A Reader Contribution, from Katarina C.
Growing up in Austin, TX, I was raised in an environment in which relationships were fluid and temporary. In High School my friends would have boyfriends for a week or two, and serious relationships began after two months of movie theater make-out sessions. When I got to college, sex was everywhere. It was present at parties, in cramped dorm rooms, and rampant in cafeteria conversations; in fact, the subject and the act were both totally unavoidable.
But I am not only a product of my American environment; my father is from Mexico, and all of his family is still there, in a city that is still very traditional. With 22 first cousins, I have a large, crazy, wonderful and very Catholic Mexican family. Their ideas about dating, on the other hand, are radically different from my other influences. Relationships are taken very seriously, and sex is a conversation for married people to have in hushed voices. Relationships are between men and women, are strictly monogamous, and that’s it. I will never forget the day when one of my older male cousins told me that girls who have sex young (or before marriage at all), are considered sluts. Most of all, dating is seen as the first step on your way to marriage, and when you date someone it should be because you are thinking about marrying them, and for no other reason.
With these two worlds both very prominent in my childhood and young-adult life, my own personal lens when it comes to dating was definitely influenced by both. I feel that I ended up with a good balance of the two. It is due to being so influenced by Mexican culture that I tend to scoff at women who say that nice guys who want to wait until marriage or love don’t exist, because I know they do. On the other hand, I appreciate learning from my American side that relationships don’t have to be serious. You can date someone, then date someone else, and learn a lot about yourself in the process of kissing a lot of frogs before marriage.
More than anything, what I’ve come to believe about dating is not to limit yourself with the ideas about dating you‘ve learned from your own culture. I refuse to listen to anyone who says that there just isn’t someone out there for them. As a hybrid of two contrasting cultures, my words of wisdom (if I am even allowed to have any in my 20s) would be to keep an open mind when it comes to dating, and explore lots of different dating styles before you choose one.