This is the first post in my series about dating Latinos and how it differs from dating North Americans.
I have never been big on dating. In some ways, I was lucky and often ended up with guy friends, thus skipping over the awkward dating phase. However, when my long-term relationship ended right before I moved to Argentina, my luck ran out. Not only was I back in the dating game after believing I would never have to date again – I was in Argentina.
Dating Latinos is different than dating Americans in many ways. In this series, I’ll note certain aspects of dating Latinos that I struggled with.
Dating Latinos It’s Different: MACHISMO
The word “machismo” has a few different meanings and connotations. In a simple sense, it is basically the belief and practice of excessive masculinity in Latino culture. It can be as simple as men believing they should always pay and take care of their families, or it can be as extreme as treating women like second-class citizens. Honestly, I wasn’t ready for either end of the spectrum. As a super independent American girl, I like to earn my own money, pay for my own things, voice my opinion, and basically do anything a man can do, should I so desire. I am also not overly romantic, so being doted on is not really my thing most of the time. This did not work when dating in Argentina.
Down the street from my apartment in Argentina, there was a video store where a cute guy worked. For months, this video store clerk would googly eye me, try to chat me up, etc – but he would never ask me out. Just when I was about to ask him, he finally found the courage. On our first date, I teased him about taking so long and told him I had planned on asking him out the next time I came in. He stopped dead in his tracks, stared at me, and said “Oh no. I am so very glad you did not do this.” Apparently, this would have been so embarrassing and weird for him, that he would have turned me down, even though he liked me. What?!
I also struggled with never being able to pay. Learning from what video store guy had taught me, I found that offering to pay for my part of the meal or, God forbid, all of it, would be horribly insulting and uncomfortable for any guy taking me out. The arrival of the bill became a painfully awkward moment for me on every date. Every part of me said, “offer to pay! You’re being so rude! At least reach for it slowly with a fake intent!” I always had to restrain. The few times I didn’t, I noted the guys reaction and regretted my “rebellious” act of independence.
Machismo also includes a sort of protector/caretaker complex. I lived alone in the US and I moved to Argentina alone. I am a big girl. I walk alone, sometimes even in the dark. I do not need a man to protect me. However, every guy I went on a date with insisted that I walk on the inside of the sidewalk, away from the street, and wanted to walk me to my destination, even when I didn’t want them to. I know some of you girls are out there, facepalming at my inability to accept chivalry, but sometimes it was just irritating or weird. Best-case scenario, I didn’t want to make them walk out of their way, and/or I wanted to walk alone. Worst-case scenario, I really didn’t want the guy to know where I lived. I also found that many guys would order for me at restaurants. Let me just say right now, if an American dude tried to tell me what I want to drink or eat, I’d get up and leave. However, in Argentina, I had to try to remind myself that, sometimes, the guy actually thought he was being sweet and taking care of me. Either way, the machismo style simply did not allow for me to get out of this kind of stuff very easily.
Like I said, sometimes machismo was a simple thing that was actually quite sweet in its intentions while other times it was a flawed belief system that put women underneath men. Nice guys and jerks exist in every country and culture.
Check out these other articles on Spanish.