Went to church this Sunday in a branch on the outskirts of Asuncion with a friend of Lili’s. His name is Danny and I’ve met him twice now—once in passing 2 months ago at church in Benjamin and once at a YSA dance Rebecca and I [I think very bravely] ventured to attend. He’s a nice guy—clean and happy—a young 20, had to come home from his mission early due to a car accident, runs a little internet café out of his house and studies English on the side.
He met us at the parana and at some point during the walk into town asked if I had a boyfriend. By now I am accustomed to this being among the first questions in any conversation and replied in the negative. He seemed [perhaps overly] pleased and proceeded to explain that the missionaries were very curious about our relationship. [“Relationship?” I’m thinking….what relationship?] He recounted their teasing and constant questions, their impatience to meet me, etc. and concluded with what I gathered was a sort of apology for having, in exasperation, told them “Fine. Yes. We’re getting married!” We laughed and I blew it off.
That is, until we got to church. After several unusually enthusiastic ambrasos from sisters in the ward, each accompanied by “felicidades, felicidades!” [not a traditional salutation] and glowing looks of approval at Danny, I figured out that it was not just the missionaries he had told, and it wasn’t a joke. These sweet sisters, in fact, this whole sweet ward thought they were meeting their future daughter-in-law! [Danny’s the only member in his family, and the only young adult in the ward and one of the only men who has served a mission…he’s everybody’s favorite son.] People were even asking me if we had a date yet. “Good question,” I wanted to say, “Have we even had a date yet!?”
On one hand, it’s illustrative of a significant difference I have noticed here in terms of dating and marriage. Young people, particularly LDS young people, actually get married. They seem to have a more simple view of things, more along the lines of our parents; the “any two good people can make it work” sort of approach. They find someone they enjoy, with the same standards, and they get married. What’s more, they seem pretty happy. There’s something to be said for not over-complicating the process.
On the other hand, I feel I’ve had a taste of what it might be like to be, as Anne of Green Gables puts it, “devastatingly handsome.” Not sure I like it. Like when he took my hand near the end of a rather long walk only to steer me down the busiest street in town where his former high school classmates were playing futbol. I’ve never felt like a trophy before, and it felt really…cheap. When he kissed me goodbye and told me—twice—that he loved me, it was about all I could do to keep from sputtering, “how can you possibly love me!? We can’t even have a real conversation. You know nothing about me, other than the fact that I am blonde and American!”
Of course, that’s not entirely fair. There’s a lot you can learn about a person from a few interactions and there are profound languages that don’t require words. I think Danny is a great guy, and I believe he meant it. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say it back.