On Why I Date Latinos
Warning: This post discusses dating in a heteronormative fashion. Please know that I intend no disrespect when using generalized statements and am well aware that the arguments I make here are only valid within my experiences in this type of relationship.
Hola! I hope you freethinkers are finding this February to be fierce and fabulous! If you subscribe to the popular idea of February as the “month of love,” then I hope you are feeling amorous and lovely. For myself, February is just another month; I use any opportunity during the year to engage in loving activities with whomever I feel a connection with.
However, many people close to me have noticed that I tend to save said activities for a certain type of man. That is, a specific type of man from a certain background. Although I immediately recoil at the idea that I might have a predilection for any one “kind” of man (I hold strong that the females I occasionally fantasize about fit no particular mold), I’ve started to think that maybe my friends are right.
Then I start to wonder, “Why?” What is it about men from this background that attracts me to them? Even the men have asked me this question. As I pour through the possible answers in my mind, one quality keeps popping up, over and over again.
Are these men any more faithful than other men? No. Are they more handsome, more considerate, or more emotionally available than some? That’s going to be based on opinion, but probably not. Then what is it that keeps drawing me into the arms of these men? Allow me, dearies, to explain the reasoning I finally could not find fault with; a logic that I hold to be true for a majority of the men I’ve encountered from this background (although there are ALWAYS those pesky exceptions, so please don’t take this as gospel).
Permit me, if you will, to elaborate on why I date foreign-born (and raised!) Latino men.
I didn’t really start dating, per se, until my senior year of high school. All of a sudden I was desirable and, even though I started the year with no boyfriends under my belt, I left for college with a solid six “relationships” down in my history books (full disclosure, none of those are now counted as relationships, as two weeks here and a month there do not a relationship make). I dated all different kinds of guys, and found myself heartbroken by two of them. They were the ones I liked the most. They were Latino.
In college, I dated one guy on and off for two years. I wasn’t really into him, but he was just so damned nice that I didn’t know how to break it off. We never entered a “relationship” phase, just casual dates, and right after graduation I eventually got some guts and called it off. I realize I’ve probably suffered some karmic retribution for not cutting that cord sooner. Oh yeah, he wasn’t Latino.
After graduation and into grad school, I started dating a Latino guy we’ll call Romero. This was my first “real” relationship (we fell in love with each other, moved in, etc., etc.). Things didn’t work out. After Romero, I didn’t see anybody for three years.
After I finally got over that relationship, I started dating again. This time I only dated foreign-born Latino men. Not because I was seeking them out, particularly, but because we always kind of found each other in a crowd and were magically drawn together. I began hanging out with Latino men and women, and their families. I also started speaking Spanish rather quickly, and developed some strong friendships which remain until this day.
During the time when I’m getting to know somebody and they are getting to know me, questions about who we are and what we like inevitably start to come up. Things like, Do you like short guys? (I quickly realized I would have to get over any complex about being taller than my mate, as incredible height is not a generally inherited characteristic amongst the Latino population.) Do you like older or younger guys? Do you like to dance? What kind of work do you do? These are common queries that are thrown my way.
Of course, I have some questions too. Do you have kids? How long have you lived in the US? Do you like it here? What’s it like where you’re from? Are you married? You are? Do you have any cute, unmarried cousins?
After chatting with someone for a while, then moving past friendly chat into flirty chat, if the situation calls for it, we eventually get to the compliment phase of the night. I often hear things like “You’re beautiful, intelligent, funny, and sexy,” and I respond with such smooth lines as “You’re handsome. You have pretty eyes. I like your hair. Can you help me with my Spanish?”
The one thing that never gets mentioned, however, is body size or the body in general. No “Dayum! You have a great ass!” or “Ooh baby, you’re thick!” No “You have such a pretty face” or “I’m a trainer at Crunch; I love to work out.” I’m not looked at with disgust, nor am I looked at with creepy eyes from a man dying to get his plus-sized fantasy fetish fulfilled. I am just looked at with either adoration if he’s interested or general respect if he’s not. And I have to tell you, when I first encountered this behavior, it FREAKED ME THE FUCK OUT.
I began investigating this pattern of conduct. As a person with a degree in Sociology, I felt it was my duty to get to the bottom of this abnormal reaction to fat — that is, no reaction at all. I began telling my Latino friends about my involvement with the Size Acceptance movement. They thought it was great, although they didn’t understand why there was a need for it. I had to explain the blatant discrimination that people of size face everyday because of their bodies, and often related it to the contempt that immigrants in the US have to consistently face. We discussed the stupidity of the intolerant, questioned the mindsets of the bigoted, and wondered aloud why we don’t live in a world where difference is celebrated and accepted.
I began to ask the guys I would date how they felt about my body. Confused, they would say, “I like your body.” When I would ask them what type of body they preferred, they would say, “No es importa.” When I would push and ask them to just tell me what type of body they liked better, they would say, “No es importa. Me gusta todos cuerpos.” I was flabbergasted. Did these guys really just tell me over and over that bodies don’t matter? That they like them all? Are they really telling me that they have NO preference? That they just love women, regardless of shape or size?
Yes, they really were.
And they were telling the truth. When I’m looking at a plus-sized magazine and they come up behind me and see a bigger woman modeling, I hear “Ella es bonita.” When I’m watching TV and there is a thin model wearing lingerie to sell picture frames and pickles, I hear “Ella es bonita.” When I’m out and I see a Latino man with a woman on a date, or in a family setting, I see women of all shapes and sizes by their sides. And they all seem happy. They don’t care. It’s refreshing. And it’s a TURN-ON. Not just as a woman of size, but as a woman who’s used to being judged by my appearance daily.
Many people are quick to stereotype Latino men and state that they LOVE fat women. From what I’ve witnessed, they LOVE all women. I think it’s the fact that this includes fat women that throws people off. Indeed, there are men from certain backgrounds who fetishize fat women. This is not what I’m looking for, and it makes me just as uncomfortable as those who loathe me because of my body. The fact that the body is just a part of the woman, not the part that defines her beauty, is what attracts me to Latino men.
Earlier, I made it a point to mention that I mostly date foreign-born and raised Latino men. This was not a mistake. Unfortunately, through my dating forays, I have found that men who are raised in the US, regardless of their backgrounds, are more likely to have a judgmental attitude about the size and shape of a woman’s body. For them, appearance es importa. And while that’s okay for some women, it’s not what I’m looking for in a partner.
All in all, I realized that I do, indeed, gravitate towards a particular type of man. I am always quick to tell people that no, I do not have a “type” as far as looks go; I don’t discriminate, and can find beauty in all people from all backgrounds. However, I now know that I lean towards dating men who find me beautiful, sexy, smart, and funny. Not because of my body, and not in spite of my body, but because of who I am and in spite of what anybody else thinks.
I am by no means suggesting that these men do not exist in other cultures; we all know that this would not be a true statement. What I am suggesting, however, is that from my lived experiences, there seems to be a higher proportion of men who feel this way in the foreign-born Latino community than in other cultures. Which is why now, when I am asked if I prefer Latino men and why, I have my answer ready and waiting.