David Tomas Martinez is a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, and Reviews and Interviews Editor at Gulf Coast. His first collection of poems, Hustle, will be released by Sarabande Books in 2014.
Love, Power, and the New Majority
David Tomas Martinez
As all of our worlds grow a little smaller, the monopolization of less influential cultures by more dominant ones accelerates us toward one culture. While other countries lean toward a more polylinguistic society in their educational system, in America we still hold the jingoistic view that everyone should speak English because of America's position of dominance in the world. We do not feel that we should have to speak other languages, whereas other countries either must or do because of the proliferation of media in English. This insular behavior is made worse by the rhetoric in the politics of language advocating a homogenized American tongue and culture, a land where we only speak American under the old stars & stripes. But you already know this, my educated reader.
Maybe I'm only thinking of power because I am in love, and my mind is naturally moving to considering things beyond my own needs. Or maybe these thoughts are the residual dust from "The Cinnamon Tsunami," a roundtable I conducted for the forthcoming spring issue of Gulf Coast (due out in April!), featuring Angie Cruz, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Carolina Ebeid, Gustavo Arellano, Juan Felipé Herrera, and Rigoberto Gonzalez. In this conversation we'll explore the idea of worlds within worlds, and how Latin@s are becoming the new majority in California and other states. But I am sure you are aware of this as well, my erudite reader and avid Gulf Coast peruser.
What you might not know (and if you don't know me, I doubt you're reading this) is that I was recently married. Quite the whirlwind. Quite the little shocker to family and friends. The romance took 21 days to consummate from first date to marriage. It feels strange typing that, but it was as simple as we didn't want to be apart. And with as much frankness as I feel comfortable wearing, the quickness of our nuptials flattered my romantic sensibilities; so I probably had an easier time with it than most. As they say, sometimes you just know. But I also understood that this was a much more difficult decision for the future Mrs. Martinez. In the past I may have changed my life before, but never as expeditiously or fundamentally as I was asking her to change hers--nor have I ever done that for someone else. In order to move, she had to quit her job, get out of the lease for her apartment, and cancel her cable television. All serious matters, as you know if you have ever had to get out of a cable contract.
At this point, I would like to take a break from this blog to inform the reader that I do not expect I will read to my partner the story of how we met in attempt to loosen her memory from the rusty hold of dementia. Nor do I expect to die in the same nursing home bed at the same time. No, I do not expect these things, Nicholas Sparks.
Obviously, there were extenuating circumstances that made moving easier for her. Her trade is much more transportable than mine; she has lived in San Diego her whole life and was ready to see other parts of the country; and, unbeknownst to each other, we each had silently been attracted to the other for three years. Here are some of the reasons it was not easy. Another list--but first some intellectual contexualization as groundwork for a later point.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell explains that one problem with modernity is that we have broken away from ceremony. There used to be ceremonies that marked, and sometimes caused, a psychic break transitioning one from a particular aspect of life to the next aspect of life. In our society, the rituals that marked childhood to adulthood are either completely gone or watered down to such a point of banality that they no longer signify a change. Therefore, we have a culture of stunted growth. Now I'm not comparing moving across state lines to any severe rite of passage, but I do see a similarity in the psychic break from being single to married life this move has caused for both my wife, and, to a lesser extent, myself.
After spending a month and a half together we were separated for only two weeks. It was an arduous period of Skyping, Facebooking, texting, and Instagraming. When we finally were reunited there was an inevitable "Whoa, you're a real person again!" caused by separation and distance. This was overcome quickly by some late-night stretching. But her moving still did not seem real, even when the storage pod arrived. I ignored the storage pod almost completely; I must have seen it for what it is, a bill. We eventually began to pack, but my trepidation was quickly warranted when it became apparent she was going to lose a lot of furniture in this move. She was placed in the unenviable position of choosing what to keep. What we hold on to and what we release says a lot about us.
As she chose which furniture would stay, and which would go, I stayed quiet. All I did was move what where, when she said. I watched anxiously as her possessions dwindled, wondering which piece would lead to the epiphany that I was not worth this much trouble. It came on the last day of moving, after important pieces were already let go. The offending piece of furniture was an ottoman, and though there would be no falling of our ottoman empire that day½.
The fear that she will someday not think I am worth much is still very real for me. Because I have not been able to provide as much as I would have liked financially during this move, I felt that the sham of a man that I am, was exposed--in a cheap rhyme which made it all the more damning in my head. But I also know that these fears of inadequacies derive from more than just lost furniture but also derive from my desire to adhere to the prescribed gender roles. I was falling into the old role of male as provider, though my wife makes more money than I do; but what I feared most was that by her backseating her career for mine, by moving to Tejas, by her leaving her friends and family to be marooned on Isla de Houston, by her taking the last name Martinez, she and I-- no, we--were building a home from the prefabricated roles of a male-dominated society. I think I was more scared about the veracity of my own convictions in my actions.
And there it goes. I started this blog entry with the idea of power differentials, in part, because the most underwhelming news of this decade broke earlier this week: that Latin@s will be the statistical majority in California by the end of 2013, which doesn't change, presently, the distribution of power or the the way Latin@s are perceived in the media. But as I saw my wife begin to throw away important pieces of furniture, I couldn't help but wonder how our power differential was divided. As I hauled piece after piece of furniture, plates and silverware and appliances; as I answered "yup, I have that"; as I knelt on my knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor while she cleaned the baseboards--I finally realized this is not about power. This is about love. That I found an amazing person who did not have to leave everything to be with me; or more accurately, a strong person who loves, and is willing, for the first time, to put someone else first for their own happiness. At the risk of sounding hokey (maybe it is too late for that), when you love someone it is no longer about what only you want.
And maybe California, and the greater country in general, can learn from my little love affair--because whether America wants to admit it or not, you love Latin@s. We all love the food, the style, the passion, and even the stereotypes. Even the national anthem starts, "Jose, can you see?" Because America, you're married now. It's too late. Latin@s are all up in you, and we know you ain't that type of country to be messing around. Just admit it, America. I did. My wife is amazing and I love her. And she doesn't even do dishes or cook, America. Latin@s do all that and more. They write blogs. And poetry. Wait, is that why my wife loves me? Or is it the cooking? Damned power differentials.