Hm, was that true? Before I go on and make the Latin culture seem hopeless when it comes to love, let me say first that I’ve met some amazing men and women in Mexico and Buenos Aires. And yes, it’s true, there is an energy in these lovely people which makes any feeling seem more intense, love seems to be more intense, jealousy, caring and protecting. It can be a wonderful feeling to be in a relationship with a man from Latin America. But then again love needs to be defined and the way people love in Latin America just wouldn’t work for me in most cases. I wish it did! I’m still drawn to the energy of Mexico and its people. The fact that I let into my life narcissists and difficult examples is down to me alone. I’m sure there are plenty of great men in Latin America which only a healthy woman would let into her life. That definitely wasn’t me a few years ago. Ah well, let’s move on.
In Mexico City I was staying in a great house owned by a fairly young, recently married couple. They’ve been together for 12 years and yet they only married a month before I met them. So I asked the new wife, is it true that Mexicans have an issue to trust each other in a relationship? She hurried to agree. “Oh god yes,” she said,”even to this day I haven’t really opened up to my husband and he not to me. It’s easy for us to get together, but once we actually show real interest, we clam down and have the hardest time opening up to each other.”
Trust, why is that such an issue in Mexico? Well, the essay went a bit further back to explain the dynamics. In short it said: as the Catholic cultures dominated South America, the woman was still supposed to stay at home, raising the children, not having any real power. Latin women though wanted some power and since they couldn’t have it over their own lives, they tried to control the home, the kids, the husband. No ‘real man’ would be happy about that kind of control, so in order to defy it, he either became violent or went out to avoid the situation, going drinking or having fun in someone else’s bedroom (or alleyway, who knows). That’s what the essay expended on. If I had to draw a comparison to European countries which were or are strongly catholic, I can recognise some of that dynamic there as well.
That control extended also from the mother to her son. If that was the case, the son would learn to hate that and with it hate women. Are those the men who won’t commit but are more than happy to sleep with a woman and then throw her aside? The other extreme is a mother doting on the son, spoiling him rottenly, making him an eternal irresponsible child, incapable of acting as a responsible partner later in life. I recognise that especially in Italy but also Slovenia where women in their frustration with their husband then try and compensate their need for male energy with their won sons. Last but not least (and with that I haven’t exhausted possible scenarios of how we are being brought up) is the father doting on his son. That was the Mexican I dated. He had an older sister but as soon as he was born, just because he was a son, he got all his father’s attention and the daughter, his sister, resented the little boy for it and made him suffer for it whenever she could. Two things happened, on one hand he developed an underlying hatred and deep mistrust towards women, on the other he became a typical narcissist – overpraised and under-loved. His father might have given him lots of attention because he was a son, but that doesn’t mean he accepted his son as he was, in this case surprisingly short. The environment in school and the neighbourhood strengthened the feeling of a shortcoming just because of his hight. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t change the fact how he was built, and of course he then wasn’t accepted into the school band and so forth. He couldn’t become perfect in the eyes of his father and the school, so all that mattered to him is to seem perfect while at the same time he was completely incapable to open up to anyone or trust. He was not the only relationship of that kind I tried to have. And of course this doesn’t limit itself to the Latin American culture at all, but from what I could see, it is much stronger than in Europe, perhaps I should say central and northern Europe which I know better.
But even a famous writer from Latin America said himself, love in Latin America doesn’t exist without the melancholy, the pathos, the suffering. Suffering is equal to love, is part of love, is essential in the experience of love. Well, I say if that is the case, good luck to them. That sounds exhausting.
Something else comes on top of it all – appearance. Appearance of strength. Being manly has been defined in many ways, from dressing sharply (Italians still hugely value their watch, their shoes, their car) to appearing strong (not crying, having money, being tough). Appearing strong should not be underestimated and it doesn’t just apply to men, it would have seemed to apply to everyone. Appearing strong or somehow perfect was so important that there was no real place to be vulnerable. Yet being vulnerable or imperfect in front of your partner is crucial in getting to know each other.
They asked me how it was in Europe. Well, I can’t speak for all of Europe but in Germany or Slovenia it’s not that easy at first to get together, we are dancing around on eggshells perhaps far too long, but once we do decide to get and even stay together, we open up fairly quickly. Sure, it’s a generalisation but it works on a broad spectrum. We tell each other the most embarrassing things that happened to us, we tell what we like even if it seems silly, we show our human side because at the end of the day we want to be accepted for who we are.
And this is exactly the most important and also trickiest thing – to let someone love us. To let someone see us the way we are and let him accept us. Many of us moan about how we want to be unconditionally loved and yet don’t dare to let someone really close. I was just such a head case not too long ago. Trust is essential of course. But if that’s the case, then we need to work on that, earn that trust, take our time and see if we can trust those around us.
To achieve that level of trust, communication needs to be spot on. We have to have the guts to ask those tricky questions. And that’s why I developed my game, hosting these small events to help us see, it’s not that scary at all:) If you want to be part of it, have a look at the next events I’m hosting and join the tribe of the brave;)