It was the stuff dreams were made of: tables piled high with books as far as the eye could see, all for no more than $2 each. The Cleveland Public Library was having a book sale, so naturally I’d rounded up a group of my fellow interns and convinced them to make the five-minute walk over to Superior with me on our lunch break (although I was so stoked about it that I would have gone by myself even if nobody else had wanted to come).
It was there at the sale that I found it: a thin pink paperback, wedged among hundreds of other books. The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. I immediately grabbed it and ran to find one of the other interns who had come with me to the library. In just a few months, I’d be heading off to Spain to teach English and she’d be boarding a plane to Milan, Italy to study abroad. At first, we thought the book was satire, but after flipping through it we discovered that the author had written it under completely serious intentions.
We got a good laugh out of it and joked about buying it to share. After all, we were a couple of single girls heading off to the land of magical fairytale romance and dudes with intriguing accents, but as two relatively smart women we obviously knew the book was BS.
The truth is that if anyone could have used “advice” from a stupid dating book, it was me. I’d broken up with my last serious boyfriend at the end of high school (on the day of senior prom, if you can believe that) and remained the perpetually single friend all throughout college. To rub salt into that wound, most of my friends were couples, and although none of them overtly went out of their way to make me feel bad about myself, it was bound to happen every once in a while. Like every time we went out to dinner as a group and the server asked how we wanted to split up the checks: “Us two are together.” “We’re on the same check.” “I’m paying for hers.” And then… “Just me.”
Without a doubt, the server would give the table a once-over, mentally pairing everyone up, and their pitiful gaze would land on me as they did the math. I wanted to crawl under the table and die.
So I was surprised as anyone when I met my boyfriend three weeks after I arrived in Spain (no cheesy book needed!). In case you were wondering, yes, he’s Spanish. I usually don’t mention that unless it’s necessary for context in a conversation or if it happens to come up somehow. Despite the title (did you catch the reference?), this isn’t going to be a post about how you, too, can go out and find yourself a Spaniard, because there’s more to it than that. Besides the fact that fetishizing someone just for their nationality is kind of weird, simply put, a Spanish guy is just a guy who happens to be from Spain. Ya está.
But it’s also complex in many different ways. Although it takes work to explain cultural differences and we’ve shared multiple laughs over me making embarrassing mistakes in Spanish (well, I laugh at myself, he’s nice about it but is probably secretly laughing as well), that’s part of what makes the relationship so great. The real novelty of dating someone from another country isn’t the fact that they have a sexy accent or whatever it is girls have in mind when they post in the auxiliares Facebook group about “wanting to fall in love with a Spaniard.”
For me, one of the best parts is the fact that we will never run out of things to talk about. Because we grew up on different sides of the same world, we have so much to share and teach each other as our relationship continues to evolve. We each learn something new from the other every day. It’s not always as easy as dating someone who you have everything in the world in common with, but it’s worth all that and more.