TL;DR: It's Hot Girl Summer.
I have wanted to talk about my dating life in Ecuador since I began on this — lets call it introspective — journey. I know I discuss singleness a lot with friends and family because I am in the Peace Corps at an interesting age (Thrilling Thirty!) where there is often pause given to people like me who not only are childless and unmarried, but truth is, I haven’t even been in a committed relationship in years. And it ain’t been for lack of trying. Okay?!
Likes: Long walks on the beach at sunset (Manta, Manabí)
Prior to Ecuador, I hadn’t dated for the greater part of two years, so I was RUSTY, but I was open to the concept… and let’s keep it one hundred: I was looking forward to a completely different dating pool than the ones I was swimming in. What I hadn’t banked on was that a different pool also meant I had to change my form to stay afloat.
The Catch: I haven’t liked the new form I felt like I had to adopt.
I’ll spare you the details, reader. But lets just say that coming with my worldview, informed by my 28 years of lived experience as a fully embodied Black and Christian woman raised in United States, the cultural clashes of dating sin fronteras has been something for which nobody could have prepared me. Everyone’s experience is completely different, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide if pursuing a cross-cultural relationship is something you’re willing to do — furthermore, something you’re willing to pull a potential partner through as well.
I haven’t only dated Ecuadorians, so this isn’t particular to any one group of individuals. But I haven’t dated any Black American or Caribbean men, which was my norm before coming here, and it is where I have always felt more comfortable. What I have realized is that cultural compatibility is a very high priority for me, and it is a part of who I am that, while it may relegate me to a “smaller pool”, I also know that I don’t have to consistently turn off parts of myself or be unable to express myself fully to people who have never had to live remotely similarly to me. I also don’t want to be with anyone who feels they have to shrink their world for my love and affection.
Lol, I don't.
I watched a video recently called “Dear, Black Love”, where Danyel Smith said about her partner, Eliott Wilson:
“There is a whole part of my humanity that does not have to be explained.”
I FELT THAT IN MY SOUL. FROM THE CROWN OF MY HEAD DOWN TO SOLES OF MY FEET.
I get chills thinking about how true that is to the core of who I am. I honestly would rather not date at all if I feel like I have to continuously explain the way I think or offer disclaimers for every viewpoint I have on the world. I don’t expect to agree with a potential partner on everything, but I don’t want to be explaining the essence of who I am and from where I flow out of every other discussion. My culture is one of the main sources of my being & it isn't up for debate or cross-examination.
Here’s the whole vid, it’s worth the full 7:23, I promise:
I’m not saying I’ll only date Black men when I return to the US; a lot has changed about my cultural norms and expectations these days that will probably shift the kind of men with whom I can be fully myself now that I have these new layers of complicated identities. But it’s high time I pay attention to this instead of ignoring its reality.
Before I came to Ecuador, many people told me that perhaps God was leading me on this path because I would find my husband here. I cringed at the time, and I’m cringing now. The pressure was unsolicited, and it made meeting men way less enjoyable for me. I ended up heartbroken, ashamed, and silenced when it didn’t work out the way I thought people had expected it should.
Requited Love: Encocado Pescado and Me
If I’m being honest, I didn’t date for so long because I thought I wasn’t worthy. When I first got to Ecuador, I was desperate to prove my loved ones that I was going to end up with a beautiful love story about how God used this chapter in my life to finally “crown me” and call me out of my singleness. Oof. That shallow desire to please people and put myself on a pedestal led to my dismay.
After all, pride cometh before a fall.
I changed my approach towards my dating life here in the same way I navigated many other aspects of my life in Ecuador: cautiously optimistic, ready to learn, open to change, and ALWAYS true to myself and my heart.
Although I haven’t yet discovered that romantic love for myself, I have rediscovered my worthiness — because I have found true love in so many other waters - in Christ, in family, in friends, in myself. And I am embracing that this-sized pool has always been enough for me to swim free.
And as an extra benefit, dating gets to be fun again — no matter where I am on this globe.