My dating life in Panama has a dilemma. Should I date a Gringa or should I date a Latina? So far, my results with both Gringas and Latinas have been mixed. Let me tell ya about it…
We’ll start with Ms. Luna. I met her at Relic’s Pull Pork Sandwich station. The bright yellow wristband and spring dress with flip flops are a dead giveaway that she is a guest of Luna’s Castle. Her hair has that I-haven’t-used-a-hair-straightener-in-weeks natural curl to it. I lean over and recommend my favorite BBQ sauce combination.
Me: “Try mixing Carolina Daddy Mustard, Sweet Jack Daniels, and Spicey Balboa Tang all together. They’ve been designed to work together.”
Ms. Luna: “You seem to know these sauces well. How long have you been staying at Luna’s Castle?”
Me: “Nah, I’m not staying here. I live around the corner.”
Ms. Luna: “You live in Casco Viejo!”
The conversation starts from there. Being a young American abroad for the past 5 years makes my personal story interesting inside traveler’s circles. Most Luna’s Castle guests are shoestring backpackers traveling from 2 weeks to 2 months. While they’re on the road, most travelers will ask themselves, “I wonder what it would be like to leave in this place?” Especially in a place like Casco Viejo. The neighborhood has so much cultural texture to it. I’m that traveler who actually stayed.
The conversation with Ms. Luna continues to flow easily. We share many commonalities: She is from the West Coast. She went to a Pac-12 university and participated in Greek life. She listens to Notorious B.I.G.
Ms. Luna tells me that she flies home tomorrow. This means that I don’t have much time, which is fine for me. I’ve become accustomed to compressed relationships while on the road.
We take shots of rum and dance. Afterwards, we bar hop around Casco. Ms. Luna and I see eye-to-eye on our philosophy that paying cover fees for the privilege to buy drinks is silly. So we skip over nightlife hot spots like Tantalo and Havana Panama.
The night takes us to Plaza Herrera. We share a park bench under a flickering street lamp. There something about Spanish colonial plazas that makes them conducive to kissing. I realized this while living 6 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala. Ms. Luna and I are smooching within minutes of sitting down.
The night is nearing its end. We make one last stop at Mojitos (sin Mojitos). Over national beers, Ms. Luna and I talk about topics like our favorite entrepreneur self-help books, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and how rewarding it is to dance Gangnam style. I try to pick up our bar tab. But she refuses to let me pay. We’ve been going dutch all night.
At this point, being direct with Ms. Luna seems very appropriate.
Me: “I think it’s a good idea that you stay with me tonight.”
Ms. Luna: “Really? And why do you think this?”
Me: “A couple reasons, actually: A) It’s your last night in town. This relationship only has until daylight mañana. B) You’re sleeping in a dormitory with 5 other smelly backpackers. On the other hand, I have access to a restored colonial apartment containing many leather bound books and that smells of rich mahogany.”
Ms. Luna buys my sales pitch. She stays the night, and we head straight to bed (my mother reads/writes for this blog).
The following morning we wake early enough to allow time for pillow talk. We can talk forever. Ms. Luna tells me that she wants to move. She lives in San Francisco, but is considering a career change. Austin and Brooklyn are her top relocation city choices. I’m pretty sure that Ms. Luna makes more money than I do. I’m for damn sure that she has a higher IQ score than me. Not being the breadwinner or the smartest partner in a relationship does not threaten me. I see it as a positive.
Me: “We gotta go. Your flight leaves soon.”
Ms. Luna: “(sigh) I know… You don’t have to walk me to the hostel. I’m totally independent.”
Me: “Spoken like a true sorority girl. But, I will walk you to the hostel. My mother would be disappointed in me.”
Yes, mom, I walked her home.
We exchange Facebook information at Luna’s Castle doorstep. Then she leaves on a jet plane. History has taught me that there is a 83% chance that I will never see Ms. Luna again.
As I walk back home, I think about the good and bad of the previous night. The good is that I felt a great connection with this girl. Generally, I prefer to date girls who like to travel because they are resourceful and optimistic. They also value experiences over material items. These are all respectable and sexy traits.
The bad is that the relationships end too quickly. Ms. Luna’s case was the extreme example – a one-night stand. However, other Gringa girls in Panama do not stay long either. These Gringas come down here on internships, Fulbright scholarship or work relocation. They stay for 6 to 16 months. Eventually, their internship or contract expires. The novelty of living in a foreign country wears off. Their underlying desire to return home is exhausting in a committed relationship.
Dating Gringas is natural and easy for me. However, they leave me with a re-occuring feeling of unfulfillment.